During the summer of 2008, Joel and I took a European vacation which brought us to Paris. We met up with a friend while we were there and as we were walking down Champs-Elysées, she said we couldn't leave without stopping in to Ladurée for a treat. I remember seeing little sandwich cookies in a case with a line of at least 4 people deep waiting to get their hands on them. I had no idea what the big deal was about them. We left without even getting close enough to see the flavors that they were selling. Needless to say, until I had a blog, I had no idea what French Macarons were. However, they have been popping up all over the internet recently, and I've become a bit curious. A few weeks ago, Joel and I went up to Toronto for the day and while we were there, we discovered a cute little macaron boutique and decided to see what the fuss was all about. I immediately had a case of sticker shock when I saw the price--$2.50 for a cookie the size of a half-dollar?! Since I felt odd charging 1 single cookie, we bought a sampler pack of 6 different flavors, gave them a try, and was immediately surprised by how delicious they were! So, when I was assigned to Carrie's Sweet Life for the Secret Recipe Club style recipe swap this week, I knew right away that I was going to try this recipe for French Macarons, which she got from Martha Stewart. When I started the recipe, I was a bit annoyed with the sifting and piping. I was able to get enough for 12 regular sized sandwiches and 4 mini ones out of the batter. It seemed like an awful lot of work for such a small amount of cookies. However, when I took the pan out of the oven and discovered that my macarons had "feet", I was beyond excited and couldn't wait to give them a try. I whipped up a nutella buttercream instead of the Swiss meringue buttercream that Carrie made, and piped them onto the cookies. I made Joel try one first, and he told me they were perfect. He was right! I am impressed that they turned out as good as they did for my first time making them. I would love to try them again with different flavor combinations. Thanks, Carrie, for finally giving me a reason to give this recipe a try!
For the Macarons:
1 cup Confectioners' Sugar
3/4 cup Almond Flour
2 large Egg Whites, at room temperature
Pinch of Cream of Tartar
1/4 cup Superfine Sugar (I made my own by buzzing regular sugar around in a food processor)
Pulse the confectioners' sugar and almond flour in a food processor until combined. Sift the mixture through a sieve 2 times. Preheat at the oven to 375 degrees. Whisk the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium heat until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and whisk until soft peaks form. Reduce speed to low and add the superfine sugar. Increase the speed to high and whisk until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes. Sift the flour mixture over the egg whites and fold until mixture is smooth and shiny. Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip. and pipe 3/4-inch rounds 1 inch apart on a parchment lined baking sheet, dragging the pastry tip to the side of the rounds rather than forming peaks. Tap the bottom of each sheet on the work surface to release any trapped air. Let the piped batter stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake 1 sheet at a time, rotating half way through, until the macarons are crisp and firm, about 10 minutes. After each batch, increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees for 5 minutes, then reduce to 325 degrees. Let the macarons cool on sheets for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. If the macarons stick, spray water under the parchment on the hot sheet--the steam will help release the macarons. Sandwich 2 same-size macarons with 1 teaspoon of filling. Serve immediately, or stack between layers of parchment paper, wrap in plastic, and freeze for up to 3 months.
For the Nutella Buttercream Filling (from Tracey's Culinary Adventures):
6 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, softened
1/4 cup Nutella
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 tablespoon Milk
1/2 cup Confectioners' Sugar, sifted
In a medium sized bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and nutella until combined. Add the vanilla, milk, and confectioners sugar and beat on low speed until the powdered sugar is just about incorporated. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until the frosting is smooth.