French macarons

French macarons are notoriously difficult to master.  Their delicate uniformity is deceptive; what looks easy rarely ever is.  Made from a batter of ground almonds, egg whites, sugar, and flavorings, the macaron is fickle.  Beaten too long or folded too vigorously, it will fail to rise or create the little “foot” so prized by macaron lovers and bakers.  Baked too long, it will become a crisp wafer, drying out and losing the tender, airy interior.

This thin, sweet, faintly nutty shell, sandwiching a tiny bit of intense ganache or jam is a fleeting taste experience, all too often focused on appearance.  Macaron-makers just love to add color, or glitter, or luster dust, or other manner of folderol to the shells.  Patisseries like Sucre package the macarons like jewels, each cookie nested into a custom box.  Frankly, macarons don’t excite me; honestly, I’d rather have a good brownie.

But when faced with a bunch of surplus egg whites, I figured I’d give macarons a whirl.  Using David Lebowitz’s detailed recipe & directions (he also has a compendium of macaron information on his site), I whipped up a batch of chocolate macarons, filled with a cherry-chocolate-coffee spread.

I encountered a few bumps along the way:

  1. my almonds weren’t ground nearly fine enough, so the wafers were coarser in texture than I anticipated
  2. I failed to pipe out flat disks of meringue, so each disk had a little pointed cap
  3. one pan of disks baked way too long, making for crunchy wafers rather than crisp-tender shells

On the other hand, my filling concoction was so tasty it rendered my imperfect meringues most edible.  So I leave you with the a recipe for the filling; it would also be delicious as a brownie frosting, should you decide, as I did, that macarons are way too much trouble for the results.

Cherry chocolate coffee filling

  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • Water, sufficient to cover cherries in a bowl
  • 2 oz bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 T coffee liqueur

Place dried cherries in a bowl and cover with water.  Microwave for a minute or two until water is very hot.  Allow cherries to steep for 5-10 minutes, until plumped.  Drain cherries well, squeezing out excess water.  In a small bowl, melt chocolate in the microwave in 30-second increments, stirring frequently.  Place cherries & liqueur in bowl of food processor fitted with chopping blade; process to a smooth puree, scraping down the sides of the bowl.  Scrape cherry puree into the bowl with the melted chocolate.  Stir to combine.  Mixture will thicken as it cools.  Use as a filling for macarons, cake layers, or as a brownie topping.

Merry Christmas….may all your macarons puff, all your bread doughs rise; may your rouxs never burn, may your cracklins stay crispy, and may your food bring joy to you and others.

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