It seems that every food blogger who does any baking at all has attempted macarons. I first saw them at http://www.davidlebovitz.com back when I was just discovering the world of food blogs (uhhh…2 years ago?) and since then they have showed up on pretty much every single baking blog that I read. So of course being the over-confident goob that I am, I figured they’d be a great kick-off to my shiny new blog. 🙂
The macarons I made were for my sister’s baby shower tea party. They were by far the most ambitious thing I attempted for the shower, and they weren’t even close to perfect, but man, they were tasty anyway. (yes, macarons are French and slightly out of place at an English tea party, but shhhhh, nobody else at the party had ever heard of them, so don’t tell.)
After a lot of brainstorming, I settled on making 4 flavors, and to up the Martha-quotient of the party, I kept the colors of the macarons in the same scheme as the party invitations (cream w/ deep brown and pink and green accents). So we had:
-Plain Almond Macarons w/ Lime Cream Cheese filling
-Pink-tinted Macarons w/ Raspberry & Ganache filling
-Pistachio & Rose-Water Macarons w/ Pomegranate Buttercream &
-Chocolate Macarons w/ Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Filling
I’m not even going to bother repeating the actual macaron recipe here, because you really need to go read all of the wonderful directions and tips linked by David Lebovitz here. My personal favorite of the links in his post was Tartlette. An absolutely beautiful blog written by a French ex-pat named Helen. She writes in such a personal, friendly voice that I feel like I know her. Helen and I – we’re on a first name basis. She just doesn’t know it. (edit: apparently her name is spelled Helene, not Helen. Which makes me a complete idiot, but I swear it’s spelled as Helen a couple of places on her blog. I’m so embarrassed!)
The pistachio shells came straight from Helene, with the addition of a teeny tiny splash of rose water added with the ground nuts and sugar. I mean teeny. Like, 1/8th of a teaspoon or less. That stuff is potent and you just want a hint of a floral scent/flavor in there, not the feeling that you are biting into a fancy handsoap.
The plain almond and pink shells also came from Tartlette, check out any one of the many macaron posts for the recipe – though it’s really exactly the same as the pistachio, just with all almonds for the nuts and a bit of pink gel food color for the pink shells. I used David Lebovitz’s recipe for the chocolate shells – and he has some differences in egg-nut-sugar ratio and oven temp from Helen’s recipes which I chalked up to the addition of the chocolate, but perhaps it needs some tweaking to work in my kitchen? (that’s called foreshadowing.)
So, since I’m a first timer, unsurprisingly I had some ups and downs in my macaron making adventure. The darling little bastards are tricky. The first thing I learned is that aging the egg whites is absolutely vital. Do not think you can skip that step. You can’t. I had aged a dozen egg whites for 2 days, and used them for the first few batches and they turned out beautifully for a first try. Feet, nice smooth tops and no sticking. They were a little hollow though, but I’ll take that. Also my piping was really uneven, so there are some size mismatching issues. Still, overall a success.
But then I ran out of pre-aged whites, and it didn’t go so well from there on out. I ended up with a number of volcano style shell eruptions, a lot of completely hollow shells – and then the chocolate shells. Oh my…they were a disaster. I’m not sure if it was me or the the recipe, but I hesitate to blame David Lebovitz for anything since obviously he knows a hell of a lot more than I do – so I’m guessing it was me. I miss-measured something, or over mixed or under mixed – or my oven spazzed on the temp or something. Who knows. But when I ended up with was macarons that from a distance could have passed for mini-whoopie pies and were a little burnt on the bottom.
Oh well. They actually still tasted great, they were just much chewier and denser than the others and therefore not really macarons at all. I’ll just call them chocolate-meringue sandwich cookies.
Also some of them, especially the batches that were more hollow in the center, gave me some issues taking them off the parchment paper and I ended up pulling the tops off the bottom. (like so)
Don’t tell anyone, but after several separated shells I started pretended it hadn’t happened and sticking the shells back together with a dab of frosting. Nobody was the wiser. As for the rest of the maca-wrongs, I turned them into maca-parfaits with extra lemon curd and some whipped cream. Because everybody loves parfaits. (name that movie!)
So clearly my macaron technique needs some more practice, but my fillings were killer. (toot toot! Oh that? That’s my horn.) The lime cream cheese and peanut butter cream cheese in particular are going into the permanent recipe file. I had extra of both types of frosting and my mom requested that I leave them in her fridge and she’d find a use for them (i.e. eat with a spoon?) The lime I just winged based on a basic cream cheese frosting, and it was delightfully tangy and wonderfully limey (limeish? limetastic?). The peanut butter cream cheese was a recipe that I’ve had in my file for ages from Smitten Kitchen, though I made some tweaks. The buttercream was standard American buttercream recommended by my friend Sarah , with a nice fruity flavor from adding the pomegranate. I’m not a huge fan of buttercream icing in general, but this was definitely good and piped like a dream. It was also the only frosting that held up to the ridiculous heat in kitchen while we were doing the party setup without melting. My only quibble was that it wasn’t really recognizable as pom-flavored. It just tasted like generic red fruityness. I had guesses of cherry and raspberry from the party goers.
As for the raspberry ganache filling – that seems like a cheat to even talk about as if it’s a recipe. I just made a standard ganache (1:1 ratio of chopped dark chocolate to hot cream. Combine and mix till smooth. Chill till firm enough to pipe) and piped it in a circle around the edges of the shells and then put a blop of fancy organic raspberry preserves in the middle. Great texture/flavor contrast with the super rich ganache and the fruity, tart preserves in the middle surrounded by delicate macaron shells.
So after all that (thanks for hanging in there) the recipes!
Lime Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes about 3 cups
- 8 oz cream cheese, softened
- 1 stick butter, softened
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- zest of two limes
- 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
-Beat cream cheese till light and fluffy.
-Add sugar one cup at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the bowl often.
-Add lime zest and lime juice and beat well.
You can use this right away, but the lime flavor develops and becomes much stronger after it has had time to permeate from the zest out into the rest of the frosting. Tightly sealed overnight in the fridge is what I recommend. Let it come back to room temp and beat briefly to use.
Makes just under 5 cups
- 10 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 stick of butter, softened
- 4 cups of powdered sugar
- 1 cup smooth peanut butter (not fancy hippy stuff. Good old Jiff style)
– In a stand mixer with paddle attachment (or in a big bowl with a hand-held mixer), beat the cream cheese and butter together until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, beating well after each cup and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Whip, whip whip until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.
– Add the peanut butter and beat well.
Pomegranate Buttercream adapted from a Wilton’s recipe
Makes about 3 cups
- 1/2 cup shortening (I hesitated over the shortening, but it really helped it hold up to some ridiculous heat and it tasted fine)
- 1 stick softened butter
- 3-3 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
- 2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
- ~1 tablespoons milk (however much needed for proper consistency)
-Beat shortening and butter together.
-Add sugar one cup at a time, beating well. Make sure you stop the mixer while adding because otherwise you’ll make a sugar cloud. Scrape down the sides of the bowl regularly
-Beat in pom molasses, and then add milk till the icing is smooth, but not too wet