For most of my life I stayed away from all macaroons, believing the only type that existed were the nasty, dried out, coconut, cardboard can variety served during Passover. To clarify, they are indeed nasty, and they’re macaroons with two “o”s.
It was during my stint working on a cookbook a few years ago that I tried a French-style macaron (note: just one “o”). When I was first offered one by the pastry chef, I immediately said “no thanks,” expecting a coconut puff thing. Later that day, leftover light green sandwich cookies made an appearance at family meal (restaurant speak for a meal that employees eat together before service) and I grabbed one thinking “this looks interesting.” I took a bite of this airy-crunchy-chewy cookie with a soft, nutty, lightly green-tea flavor, and knew I had discovered something. It was then I discovered that it was a macaron, which set off a lengthy debate about the term.
Pierre Herme's Famous Ispahan Macaron
In the end, I was converted to a full-fledged macaron fan and begged the pastry chef for the recipe. He gave it me, but his descriptions of aging the egg whites and releasing the cookies from the parchment paper using steam had me questioning whether my impatient baking habits would be able to handle it, so the recipe was put on the back-burner.
A few months later I visited Paris for the first time and immediately sought out Pierre Herme’s macarons. I may not have found love in Paris, but I did become even more infatuated with this fascinating and mysterious cookie, yet still intimidated by the idea of making them myself.
Lauderee's Macarons, Paris
It’s now been just over two years since my first marcaron and I finally worked up the nerve to try it. I used Tartelette’s macaron recipe, which she claims is “part of her DNA” and David Lebovitz’s chocolate ganache filling. I played with the flavors of both to create a delicious mocha* and while I think I nailed the ganache and macaron flavors, the cookies still needed some work.
These are known for being fickle cookies. Per Tartelette’s instructions, I aged the egg whites in the refrigerator for four days, then let them come to room temperature before using. The one step I skipped was her recommendation to let the piped cookies sit for an hour before baking.
Frustratingly, but not surprising, the results were mixed. The first batch of cookies turned out beautifully, with just one cracking and all developing the coveted “foot” at the bottom. The second batch, on the other hand, almost all the cookies cracked and I had trouble getting them to bake all the way through. Quite frankly, while they tasted great they were a bit of a mess.
For now, we’ll call my macaron ambitions a journey, as I think this is an instance of practice-makes-perfect.
*For Mocha Macarons: add 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder and 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso or coffee powder (perfect use of Starbucks Via) to the ground almonds; add 1 teaspoon instant espresso or coffee powder to the ganache.