It has been my goal the last few months to research breads and desserts (including more savory items) to include in our lineup for the upcoming year. It takes more time than you’d think to go through a cookbook and parse out the winners but it is a rewarding process. At any given time, I have four or five open on my project table for quick reference and inspiration. And, thanks to my mother-in-law with her tip about the estate sale of an avid baker in Del Ray, I was able to bring home 17 new adventures, many of them compilations of international holiday treats.
It seems I can’t go very far at all without coming across classic French recipes like brioche, éclairs, and macarons. And, I must say that I resisted trying them as long as I could!
It took a lot of arm twisting, but at long last I convinced Peachie that we needed to try our hands at them and see if we could attain some competency. Peachie reminded me that it wasn’t our forte but I’ve always been impulsive (thanks to strong Irish ancestry) and focused on adventure (which has often meant failure). Yet, I was determined.
I probably should have started with brioche or the éclairs but no, I had to try the macarons first. The good news is that the first batch turned out pretty good. By that, I mean that once you figure out meringue, you end up with a tasty little cookie – crisp on the outside and chewy and delightful in the middle. The problem was that they did not look good – professional, that is. I happily munched on this batch of rejects scheming about how to redeem myself.
I have to admit that it took me five batches to come up with what you see here. It is obvious that an amateur has made them (as they are not circular enough though I piped them onto stenciled macaron shapes on parchment paper). I read somewhere that the word amateur is misused. The root of the word is to love, as in doing something that you love. Unfortunately, when we use this term we describe people in a negative way; we refer to work that is not professional. However, I find something refreshing and original about the products of those engaged in an activity with which they are extremely devoted. So, I am happy to say that I am an amateur macaron maker!
There are numerous recipes out there, but this is the one I adapted from Angela Drake, Macarons, Paragon Books Ltd 2011, for a chocolate meringue cookie:
Ingredients (Makes about 24 meringue cookies or 12 sandwiches):
¾ cup ground almonds
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 heaping tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2 large egg whites
¾ cup sugar
Take eggs out of the refrigerator about one hour before using. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Trace 2” circles onto the backside of the paper using a biscuit cutter. (You will pipe the batter onto the right side).
Sift the ground almonds, confectioner’s sugar, and cocoa into a bowl, discarding any large pieces of almond. Place the egg whites in a large bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar until the meringue is firm and glossy, resembling shaving cream. (This took me a little over 10 minutes to achieve the shaving cream consistency with room temperature eggs.)
Fold almond mixture into meringue one-third at a time with spatula. Cut and fold the mixture until the batter is shiny and pulls away from the spatula like a thick ribbon.
Pour the batter into a pastry bag fitted with 1/2“ tip and pipe 24 circles onto two cookie sheets. Tap the cookie sheets on the counter to remove air bubbles and let them stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes and then cool for 10 minutes.
And, these are often-quoted tips you disregard (as I did with disturbing the freshly piped meringues) at your own expense:
No 1. Take eggs out of the refrigerator about one hour before using. If they’re too cold, they will either take forever to whip or won’t whip up to the right consistency.
No 2. Whip egg whites until they are the consistency of shaving cream.
No 3. Pipe batter onto parchment paper using a wide pastry tip (1/2” opening). Use anything smaller, and they’re just not as puffy looking.
No 4. Once the meringues are piped on the parchment paper, tap the whole pan on the counter to remove air bubbles. This motion also creates the distinctive ruffled edge.
No 5. Do not disturb the freshly piped meringue batter on the parchment paper (to make more circular, for example). If you do, your cookies won’t have a smooth appearance.
If I could do it, anyone can. I hope this will inspire you to try it yourself. Also, meringues come in all shapes and sizes. You can make extra-large circles (instead of the typical 2” cookie), fill them with whipped cream and fresh strawberries, and serve it as a dessert rather than a cookie. I filled the ones for the May Birthday order with an authentic chestnut filling, but the possibilities for flavorings, fillings, and shapes are endless.
For the May Birthday order, we also made Apricot Chocolate Chip Crescent Rolls and Strawberry & Rose Whoopie Pies (with rose water and filled with real whipped cream and fresh strawberries). Hope you enjoy the pictures!
Wishing you the best on your adventures,
corrie @ Peachie’s Treats