Some days I like to pretend I am in a foreign country. And yes, I do know how insane this makes me sound. But if I can’t be honest with you, the internet, who can I confide in? Anyways, in America, we have Macaroons, one more O and a whole different cookie. Over the pond, they have Macarons, which are a beautiful, light, crunchy cookie. There are few words I know in French…like Bon Appetit, Crescent, Amuse-Bouche, and J’adore. So today to create a home like feeling for the Macarons, I kept saying Bon Appetit in my best Julia Child impression. And it worked! I conquered the elusive French Macaron on my first try and they had beautiful little Macaron feet!
My 5 tips for getting a delicious Macaron:
1. Pick a day with no humidity.
2. Instead of worrying about separating eggs and letting the whites sit for a few days, just buy a carton of Egg Whites at the store.
3. You will need a digital scale, these cookies are precise.
4. Follow the directions exactly. DO NOT ALTER. Seriously.
5. Have every thing ready to go before beginning.
For the shells:
90 gr egg whites (preferably aged overnight in the fridge or on your counter top if the kitchen is relatively cool)
30 gr granulated sugar
200 gr powdered sugar
55 gr almonds
55 gr raw pistachios
powdered green food coloring, optional, they will be slightly green form the pistachios
For the creme brulee filling:
1/2 cup (125ml) whole milk
1/2 cup (125ml) heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean, seeded (see note)
1/4 cup (50gr) sugar
2 egg yolks
For the shells:
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, (think bubble bath foam) gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue (think shaving cream). Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry. Place the powdered sugar, almonds and pistachios in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add them to the meringue along with some food coloring if using, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that falls back on itself after counting to 10. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper or silicone mats lined baking sheets. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 280F. When ready, bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool. If you have trouble removing the shells, pour a couple of drops of water under the parchment paper while the sheet is still a bit warm and the macarons will lift up more easily do to the moisture. Don't let them sit there in it too long or they will become soggy. Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store them in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer. To fill: pipe or spoon about 1 big tablespoon of butterceam in the center of one shell and top with another one.
For the creme brulee filling:
Preheat the oven to 300F and position a rack in the enter. Line a 8x8-inch square pan with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray or melted butter. Place this pan in a larger roasting pan and set aside.
In a medium saucepan set over medium heat bring the milk, heavy cream and vanilla bean seeds to a simmer. In the meantime, whisk together the sugar and egg yolk together in a large bowl until the mixture is pale. When the milk/cream is hot, slowly pour it over the egg yolk and sugar, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from curdling. Let the mixture cool to room temperature, skim the foam on top and pour it into the prepared baking pan. Fill the roasting pan with water so that it comes about halfway up the side of the creme brulee pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. It is ok if the center still appears a little wiggly. It will set as it cools.
Let cool to room temperature before refrigerating preferably overnight.
Note: to seed a vanilla bean: place it on a flat surface and cut it in half lengthwise without cutting all the way through. Scrape the seeds inside with a pairing knife. You can add both seeds and pods to the milk and cream as they heat up but remove the pod before whisking the liquids into the eggs and sugar.
Do not throw away your bean! Wash it, let it dry and add to some sugar for vanilla scented sugar in a pinch.
When ready to assemble the macarons, cut out rounds smaller than the diameters of the shells into the brulee filling and place it on top of a shell. Top with a second one but do not press down.