M is for Macarons
I’m a fan of the wonderful little French cookies known as Macarons. Not to be confused with cocoanut “macaroon” cookies, French macarons are a delicate treat comprised of two meringue-based shells sandwiched together with a tasty filling. I first tried a macaron (pronounced as though you are saying “macaroni” without the “i” at the end of the word) about five years ago when I ordered one at a bakery. I was overwhelmed with how wonderful it was! I then decided to try a recipe. Making macarons, I discovered, is a finicky process of measuring and sifting and piping and filling – but it’s well worth the effort. I had good luck with my first recipe so tried another recipe. Then another. And another. In the last five years, I estimate that I’ve made a couple thousand of these wonderful little treats – and I don’t believe I’ve perfected them quite yet! Even though I’m pretty good at making macarons, I still have batches of them that don’t turn out well at all. Some don’t have “feet,” others have thin shells, some go completely flat. But, for the most part, I can set out to bake a batch of macarons and they turn out.
I’ve had great fun experimenting with color and flavor combinations in my quest to bake the perfect macaron and have found that my favorite macaron and filling recipes are in the wonderful book, Mad About Macarons by Jill Colona. Many bakers fill their macarons with buttercream which Colona found to be to sweet (I agree) so she devised a recipe for a custard-based filling that is absolutely wonderful. With Colona’s recipe as my base, I’ve enjoyed experimenting with different flavor combinations. One of my favorite macaron flavors is Lavender Earl Grey (a slightly purple shell with lavendar flowers ground into for flavor and filled with an Earl Grey infused dark chocolate).
It’s hard to explain what it’s like to eat a macaron and why they are so fabulous but I’ll do my best to tell you. First, given how much work goes into making a macaron (it takes me a few hours to make a batch from start to finish), I think it’s worth it to take time to enjoy my macarons instead of just snarfing them down. So I start by getting myself a cup of tea or a nice latte. I put my macaron on a pretty plate. The macaron should be served at room temperature and eaten a day after you bake it (so that the ganache and the shell have a chance to meld so the flavor and textures are optimal – biting into a cold macaron just isn’t right). I sit down and relax. Then I take a small bite of my macaron. The shell, at first bite, is hard but then collapses into a light airiness of the meringue. Then the shell melds into the filling and the cookie is somewhat chewy. Then I close my eyes and smile at how lovely the bite of macaron tastes. And I take another bite. And another. Then the macaron is all gone and I’m sort of sad because it’s gone but oh, so happy that I got to enjoy a moment of cookie perfection.
Click HERE to read a great article on the history of macarons – Macarons, macaroons, and macaroni: The curious history.
Click HERE to visit Jill Colona’s Mad About Macarons website and to find info on her book, Mad About Macarons