I am convinced the popularity of macarons is due to the fact they look so damn cute. How to resist pretty rows of bon bons in every pastel shade possible? And, before you know it, you shelled out $3.00 for something that will be eaten in two bites and cost $0.20 to make.
Laduree in particular has done an admirable job of marketing (and shipping pretty much everywhere) those delightful boxes of macarons they have been making since the 1800s in Paris. But, aside from Laduree, every pastry shop worth its name now has them for sale.
The origin of macarons, which, essentially, are a meringue with almond flour, can be traced back to a French convent in the late 1700s, although I favor the theory that it was Catherine de’ Medici’s pastry chef from Florence who introduced them in 1533, when he followed his master on her move to France to marry King Henri II.
Either way, macarons, without fillings, became popular during the French Revolution, when nuns would bake them and sell them to pay for housing as they had been driven out of their convents. In more stable and prosperous times, during the first half of the 1800s, fillings in the form of jam and liquor creams, were introduced.
Skip a couple of centuries, and here we are, the macarons craze still not ready to go away. Many home bakers don’t like to tackle them as they have a reputation of being finicky. They can be but they are not hard to make, with a couple of tricks, and way way cheaper than anything you are likely to buy. They might not all look identical like the store-bought ones (which are piped by special machines) but they will be infinitely fresher.
I have been making huge batches recently, with Passover, Easter and dinner invitations in rapid succession, and they were all polished off the table. As I don’t like to use food coloring in anything I eat, I concentrated on chocolate macarons, filled with chocolate ganache, a crowd pleasing combination.
180 g powder sugar (1 3/4 C)
30 g unsweetened cocoa powder (5 T)
95 g almond meal (or grind whole, peeled almonds very fine)
pinch of salt
3 egg whites, room temperature
40 g sugar (3 T)
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon mats. Set aside.
- Whisk powder sugar, almond flour, salt and cocoa powder in a large bowl until combined (if the powder sugar is very lumpy, do sift it).
- Whip the egg whites using a standing mixer: beat on medium until the whites are frothy and then add the sugar in a steady stream. Increase the speed until you reach stiff peaks.
- Using a rubber spatula, fold the egg whites, in three additions, to the dry ingredients until completely combined. Be gentle.
- Spoon the batter in a pastry bag (or, for less even shaped macarons, use a spoon) and pipe about 1” rounds on the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 1” between them.
- Pick up the baking sheets and bang them against the counter a couple of times, to release the air and compact the batter. Let them sit out for 30 minutes: the batter will become more dense and will rise a bit.
- Heat oven to 350F/180C. Bake the macarons, rotating them halfway through, for about 12 minutes, until firm. Let them cool and turn them with the bottoms facing up.
For the filling:
1. Heat a 1/4 C of heavy cream in a small pan, without bringing it to boil. Take it off the heat and add 1 1/2oz of bittersweet chocolate chunks and 1 T of butter. Whisk and let cool. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes or until the mixture is thick and spreadable. Fill your macarons and serve. They keep, filled, in the fridge for about three days.