Monday, March 22, 2010

Mc-Macarons: The end of good taste

As you may or may not know, I'm obsessed with macarons. My whole wedding was planned around Laduree. Our French friends have, on more than one occasion, smuggled in French Laduree macarons for my eating enjoyment (Ms. Quiche on Weddingbee even tried to get them for me when she was in Paris).

I actually made them as favors for my wedding--which is a ridiculous feat, since a) I don't bake and b) the pastries are extremely delicate and finicky and thereby very difficult to execute (but I did it--obsessions are inspiring, non?). When I use to mention the tasty little delights to people, they'd say, "Oh, I love macaroons--those Girl Scout cookies are great!" Um, no. That was a couple years ago. But like many memes, the idea spread. And they've grown into some notoriety.

In the past two weeks, friends and family members have emailed and clipped newspaper articles on the confection. Headlines in lifestyle and food sections of major newspapers announcing the new "it" dessert. LAME. I hope these don't become trendy and down-marketed like cupcakes. Don't get me wrong, I love cupcakes, but like a lot of Mc-trends where the masses get on the trendwagon, the object loses its appeal, especially when not-so-great versions start to saturate the marketplace. Starbuck's (talk about contrived) is offering them. And in some French McDonald's they're serving up Mc-Macarons (in their McCafe)--it makes as much sense, I suppose.  Many find them a pale, ersatz comparison. I'm a little cynical because I am experiencing that childish want to be the special snowflake. And I also believe these cookies should not be democratized.  They should exist in that rarefied air of artisan creation.

To Julie Jargon, who wrote the Wall Street Journal article, "Mon Dieu! Will Newfound Popularity Spoil the Dainty Macaron?" I say, yes.
 {G brought home this article from the WSJ the other week}

To Elinor Klivans who wrote the recipe piece in the Washington Post called "The French cookie trend du jour comes out of the oven with elan" I totes gag.
{My mother-in-law saved me this article}

There is a silver lining to the popularization of theses delicacies...that people will stop.calling.them.'macaroons'.

Here's the recipe for my wedding macarons.


2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 1/4 cup almond flour

1/2 cup aged** egg whites (KEY STEP: Aging the eggs)

Pinch of salt 1/3 cup granulated sugar

Directions To make the macarons: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a food processor, blend the confectioner's sugar and almond flour.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip egg whites with salt on medium speed until foamy. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar.

Continue to whip until stiff glossy peaks form.

With a rubber spatula, gently fold in the confectioners' sugar mixture until completely incorporated. It should be the consistency of lava, and peaks should melt away at this point.

Add six drops of whatever food coloring you want. (I added red drops for light pink and green drops for pistachio green).

Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Trace one-inch circles two inches apart from one another. Be sure to flip the parchment over so you don't bake the pen ink or pencil carbon into the macaron!!!

Fit a pastry bag with a 3/8-inch #4 round tip, and fill with batter. Pipe 1-inch disks onto prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between cookies. The batter will spread a little.

Tap the sheet against the counter to get the air bubbles out. One or two taps will do.

THIS IS KEY: Let stand at room temperature until dry, and a soft skin forms on the tops of the macarons and the shiny surface turns dull, about 30 minutes.

Bake, with the door of the oven slightly ajar (I put a wooden spoon between the door and the oven to keep it the tiniest bit open--THIS IS ANOTHER KEY STEP). Bake for about 12 minutes.

The macarons should have "feet" those little bubbly-edged things at the bottom. Remove baking sheet to a wire rack and let the macarons cool completely on the baking sheet. Gently peel off the parchment. Their tops are easily crushed, so take care when removing the macaroons from the parchment. Use immediately or store in an airtight container, refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month. Fill with anything you like. I use lemon curd, jams, or Nutella in a pinch.

But alas, there are weightier concerns to the healthcare bill: Are you happy or sad that it passed?


Mrs. Hot Cocoa said...

Would you think less of me if I admit that like cupcakes, macarons are so awesome that I suspect that even a bad one is good? That being said, I will reserve judgment for the McCafe version.

Mrs. BP said...

Trader Joe's is selling them in the freezer section. Reluctantly I tried a box and it wasn't too bad. Definitely not as good as a fresh batch of macarons. I've tried them at Eric Keyser's in Paris, we're going back and I'm definitely trying them at Laduree this time around. :)

FrenchTwistDC said...

Trader Joe's are not bad indeed. I'm glad there's someone else obsessed with macaron in DC ;-) My parents live in Paris, they're bringing me a McDo macaron in a few weeks. I just couldn't wait until my next trip in August.

FrenchTwistDC said...

And by couldn't wait, I mean I just gotta try one. Going to do a blind taste ;-)


French Twist: Oooh, let us know how it goes. And also, Pierre Herme ou Laduree?

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