Welcome to the era of the French macaroon, a delicate almond confection that French royalty enjoyed in much of the 19th Century, and Parisians still find piled up into pastel towers in the windows of sweets shops.
A macaroon has few ingredients – generally sugar mixed into stiff egg whites and blended with almond flour. Coconut macaroons use shredded coconut instead of almond flour, and are generally considered an American bastardization of the French cookie. It could be argued that the un-fussy nature of a coconut macaroon is a uniquely American solution to the several-hour enslavement that is the baking of French macaroons, but that is another article.
French macaroons have been popping up around the Twin Cities, from the delicate green tea macaroons at Obento-Ya to large strawberry flavored macaroons beneath the strawberry shortcake at Alaska Eatery (though they have changed their recipe since their opening, and don’t consistently have the macaroon version). The texture is what makes the macaroon — a crunchy meringue outside that quickly yields to the slightly chewy inside. They also freeze quite well, and are equally lovely accompanying coffee or covered in sauce. Their delicate almond flavoring means that they are a great vehicle for delicate flavors such as green tea or fruit. Most commonly, they are joined in a sandwich with buttercream frosting to make a little bite-sized gem.
But if you want to make a French macaroon, be prepared for a lot of prep and a little heartache.
As with most recipes with few ingredients, the proportion and timing are key to texture and flavor.
French Macaroon sandwich cookies
(adapted from Serious Eats)
4 large egg whites
3 cups almond flour
3 cups confectioners sugar
4 tbsp sugar
vanilla extract or other to taste but no more than 2-3 tsp total
Blend the almond flour and powdered sugar together and then sift them a lot. You cannot sift and blend enough. Whip the egg whites until soft, then add granulated sugar until stiff. Slowly add in the almond/powdered sugar combination until blended.
Now the fun begins. Fill a pastry bag with the mixture and pipe small rounds of batter onto parchment paper lined baking sheets. If the batter forms peaks, use a wet finger to smooth them down. Let the pans sit at room temperature for 1-2 hours. This will ensure that the tops form a more crunchy and cohesive “lid” to the cookie. Place in preheated 325° oven for 8-10 minutes and then rotate the pans and put in for another 8-10 minutes until slightly browned. Do not overcook, as this will dry out the chewy interior that is the key to the texture. Remove from oven and cool on rack. Frost with ganache or buttercream and form sandwich cookies.
Flavor variation: Thai Iced Tea Macaroons
Add 1 tbsp tea concentrate to batter. Also, if you would like coloring, add a gel or paste food color to keep the texture from slumping. Add about 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1 tsp cardamom extract to the icing.