Pink Lemonade Macarons

 

Like most small towns across America, the little villages that make up the South Bay area of Los Angeles each have their own brand of summer festival.  Come to think of it, the little hamlets of Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach don’t just limit their celebrations to the summer.  There’s the Old Hometown Fair in October.  Then there are the Manhattan Beach Fireworks in December (so clever considering Fourth of July fireworks in this neck of the woods are usually made impossible to watch thanks to the early summer marine layer).  Oh, and of course, St Patrick’s Day in  Hermosa.  We go to it all every year just like we walk the strand every fourth of July and venture onto the cold December sand for the Yuletide 5K.  It’s tradition.

But, back to the summer fun.  For many years, Labor Day Weekend has been about Fiesta Hermosa.  It’s what you would expect from a Southern California fun extravaganza: cover bands, rides for the kids, lots of food and booth upon booth of “who buys this stuff?”

Navigating the throngs to check out the latest in bedazzled acid washed denim accessories is thirsty work.  So, we’ve learned to arm ourselves with a little pink lemonade to keep up our hydration.  I don’t know the company but they sell only lemonade and their stands are strategically placed throughout the experience.  Four dollars for a coffee doesn’t seem so bad when you willingly shell out six bucks for a lemonade.

In honor of the capstone of summer parties in the South Bay, this week’s macaron pairs a lemon infused shell with raspberry buttercream.

In addition to using dried and ground teas to flavor macarons shells, I’ve also had surprising success with drying and then powdering citrus zest.  The lemon comes through nicely without being acidic.

Pink Lemonade Macarons

for the shells

Ingredients

  •  60 g almond flour
  • 100 g confectioner’s sugar
  • zest from one large or two small lemons, allowed to dry overnight on a paper towel
  • 20 g granulated sugar
  • 3 drops pink food coloring gel

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 315 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment.  I like to draw the circles with Sharpie on a couple of pieces of parchment as a stencil. In order to use them multiple times I lay another piece of parchment over the top.
  2. Weigh and measure out all of your ingredients.  When I’m making multiple batches I actually weigh out the almond flour, sugar and any other dry ingredients into separate zip-lock baggies and label them.
  3. In a food processor fitted with a blade, pulse together almond meal, lemon zest and confectioner’s sugar.  Give it a few pulses then sift into a medium bowl.  Set aside.
  4. In a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or an electric hand mixer), add the egg whites.  Beat on medium low until frothy.
  5. Increase the speed and slowly add the granulated sugar and pinch of salt.
  6. Add-in your gel coloring if desired.
  7. Beat eggs until they form soft peaks.
  8. Working in three batches, add first portion of almond meal mixture to the egg-whites.  Gently fold until just combined.  Repeat with the additional two portions of meal folding to combine while using as few folds as possible.
  9. To test if the batter is ready to pipe, scoop about 1/4 tsp onto a flat surface.  The batter should act like lava and spread enough to lose its peak but not its shape.  I usually do this test several times starting at the point where everything is just combined.  If you under-mix the batter you can always give it a few more folds.  However, you are out of luck if you over mix.  So, err on the side of multiple tests.
  10. When the batter is ready, pour it into your piping bag.  To be honest, I don’t bother with a tip, I just snip the bag about an inch or so from the tip (eh…maybe a little less).
  11. Pipe your shells onto the parchment-lined baking sheets.
  12. Allow to sit for 10-60 minutes or until the shells appear dry.  I have found this process is heavily dependent on the weather.  The more moisture in the air, the longer they need to sit.
  13. Working with one sheet at a time, bake for about 20 minutes.  To test, gently grab one corner of the parchment and attempt to peel it from the shell.  A clean peel means the shells are done.  If they are sticky, back in the oven for another 5 minutes and test again.
  14. Let the shells cool but once cool, carefully remove from the parchment.  I have found that you don’t want to let the cooled shells sit on the parchment.

for the filling

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Using the whisk attachment of a standing mixer or an electric hand-mixer, beat together the plain buttercream and raspberry preserves.
  2. If desired, chill for 15 minutes before filling macarons.

 

My so called French Macaron

French macarons are the Jordan Catalano of cookies.  They’re beautiful and rather elusive.  And that makes you want them.  Pine for them.  So get you to know them a little.  And they shine their special brightness on you a bit which you like. A lot.  Then, in nearly the same breath, they treat you like crap.  Which makes you like them even more. Sure, you court.  However, unfulfilled expectation becomes the hallmark of your relationship.  Before you know it, you find that you’ve been strung along, nourished only by the occasional favor of a half vacant smile or  frilly foot. Wait…we are talking about cookies right?

We all have our Jordan Catalanos both in real life and in pursuit of making good things to eat.  I just spent a weekend with mine.

There are quite a few pretty awesome primers, 101s and FAQs on French macarons.  Tartelette and Not So Humble Pie are incredibly useful and gorgeous to look at.  As such, I’m not going to go into painful detail here on how to successfully master the French macaron.  Besides, to do that would mean that I’ve mastered the little buggers.  Which, I have most definitely not.  Instead, let’s pretend just for this post that I am Angela Chase and you are Rayanne Graff  or Rickie Vasquez and I’m gossiping/venting/ fantasizing to you about Jordan.  I mean macarons.

Lets start at the beginning.  Almond flour is the basis of the macaron shell.  I ground my own in the food processor and then, under the advice of several recipes, sifted it.  Here we see the unsifted stuff.

And here it is sifted.  While it is certainly more aesthetically uniform, I really don’t think it made a difference to sift at this stage.

Then there are the egg whites.  The consensus is that they need to be aged.  Some say 24 hours. Some say five or six days.  So I did both.  I separated-out three dozen egg whites, covered them and let them sit in the fridge for several days.  Then, 24 hours before I was to make the shells, I pulled them out of the fridge and let them sit.  While I realize this sounds gross, consider that many countries do not bother to refrigerate their eggs at all.  My understanding is that aging the whites dries them out a bit.  Makes sense I suppose.  However, About 12 hours into my little adventure, I ran out of aged egg whites and, gasp, used some fresh ones.  You know what?  They worked just fine.

Now let’s talk a bit about the meringue.  I think I got it right.  You don’t want it too sloppy and you don’t want it to break.  Check.

Some recipes tell you to add the meringue to the dry ingredients while other tell you to do the exact opposite.  Since meringue is delicate stuff, I went with the latter and added it in three stages.  One really great tip I did pick up was to test the batter along the way.  Batter that doesn’t spread slightly needs a few more folds.  Batter that spreads to quickly has been over folded and you are pretty much out of luck.

Since I’m not exactly a pro with the pastry bag, I actually drew the recommended 1.5” circles on a dozen sheets of parchment (you then flip it over and use the un-marked side).  While this gave me some confidence in my spherical shaping task, I eventually ran out of the pre-drawn sheets and the resulting disks were no less round than the traced ones.

Next up in the macaron lore is the aging of the batter before it goes into the oven.  Several recipes agree that 30 to 60 minutes is good.  While I agree that about 30 minutes is good, the weather that weekend was so dry that anything aged longer cooked lopsided—as if the feet got stuck.

If the macaron flow chart wasn’t sufficiently complicated at this point, there is also the issue of how hot the oven should be.  The recipes I looked at ranged from 280 degrees to 350.  Seventy degrees is a substantial swing, particularly for something so purportedly picky.  I stuck in the middle at 300 and double panned each batch.  That is, until the batch that I forgot to double pan came out much cleaner than the ones before.  Then it was single pans going forward.

Between batches that cracked, stuck to the parchment, didn’t raise, raised too much and just plain decided not to be circles, my success rate was about 50%.  And we haven’t even gotten to the filling yet.

I made the shells on a Saturday but didn’t need the cookies until the next Thursday and so into the freezer (very carefully) they went.

I ended up with five different kinds of macaron shells (though four of the five came from the same recipe).  This means that I needed five different kinds of filling.  Here was the line-up:

  • Blue vanilla with vanilla bean ganache
  • Chocolate with nutella ganache
  • Raspberry with a raspberry mascarpone filling
  • Pumpkin saffron with a pumpkin spice cream cheese filling
  • Lemon with a lemon zest cream cheese filling

The beauty of macarons is that you can fill them with anything.  However, as is true with teenaged relationships, some fillings are more stable than others.  While delightful on the palate, by the time I went to serve the raspberry mascarpone macarons, the liquid in the filling had turned the cookie nearly to mush.  The shells with the cream cheese and ganache fillings held up much better.

When you go to fill the macarons, match up and lay-out each of the shells in advance.  I also suggest chilling the filling a bit, this will make it cleaner to distribute.

And prettier in the cookie.

I obviously did not do this with the chocolate.

I read in a couple of places that macarons like to rest a day or two before serving.  So I did just that.

And I think it worked well.

Not wanting to waste the hundred or so that turned out, I brought them in to work for our annual Thanksgiving Potluck.  We’re supposed to label our dishes so everyone knows what they are eating.  I’m good at following instructions.

Unfortunately, I got all wrapped up in arranging the macarons and forgot to take pictures before I, well, wrapped them up–which leaves us with a fairly unsatisfactory final shot.

Oh wait…let’s end with this one.  Can you guess what the blur is?

My work here is obviously not done as I still haven’t figured out how to get more than 50% consistency.  However, I will have a couple more opportunities in the coming weeks with  gingerbread and an egg nog macaron attempts.

The recipe for the chocolate macarons can be found here: Chocolate Macarons.

The following is the basic macaron recipe I used for the other flavors.  All credit goes to Tartlette.

Basic Macaron Recipe

Slightly adapted from Tartlette

For me, this recipe yields about 40 1.5″ shells.

For the shells:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees, position rack in the middle of the oven.

  • 90 grams egg whites
  • 30 grams granulated sugar
  • 200 grams confectioner’s sugar
  • 120 grams ground almonds or almond flour
  • food coloring

Either age the whites or don’t, just make sure they are at room temp. before you begin.  Grind together confectioner’s sugar and ground almonds in the food processor until fine.  Sift into a large bowl and throw out what remains in the sifter (this is why I’ve upped the almond amount just slightly).  Meanwhile, in a standing mixer with the whisk attachment, whip egg whites on low until frothy.  Add in food coloring if desired.  Once egg whites are frothy, increase whisk speed and gradually add in granulated sugar.  Meringue is ready when it will hold a peak.

In three parts, gently fold the flour mixture into the meringue. Just when the dry ingredients are combined, begin testing the mixture–I use a teaspoon and clean plate.  The batter should flow like magma and when tested, spread gently.  If it keeps its shape, give it a couple more folds.

Fill a pastry bag (or large zip lock) with batter and pipe onto a parchment covered half-sheet.  Let sit 30-60 minutes if desired (more if you are in a humid environment). And then, into the oven they go for about 10 minutes.  At this point, begin checking for doneness by slightly giggling pan.  Shells are done when the meringue does not shift.  Remove from oven, let cool slightly and remove from parchment.  Can be stored in freezer for several days.

When you are ready to fill, your choices are nearly unlimited.  I’ve included links to the recipes I used here.

Vanilla Bean Ganache

Chocolate Ganache

Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese Filling

Lemon Cream Cheese Filling

Bon Appetit!