Monday, January 3, 2011

Merry Christmas Macarons

Happy 2011! Before I left town for the holidays, I was determined to cross one 2010 resolution off my list and recreate my macaron success one more time to prove it was not a fluke (and so I'd have gifts for my neighbors and co-workers). So I started by making two batches of macarons -- pink, grapefruit flavored (using all almond flour) and a light green, pistachio flavored (using half almond and half pistachio nut flour plus a touch of pistachio paste). Tip: Grind, sift and sift again. I sifted the nut flour alone and then sifted the powdered sugar and nut flours together to combine. This was my first time using pistachio paste. I found it at G Detou in Paris, and carted it home (which partially contributed to me having to pay an 100 euro excess baggage charge). It looks gross in the can, kind of like swamp slime, but tastes really great. Tip: Be careful of using liquid ingredients to flavor your shells. I only used a quarter teaspoon of paste in the batter. It look me about five hours to mix and pipe and bake (one tray at a time) but I ended up with 120 shells -- of each flavor. I filled the grapefruit shells with a mixture of butter, white almond paste, grapefruit zest and a touch of grapefruit juice. And I made a cheaters chocolate pistachio ganache by mixing baking chocolate, dark chocolate, pistachio paste and a touch of milk (next time I will use cream so the mixture stays soft). Tip: My favorite macarons were those on the smaller side. Rather than make outlines on parchment paper, I counted "1,2,3, relax" to remind myself to loosen my grip on the pastry bag after three seconds so I could twist and pull up without creating a little tail of batter. For my gift packaging, I found cute mini bakery boxes at The Christmas Tree Shop that just fit four macarons. After the macaron marathon, I was feeling bold, so I decided to make a pistachio lemon macaron with a lemon curd filling the night before I left town. I used a half and half mixture of almond and pistachio flour for the shells and omitted any pistachio paste or green food coloring. For the curd, I modified this recipe from The Splendid Table, since it called for gelatin to help stiffen the end result. Tip: While the lemon maracons were tasty, they quickly became soggy after overnighting in the fridge. I'd only recommend using lemon curd for macarons meant to be consumed the same day. So after four batches of macarons in two weeks, I've learned a thing or two. Macarons are all about technique -- from getting the meringue just so to piping the shells correctly to baking at the right temperature and length of time. Is it worth making your own? Yes, especially if you have a lot you want to eat or give away. But make sure you have the time and take the time to follow the proper steps. Wishing you a sweet 2011...

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