Tuesday, February 9, 2010

French Macaroons for Valentine's Day

Everyone always offers chocolates for Valentine's Day and don't get me wrong, I adore chocolate, but sometimes I like to think outside of the box for gifts. For example, for Christmas I thought WAY out of the box and gave Christophe a helicopter ride to the top of a mountain where he will be guided down hors piste (off slope), snowboarding through powdery snow to safety. He plans to go in a couple of weeks and now I am wishing I had just given him a box of chocolates! Anyway, if you are looking for a slightly different Valentine's idea than chocolates that does not require an avalanche detector, French macaroons are the way to go. French macaroons are often displayed in pastry shops like precious jewels in a jewelry case. Perfectly round made in every color and flavor, they almost look too pretty to eat, but when you take a bite...ooh la la, they melt in your mouth! These delicate cookies made with tender love and care, are sure to please anyone. Here is how to make them or purchase them for a Valentine's gift.

Making French Macaroons:

*this recipe comes from epicurious.com
For macaroons
  • 6 oz sliced blanched almonds (not slivered; 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Red or pink food coloring
For chocolate raspberry ganache
  • 3 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (60 to 64% cacao), finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/16 teaspoon raspberry extract (preferably McCormick brand
  • Special equipment: parchment paper; a gallon-size sealable plastic bag (not pleated)

Make macaroons:
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Pulse almonds with 1/2 cup confectioners sugar in a food processor until very finely ground, 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a bowl. Sift in remaining cup confectioners sugar, stirring to combine.

Beat egg whites with salt in another bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks. Add granulated sugar, a little at a time, beating, then increase speed to high and continue to beat until whites just hold stiff, glossy peaks. Add drops of food coloring to reach desired shade and mix at low speed until evenly combined. Stir almond mixture into meringue with a rubber spatula until completely incorporated. (Meringue will deflate.)

Spoon batter into bag, pressing out excess air, and snip off 1 corner of plastic bag to create a 1/4-inch opening. Twist bag firmly just above batter, then pipe peaked mounds of batter (the size of a chocolate kiss) onto lined sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart. Let cookies stand, uncovered, at room temperature until tops are no longer sticky and a light crust forms, 20 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 300°F.

Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until crisp and edges are just slightly darker, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool completely on sheets on racks, about 30 minutes.

Make ganache while macaroons bake:
Melt chocolate with cream in a metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water or in top of a double boiler, stirring until smooth. (Bowl should not touch water.) Remove bowl from heat, then add butter and raspberry extract, stirring until butter is melted. Let stand at room temperature until cooled completely and slightly thickened.

Assemble cookies:
Carefully peel cookies from parchment (they will be fragile). Sandwich a thin layer of ganache (about 1/2 teaspoon) between flat sides of cookies.

Purchasing French Macaroons:

  • best known macaroon boutique in Paris with lines out the door Ladurée
picture from HERE

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