Monday, June 1, 2009

National Macaroon Day


May 31: National Macaroon Day

The Macaroon is basically a flourless cookie, but I didn't know that when I was growing up. I thought macaroons had to be coconut and chewy and fairly tasteless. I was familiar with the French macaron from trips in France, but I didn't equate the two. Now macarons or macaroons or whatever you call them are sweeping the country, popping up in bakeries and specialty shops everywhere.

The macaroon is not new, and there are many stories about its origin. There's one that says they were created and served at the wedding of Catherine de Medici. Another story is that they were created by monks in France in the 18th century. The term "macaron" has the same origin as the word 'macaroni' meaning fine dough, so maybe we should have macaroni to celebrate National Macaroon Day. In any case, the first macaroons were simple cookies made of almond powder, sugar and egg whites. At the beginning of the 20th century, marcaroons went 'double-decker' with wonderful chocolate panache to stick them together. Certainly the sandwich concept for macarons was created in France by Pierre Herme, the Picasso of Pastry.

Stacy Finz at the San Francisco Chronicle had a great article on French macaroons last month that also included recommendations for shops in the Bay Area with macaroons. In her article, Chef Kelli Manukyan of Pamplemousse in Redwood City gave a recipe for chocolate French Macarons. Pamplemousse has 35 flavors of macarons (availability varies upon season).

Chocolate French Macarons

  • 1 1/4 cups fine blanched almond flour (see Note)
  • 1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup room-temperature egg whites
  • -- Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 3/4 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • -- Cocoa powder for dusting
  • -- Chocolate ganache (see recipe)

Instructions: Preheat oven to 360°. Sift almond flour, confectioners' sugar and cocoa powder twice. There will be larger granules that do not go through the sifter; discard them.

In a standing mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg whites with cream of tartar at medium speed. Once it is foamy, add granulated sugar and whisk at high speed until stiff peaks form. Be careful to not overwhip; egg whites should be smooth and glossy, not separated.

Take 1/3 of egg white mixture and fold into dry ingredients. Repeat twice, until dry ingredients are fully incorporated. Be careful to not overmix.

Place meringue in a piping bag fitted with a round 1/4-inch piping tip. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. To achieve uniform macaroon halves, trace a circle anywhere from 1 to 2 inches wide on parchment paper with a pencil. Turn parchment paper over, and pipe batter, tracing the circle in a spiral pattern from the outside in.

Once they have been piped, bang the bottom of the sheet pan a few times to smooth out tops. Lightly dust with cocoa powder. Place baking sheet on the top oven rack and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool and remove from the parchment carefully with a regular or offset spatula

To assemble, spread 1 teaspoon of ganache onto a macaroon and top with second macaroon. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Note: We used Bob's Red Mill Almond meal/flour. Specialty grocers, such as Rainbow and Berkeley Bowl also carry almond meal in their bulk or refrigerated section.

Ganache Yields 1 cup

  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 cup finely chopped dark chocolate (54%-64%)

Instructions: Bring cream to a boil and pour over chopped chocolate. Let stand 2-3 minutes and whisk together. Let rest overnight unrefrigerated. Whip to spreadable consistency just before using.

Variations: If you want flavored ganache (i.e. orange peel, lemon peel, mint leaves, cinnamon), bring cream to a boil and remove from heat. Add flavoring (if using citrus, use the peel of one fruit; 4 sprigs or a 1/4 cup packed mint leaves, 2 cinnamon sticks) and let steep for 30 minutes . Bring back to a boil, strain and pour over chocolate. Or you can add 1/2 teaspoon of desired extract to hot ganache mixture

So French Macaroons are a very elite pastry made with ground almonds, powdered sugar, egg whites, and piped onto sheet pans before baking. Then they're made into a two cookie sandwich with ganache, buttercream or another filling. But in case you like those gummy coconut drop cookies made with egg whites and sweetened condensed milk that are popular during Passover, here's a recipe I've used for Chewy Chocolate Macaroons from Cookie Madness (2005)

Chewy Chocolate Macaroons

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
½ cup sifted cake flour
2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups lightly packed flaked sweetened coconut
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 (14-ounce) can fat-free sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 250°. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Melt unsweetened chocolate in microwave. Spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with knife. Combine flour, cocoa powder and salt. Add coconut to flour mixture and toss well. Stir in melted chocolate, vanilla and condensed milk.
Drop the batter by level tablespoons 2 inches apart onto a baking sheet. Bake at 250° for 45 minutes. Cool 10 minutes on pan or rack

Yield: 32 cookies (serving size: 1 cookie)

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One of my favorite recipes and descriptions for making French Chocolate Macaroons is from David Lebovitz, no a big surprise. Be warned, these are not easy to make, as you'll read in David's Blog, Living the Sweet Life in Paris.

Happy National Macaroon Day! FYI: This holiday is celebrated on March 20 in France.

1 comment:

~~louise~~ said...

I saw that recipe over at Anna's (Cookie Madness) yesterday they sure do look inviting. Naturally, I missed National Macaroon Day because I just returned from Idaho and we spent fun time making smores:) with the kids. I am definitely saving this link for next year though because I LOVE that you included a little bit of history. Chocolate French Macarons sound oh so, French. Who knows maybe I'll bake some up for next year!!!