… And now for something completely different.
As I’ve said in prior posts, Liz and I are having a very, very busy and stressful summer. One recent Sunday afternoon, both of us had pretty. much. had. it. We decided to do what we almost never do–try to bake. Don’t try this at home. We’re not very safe in the kitchen. Trust me, we’re in no position to give advice.
So, we started out with the dubious ambition of making Parisian Macarons for our very first time. We pulled out my Ladurée cookbook, which I had brought back from my recent trip in Paris. Which, we realized, is in French. With metric measurements.
Since this was our first time, we thought it best to try Martha’s way first.
The recipe called for 1 1/2 cups (plus an extra teaspoon, because Martha said so) of confectioner’s sugar to be mixed it with finely ground sliced, blanched almonds. Except we couldn’t find blanched almonds at the store. Anyway, we thought Blanche was a character in a Southern drama. So after Googling it, we found that it means that you have to soak, drain and then grind the almonds up.
Since we couldn’t find our Cuisinart (we’ve moved a lot, it must be in the garage somewhere), we tried to grind them with a hand blender. Which is a really good way to lose an eye. Then we got thirsty.
In a separate bowl, we mixed 3 egg whites with a pinch of salt, then gradually added 1/4 cup granulated sugar until it formed stiff peaks. We threw in an unspecified amount of vanilla for good measure (about a tablespoon).
Once that was done, we folded in the confectioner’s sugar/almond mixture with a spatula. We then dotted parchment-paper lined cookie sheets with this batter. You’ll notice we didn’t use the Martha-approved tip on our pastry bag. Just, work with us.
The batter has to sit for at least 10 minutes until it stops looking shiny. We then put the trays into a 350-degree oven with the door open. This batter has a lot of sugar in it, and keeping the door open keeps these cookies from getting too brown. Martha advises 15 minutes, but ours were not crisp after that. 25 minutes was better. I slid the parchment paper onto empty baking racks to cool, then peeled them off and set them aside.
We started the filling with one cup of sugar and 3 egg whites, whisked together with an electric mixture. We then transferred this to a make-shift double boiler (like our Cuisinart, our double boiler is somewhere. Don’t ask, life has been complicated lately). This sort of melted the sugar into the egg whites without burning the sugar.
The recipe then calls for the addition of two sticks of butter, which is a phenomenal amount of butter. Really. That’s one huge amount of butter.
Liz demonstrated her wine-swirling technique which she learned in Napa just a few weeks earlier.
We then blended the egg white/sugar mixture with the butter, adding the butter just one bit at time. We then refrigerated the filling for a bit.
After a bit, our cookies were ready (having only singed them slightly), so we used a pastry bag to add the filling to the cookies.
Although they didn’t come out as puffy and pretty as Laduree’s, the texture and taste were remarkably French. The cookie outsides were very crisp with soft, chewy insides. The filling was cool, sweet and rich. Given the fact that no one lost an eye, broke a nail or answered a phone for several hours, it was a remarkable afternoon. Next time, I’ll have to find the right tools for the job and try Laduree’s version. Also, I know I need to work on my oven technique–25 minutes seems like I’m doing something wrong. Having said that, these tasted like heaven melting in your mouth. Angels sang. We gave each other the highest of fives.
Thank you for sharing our afternoon at Cafe Makeup! Bon appetit!