I love all French desserts and confections, but one of my most favorites is the macaron. Available in countless colors and flavors, macarons are very popular in France. In Paris, customers line up to buy them at many famous pastry shops, such as Dalloyau or Ladurée, which invented the double-decker sandwiched macaron in 1930. Since Paris is a bit too far for me to travel, I usually buy them at Bouchon Bakery in New York. I love all the flavors they offer even though their selection is not as wide as in France. But for me it doesn't matter, because the chocolate macaron is what I consider to be the best.
French macarons are basically meringue cookies made only of powdered sugar, egg whites, and almond flour. Getting the proportions exactly correct is key to the perfect macaron. Unlike the dense and chewy coconut macaroons, which French macarons are almost always confused with, macarons are smooth, light as air, and only slightly chewy. A smooth and flavorful filling in between two of the cookies is the icing on the cake. Pastry shops have come up with very unusual macarons and fillings, such as passion fruit and green tea, but the chocolate macaron is probably the most popular.
There are countless recipes for macarons in books, magazines, and online. Many of them have varying directions. Some say to age the egg whites for days or let the macarons chill for hours before baking, but for me that all just seems like old wives' tales. Since I'm baking for Christmas, I didn't have to time to test recipes against one another, so I relied on David Lebovitz's recipe from his book The Sweet Life in Paris. Luckily, as a famed pastry chef, he's tested many macaron recipes. I adapted his recipe to suit my tastes and found the results to be excellent. Biting into one of these macarons is such a treat; it's a little bomb of chocolatey goodness.
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 cup almond flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup granulated sugar
ganache filling, recipe follows
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.
Sift together dry ingredients: confectioners sugar, almond flour, and cocoa powder. Press any lumps or bits of almond through. Anything that does not go through should be discarded.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites with granulated sugar until smooth, firm, and glossy.
Fold the dry ingredients into the beaten egg whites a little at a time until just combined and no white shows. Do not over mix.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain 1/2-inch tip with the batter. Pipe 1-inch diameter coins onto the prepared baking sheet no more than an inch apart. Use a finger moistened with water to knock down any peaks. To even out any misshapen rounds, rap the pan against the counter. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool completely.
To fill the macarons, spread each bottom with 1 teaspoon of chilled ganache filling and cover with tops, squeezing lightly. Yield: 15 sandwiched macarons.
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon coffee liqueur
In a small saucepan, heat cream with corn syrup over medium heat. Once cream is hot but not yet boiling, remove and pour over chocolate. Stir until chocolate has melted and is smooth. Stir in butter and liqueur. Chill for 15 to 20 minutes before using. Yield: 2 cups.