***Finally...I'm making progress with the ever-hard-to-make French Macaron. I found this recipe in the recent "Holiday Baking" special issue of Cooks Illustrated. Their recipes have never failed me...they test, re-test, and test again every single recipe...until they are almost fool-proof. I noticed that this recipe for macarons was a little different from the ones I've been using. One big difference was the addition of Cream of Tartar to the egg whites. It acts as a stabilizer and helps to stiffen the egg whites. Also I recently purchased a silicon baking mat....what a great investment! I only have one right now, so I had to make the other batches of macarons on regular parchment paper. The macarons baked on the silicon mat looked much better, seemed to bake more evenly, and even rose higher. It looks like I'll be buying a few more of those mats soon. Hmm...maybe Santa can leave a few of those in my stocking? ;)
So, here's a list of some things I did differently this time around:
1. Added a pinch of Cream of Tartar to the egg whites
2. Aged the egg whites at room temperature for 24 hours (covered)
3. I processed my own almond flour by processing 11 ounces of slivered almonds to a fine flour in a food processor.
4. Used a silicon baking mat on one batch.
3 3/4 cups (15 ounces) almond flour (see my note above)
3 1/3 cups (13 1/3 ounces) confectioner's sugar
1/8 tsp. table salt
5 large egg whites, room temperature
Pinch cream of tartar
5 tsp. granulated sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Fit large pastry bag with 1/2 inch plain tip; set aside. Process half of almond flour, half of confectioner's sugar, and salt together in food processor until mixture is very finely ground, about 20 seconds. Transfer to bowl and repeat with remaining almond flour and confectioner's sugar; stir together and set aside.
2. In stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites at medium-low speed until opaque and frothy, about 30 seconds. Add cream of tartar, increase speed to medium-high, and continue to beat until white, thick, and voluminous, with consistency of shaving cream, about 90 seconds. Slowly sprinkle in granulated sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form and sugar is incorporated, about 60 seconds.
3. Gently fold one-quarter of almond flour mixture into whites, followed by vanilla. Gradually fold in remaining almond mixture until thick batter forms.
4. Fill prepared pastry bag with batter. Twisting top of bag to apply pressure, push batter down toward tip and pipe twenty 2-inch mounds about 1 inch apart. Use back of teaspoon or finger dipped in bowl of cold water to even out shape and smooth surface of piped mounds. Repeat with remaining batter and baking sheet. Let cookies sit at room temperature until tops are dry and smooth skin has formed, 1 to 2 hours.
5. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until lightly browned, about 20 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Carefully slide parchment paper with cookies onto wire rack and cool completely. Bake second batch of cookies while first batch cools.
***Note: If your macarons stick to the parchment paper and won't easily come off, put about 2 tbsp. of water between the parchment paper and baking sheet. Let sit for about 15-30 seconds and try again. Don't wait too long...the water will make the macarons soggy!***Chocolate Ganache Filling
6 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
Combine the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream just to a boil. Remove from the heat and immediately pour over the chocolate and butter. Stir with a wire whisk until the chocolate and butter melt and are smooth. Let cool until spreadable. (I chilled the ganache in the fridge until it was the consistency that I wanted.)
Spread about 1 tbsp. chocolate ganache over flat sides of half of cooled cookies and gently cover with flat sides of remaining cookies to form sandwich cookies.
Source: Cooks Illustrated - Holiday Baking special issue, Holiday