petite treats: vanilla mango french macarons
French macarons are my white whale. I've made them five times now, but they've only been the right texture twice, and they've only looked perfectly photogenic once, on a glorious summer day in 2014.
They're aren't difficult per se, but they're very persnickety. If you don't follow the instructions to the letter, they won't come out right. Not to mention, almond flour is expensive and there's an hour-long resting period in between when you pipe them and when you can bake them. In short, French macarons are no joke and once you attempt them, you can appreciate why bakeries charge $4 per cookie.
So while I was in Isla Vista, Britt and I decided to try them again, because she'd always wanted to learn how to make them and I had a Trader Joe's giftcard.
We decided to make vanilla macarons with mango jam, since Britt had just purchased a couple of mangoes, but you can really use any kind of filling. Jam, chocolate ganache, buttercream. I'm including the recipe for blackberry jam from the time my friend James and I made miniature pie pops.
Shoutout to Britt for patiently (frantically?) making these with me in irregular 15-minute intervals at 11 pm at night while watching Begin Again.
Yields: 8 servings (this literally ALWAYS bothers me because what is a "serving"...petition to standardize recipe quantities...)
Prep: 1 1/2 hours
Cook: 10 minutes
1/4 cup sugar
1 2/3 cups confectioner's sugar
1 cup almond flour (or you can use finely ground almonds)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Beat egg whites until foamy; slowly add white sugar and continue beating until mixture is glossy, fluffy, and holds soft peaks.
Sift confectioner's sugar and almond flour in a separate bowl and quickly fold the almond mixture into the egg mixture (about 30 strokes). This is important! If you don't sift the mixture, the cookies won't be smooth. Add vanilla extract.
Spoon a small amount of batter into a pastry bag, or into a plastic bag with a small corner cut off. Pipe onto baking sheet into small disks. It should flatten immediately. If it holds a peak, gently fold the batter a few more times and retest (we kind of skipped this part, which is why ours didn't fall right).
Let piped cookies stand out at room temperature until they form a hard skin on top, about one hour. Preheat oven to 285°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or use a silicon baking mat.
Bake cookies until set but not browned, about 10 minutes. Let cookies cool completely before filling.
1 1/2 cups assorted berries (or really any fruit you like; we used mangoes)
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Place the berries in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and cook until thickened but still has viscosity. It should ooze a little bit when you press it between the two cookies, but shouldn't be so sticky that you have to press hard. Remove from heat and cool in the fridge, until you're ready to use it.
I actually don't like French macarons, because I think they're too sweet with not enough substance, so I have no idea how these tasted, but Britt, Andrew, Anna, and Britt's housemates can attest to their deliciousness. I want to try black tea ones. Maybe I'll make a milk tea macaron flight, with jasmine and oolong and rose. Ooh. And maybe ones with fruit puree in the batter, because the plain vanilla ones are so boring. If anyone wants to be my next baking partner, let me know.
French Macaron Experiment No. 06 Notes: they came out pretty well. They held up their shape, but they didn't fall as much as I'd have liked (see the first picture how smooth and round they are with the crispy little "feet"?). Will keep trying for that perfect Ladurée look. Stay tuned.