Saturday, November 7, 2009

I Heart Macarons

I just received the book I Love Macarons (Chronicle Books, 2009) by Hisako Ogita, and it inspired me to make macarons for the first time in a long time. It is a charming little book (only 80 pages) which outlines in great detail the method for making perfect French macarons every time. It also offers lots of flavor ideas and options as well as recipes for various fillings and desserts to use up those leftover egg yolks. The book includes lots of step-by-step photos as well as images of brightly colored macarons in a rainbow of flavors. Since I love pistachio, I opted to make pistachio macarons with pistachio buttercream (I used my own recipe for the buttercream). The batter color lightens as it bakes, so next time I would add a little more food coloring for the shells (though I really don't like neon colors, so I'd rather err on the side of making them too light than too dark). Next up--how about pumpkin macarons with cinnamon buttercream for Thanksgiving?

Pistachio Macarons

Macaron shells adapted from I Love Macarons. Pistachio Buttercream recipe from The Cake Book.

Makes about 24 macarons

Pistachio Macarons:
2/3 cup almond flour or meal (available at health food stores)
1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1/3 cup ground pistachios (ground in food processor as finely as possible)
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 drops green food coloring

Pistachio Buttercream:
¾ cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs, at room temperature
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened (it should be cool)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons pistachio paste (available at health food stores)
2-3 drops green food coloring

Make the macarons:
1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
2. In a food processor, process the almonds with the confectioners’ sugar until well blended. Sift the mixture through a medium-mesh sieve into a bowl. Stir in the finely ground pistachios and set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on high speed until foamy. Very gradually add the granulated sugar and beat until stiff and glossy. Add the vanilla and green food coloring and beat until blended.
4. Add half of the sifted almond mixture and fold it in with a spatula. Add the remaining almond mixture and mix it in a light circular motion. Press and spread out the batter against the side of the bowl. Scoop the batter from the bottom of the bowl and turn it upside down. Repeat this motion about 15 times (no more, no less). When the batter becomes nicely firm and drips slowly as you scoop it with the spatula, it is ready to be piped.
5. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Fit a pastry bag with a .4-inch plain tip (Ateco #4). Scrape the batter into the bag. Pipe out 1-inch rounds of batter onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing them ½ inch apart. Rap the baking sheet firmly against the counter. Dry the batter at room temperature, uncovered, for 15 minutes. The batter circles should not stick to your finger when you touch them. If they do, let them dry a little longer.
6. Stack the baking sheet with the macarons on it on another baking sheet. Place both sheets, stacked, in the oven and bake the macarons for 15-18 minutes, until slightly crisp (they will crisp more upon cooling). Cool completely on a wire rack.

Make the buttercream:
7. In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and water and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly and occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush, until the sugar dissolves. Remove the pot from the heat while you start beating the eggs.
8. In the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat the eggs at medium speed until the sugar syrup is ready.
9. Place the sugar syrup over high heat and cook, without stirring, until it reaches 238°F on a candy thermometer. Remove the pan from the heat and with the mixer off, immediately pour about 1/4 cup of the hot syrup over the beaten eggs. Beat at high speed until blended, about 10 seconds. Turn the mixer off and add another 1/4 cup syrup. Beat at high speed for another 10 seconds. Repeat this process until all of the syrup is used. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the side of the bowl and continue to beat at medium-high speed until the egg mixture is completely cool, about 5 minutes.
10. Beat the softened butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, into the egg mixture at medium speed. Add the vanilla extract, pistachio paste, and green food coloring, increase the speed to medium-high, and beat the buttercream until it is smooth and shiny, about 4 minutes. (The buttercream must be used at room temperature.)

Assemble the macarons:
11. Scrape the buttercream into a pastry bag fitted with a .4 inch plain tip (about the same size as you used to pipe the macarons). Pipe a grape-sized dollop of buttercream onto the underside of a macaron. Gently press the underside of another macaron against the buttercream until it spreads almost to the edge. Repeat with the remaining macarons and buttercream. Store the macarons in an airtight container at cool room temperature for up to 5 days.