Holiday Gifts-Part I

20Dec07

Pink and green macarons

Just eat it. Eat the whole damn thing. It’s the holiday season and you might as well. There’s no getting away from the endless cornucopia of morning pastries in your office kitchen or the care package of holiday cookies from grandma. And with January resolutions around the corner, you have some time to indulge. And so I apologize in advance if I contribute to your increasing muffin top or chubby bunny status, but your holiday gift this year will be calorifically amazing and overly indulgent.


It’s hard to top off last year’s Chocolate Date-Nut Baklava-a mixture of bittersweet chocolate, walnuts, and dried fruits wrapped in layers of phyllo dough drenched in simple syrup. But I think I found some keepers this year.

I decided on making a variety of French Macarons and Caramel Dark Chocolate Truffles with Fleur de Sal. After multiple visits to Surfas, markets around the Los Angeles area, and ATMs, I finally got a hold of all my ingredients. If you don’t know this already, cooking is an expensive hobby. But at the end of the day, you get a nice pantry full of wonderful ingredients and useless metal contraptions. I can now add a thermometer the size of my arm, a pastry bag, $15 box of salt, a pound of dutch processed cocoa powder, and an assortment of food colorings to my collection.

French Macarons

No, they’re not COCONUT macaroons. Macarons are delicate French pastries made up of 2 dome halves of baked meringue often times filled with buttercream, ganache or fruit filling. It’s a tantalizing combination of texture. The meringue, once baked, develops this delicate crackly exterior shell with a soft and chewy center. And then to be filled with an amazing ganache…it’s a new favorite of mine. They aren’t the easiest of cookies to make. More important than the recipe, is the right technique. You have to ensure the meringue has the proper consistency, no big air bubbles, and are the right shape in order for them to turn out right. Otherwise, you’ll they’ll end up either flat, lopsided, or without a “foot”, the ruffled skirt that forms beneath the cookie while baking.

After googling macarons, I’ve amassed more than enough fyi’s about macarons than a normal person needs. There’s a great website called Veronica’s Test Kitchen where she basically analyzes the crap out of recipes. Great place to read and learn about her mistakes so you don’t have to make them ;). I used a simple almond macaron recipe from Pierre Herme, the “Picasso of Pastry,” which can be found on this site. I don’t want to bore you with details since most of you won’t bother making these any time soon, but here are a few things I learned:

1. When whipping your egg whites, whip it good. Too little (or too much), you’ll get a runny batter.

2. Sift your dry ingredients thoroughly. Nothing ruins a light and fluffy batter than heavy ingredients.

2. Fold your dry ingredients into the batter enough so that its completely folded in. Too little and your batter will become heavy with dust bombs. Too much and you’ve ruined the fluffiness of your batter. See what I mean?!?!!?

3. It helps to stencil out 1 inch circles on your parchment paper before piping the batter. It will make for more even macarons.

stenciled circles on parchment paper

almond macarons

4. If you don’t have a pastry bag, you can use a ziploc bag. Cut a hole in the bottom corner and pipe. Make sure you don’t apply too much pressure or you’ll definitely have a mess on your hands. It also helps to use a long glass as support when filling your “pastry bag.”

DIY pastry bag

5. Rumor has it that if you leave your egg whites out for at 24-48 hours on your kitchen counter, your macarons will develop a thicker skin, thus a crunchier crust. You’re essentially “drying out” the egg whites; less moisture will help the meringue hold better. If you’re worried about bacteria, apparently the baking process will kill whatever harmful bacteria that will get in the way of you enjoying your macarons.

The best part about making macarons is taking a peek once the timer goes off and discovering that your macarons developed perfect little feet. I did a little jig by myself, not going to lie.
almond macarons

These were made with my first batter. I knew I overworked the meringue before I baked them which is why I think my feet turned out overly pronounced. They aren’t supposed to spread that much.

Here are the ugly Matcha Green Tea Macarons that came out a bit too unnaturally green. Just add 1 tspn of green tea powder and [a bit less than] a drop of green food coloring.

Matcha Green Tea Macarons

Pink and green macarons

My second batch came out a bit better. Chocolate macarons are apparently harder to make because the cocoa powder adds additional weight (and acidity?) to the light batter. But oddly enough, they came out better than my first batch.

chocolate poops

Macaron Fillings

I decided on two separate fillings. One was Caramel Fleur de Sal and the other was a simple Chocolate Ganache, courtesy of David Lebovitz. They both came out PERF and not too rich, the ideal accompaniment to the macarons.

Although I made two batches of macarons, I didn’t make enough to give out as presents. “Broken ones” were devoured that night and the rest were shared with friends at the office. I’m definitely going to make these a holiday tradition. So you better stick around for 2008!

Chocolate Macarons with Chocolate Ganache AND Caramel Fleur de Sal.

If you can’t wait a year, you can buy macarons at the following places.

La Provence Patisserie

8950 W Olympic Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211-3561
Phone: (310) 888-8833

Little Next Door

8142 West 3rd Street, LA CA 90048
(next door to The Little Door)
323.951.1010
Cafe Hours: Daily 9 AM – 6 PM

 

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2 Responses to “Holiday Gifts-Part I”

  1. 1 Sarina

    These were truly a delicious, festive treat. I’ve never had anything like them…thanks foodyi 😉

  2. 2 tiffany

    shot glass = perf 1 in circles for macaroons… good to know =)


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