Almond Macarons with Lemon Curd Filling

Do you set goals?  I live with goals and objectives regularly at work.  And I suppose I’ve always had personal goals, those far removed from the professional realm.  You know, eat healthier foods, lose weight, be a better person, etc.  Sometimes goals are achieved, other times they are set aside to bring about a bit of guilt now and then for the abandonment.

Many years ago, I experienced cookie epiphany while in Paris.  Anne and I ducked into Ladurée on Rue Royale, not far from the Louvre.  Macarons!  The hundreds of pastel morsels in the window seemed to call to us.  So we purchased une mélange – an assortment – because there was no way we were going to decide among just a few flavors.  And we were hooked.  I believe we visited the shop several times that trip and it has always been a first stop anytime we’re in Paris.  Now macarons seem to be everywhere.  And Ladurée recently opened a shop in New York City.

So I set a goal.  I would master the cookie that has a formidable reputation.  I settled on Dorie Greenspan’s recipe.  It’s based on a recipe from “Macaron” by the master, Pierre Hermé.  Did I succeed?  Let me put it this way.  Most were a little chubbier than what I would consider normal.  That’s easily remedied next time.  I’ll just wet my fingers and smooth them out.  There were a few that were cracked.  But mostly, the flavor was what I remembered and the “feet” were well-defined.

The combination of almond and lemon is terrific.  For the next go, I have my eye on a peppermint version where the edges are trimmed with crushed candy canes.  Perfect for the holidays.  I’m still looking for a savory version that appeals.  I imagine a hint of rosemary or tarragon.

Stand Mixer

Hamilton Beach Electric Stand Mixer, 4 Quarts, Dough Hook, Flat Beater Attachments, Splash Guard 7 Speeds with Whisk, Black with Top Handle

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Basic Parisian Macarons

Recipe:  Dorie Greenspan

Yield:  About 30 cookies

½ cup (3 – 4 large) egg whites, at room temperature, divided

Food coloring (optional)

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)

1 ½ cups blanched almond meal or almond flour (5.3 ounces)

5.3 ounces powdered sugar

¾ cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons water

1 jar purchased lemon curd

 

Pour half the egg whites into the bowl of your mixer.  If you’re using food coloring and/or vanilla, stir them into the other half of the whites in a bowl.   Push the almond flour and powdered sugar through a strainer into a large bowl and whisk to blend.

Bring the granulated sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, washing down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water.  Increase the heat to high, insert a candy thermometer and boil, undisturbed, until the syrup reaches 240 degrees.

Meanwhile, beat the whites in the mixer witht the whisk attachment at low to medium speed until foamy, then increase the speed and continue until they hold medium-firm peaks.  Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly pour in the syrup, being careful to avoid hitting the whisk attachment.  Beat the meringue on high until peaks are firm, about 2 minutes, then set aside to rest for about 5 minutes.

Pour the unbeaten egg whites over the almond – sugar mixture and top with the meringue.  Fold everything together, then stir the batter briskly until it falls off the spatual in a slow, moderately thick band.  If you want more coloring, add it now.

Spoon half the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a half-inch round tip and, keeping the bag vertical and 1 to 2 inches above the sheet, pipe rounds about 1 ½” in diameter and 2 inches apart onto the parchment-lined baking sheet.  Alternatively, you can use a Silpat liner as I did.

Refill the bag and pipe out a second sheet.  Set the sheets aside in a cool, dry place, allowing the rounds to rest until you can gently touch the top of the mounds without having any of the batter stick to your finger.

Meanwhile, center a rack in the oven and heat the oven to 350°.  Place one of the baking sheets on top of a spare baking sheet and slide the double pan setup into the oven.

Bake the macarons for 4 minutes, then quickly open and close the oven.  Bake them another 4 minutes and open and close the oven again.  Continue to bake the macarons until the tops are rounded and firm and a craggy ridge, the foot, has formed around the base, about 4 minutes (check the macarons after a couple of minutes, as the baking time will vary by oven).

Slide the parchment off the hot baking pan and onto a counter and set aside until the macarons are cool.

Repeat with the second sheet of macarons.

Peel the cooled macarons off the paper and match them up for sandwiching.

Pipe a generous amount of purchased lemon curd (about 1 teaspoon) on one half of the macarons and top with their mates.  Pack the sandwiched cookies in a container and refrigerate for 24 hours (or up to 4 days) before serving.  Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving.

Note:  The almond meal or flour should be finely ground.  If a bit coarse, process the almond flour and powdered sugar in a food processor for a finer texture before running through a strainer of sifter.  Additionally, if the almond meal feels a bit moist, spread it out on a lined baking sheet and place in a 325° oven to dry out, about 3 to 5 minutes.

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