Friends, I am doing the happy dance because I attempted my first-ever batch of macarons this weekend and they turned out beautifully! I had been so intimidated at the thought of making these legendary French pastries that I'd put off even trying them. Yes, they were a little labor intensive at first, but I have to tell you I was absolutely thrilled with the results!
First things first: I found a terrific book that explained in great detail how to make them, and I highly, highly recommend you get yourself a copy of "Macaroons" with text by Angela Drake. I found mine for $3.99 at a Marshalls store back before Christmas. (I've also seen these at both Amazon.com and BN.com for $2.99-$3.20, so they're obviously on sale right now!) Now here I must address the macaron vs. macaroon issue. This book is printed by Parragon Books in the UK, and they call these treats "macaroons." In the U.S., however, we call these "macarons" to distinguish them from the more familiar coconut macaroons. Wikipedia says this about the matter: "Since the English word macaroon can also refer to the coconut macaroon, many have adopted the French spelling of macaron to distinguish the two items in the English language. However, this has caused confusion over the correct spelling. Some recipes exclude the use of macaroon to refer to this French confection while others think that they are synonymous." I am casting my vote for "macaron" and shall henceforth use it when describing these treats.
The book begins with photos of the 10 steps you need to take when making macarons. I read this chapter over several times before I started. One other challenge I found as a U.S. reader was that the recipe called for confectioners' sugar as well as "superfine" sugar. Say what? An internet search revealed that plain old granulated sugar can be pulverized very finely until it becomes "superfine" sugar. I used a (thoroughly cleaned and dried) coffee grinder to turn my granulated sugar into this light fluffy sugar. Amazing!
I thought about trying to summarize the macaron recipe here, but to be honest with you I would be doing you a disservice to shorten it, and I don't want the UK copyright police coming after me because I've copied so much of the book! So I'll just say this: if you can't find a copy of this book, search out a macaron recipe and some *thorough* step-by-step instructions on the internet. I believe this makes all the difference! When I got my little circles of batter piped onto parchment paper-lined cookie sheets, here's what they looked like before baking. The question of the day was, "Will they have that famous little 'foot' that macarons have?"
Yes! See the little puffy part peering out from beneath that nice, smooth top? The puffy part is the foot.
The filling was super easy to whip up, and sandwiching the pieces together to make a macaron was a breeze. Here's my very first one. Ever! (I'm so proud, I may send out announcements.)
The book includes 30 different flavors of macarons, and now I'm ready to liven up my teatimes by trying the Chocolate, Green Tea, Pistachio, and Nutty Banana & Toffee flavors. But considering that I had really anticipated a flop with my first batch, I am simply delighted with the crunchy little tops and the silky smooth filling in these oh-so-worth-it Vanilla Macarons!