With my eyes on the oven, I watched carefully tiny cookies becoming my first successful macarons shells: fine crust and their distinctive “foot” or pied on the bottom. Make macarons was a sweet dream since I start this blog. I’m fascinated for those charming almond shells and their delightful possibilities of flavors. But only last week I had a reliable result.
After several frustrating attempts, it seems to me a Christmas miracle. Or not! Maybe this time I made correctly the macaronnage and the drying time. Some bakers attribute those steps as crucial to obtain the perfect macaron. For those of you not familiar with the terms, macaronnage is the term for mixing the almond flour and meringue until the batter becomes nicely firm. This video helped me a lot to understand how exactly to do that. After pipe the batter on the baking sheet, the dry time is very important.
Allow the cookies to rest are what cause the fine macaron crust and the foot. I made some tests with different length of drying times and the best result was with the cookies dried for 2 hours as the book Miette advises. I tried to bake some cookies without drying, but the shells cracked and the foot didn’t form. I also tried drying them for just one hour. Although they developed the foot, the crust cracked.
About the flavor, I love grapefruit and its sweet and tart taste. You can also substitute the grapefruit for another season citrus that like most, as Clementine and orange.
The art of baking these delectable confections is intriguing. Conquering the perfect balance of chewiness and crispness is pleasurable. I have to confess you that my felling when a saw my first macarons was wonderful: smiles on my face, happiness, and the desire to make more and more of those French morsels of beauty and savor.
Ingredients for the shells
(from the book Miette)
(makes eighteen 1-inch sandwich cookies)
1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) whole almonds - I used blanched almonds
2 1/4 cups (10 ounces) powdered sugar
3 large egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon finely grated grapefruit zest
1 teaspoon finely grated grapefruit zest
Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a 1 1/2-inch bottle cap as a template, draw 1-inch circles in rows on the paper, about 1 inch apart. You should have room for eighteen circles on each sheet.
Place half of the almonds and half of the powdered sugar in a food processor. Process for 30 seconds, until the almonds are finely ground. Pour the mixture into a separate bowl, and repeat the process with the remaining almonds and powdered sugar. Sift or strain through a sieve to remove any lumps. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar and whisk on high speed until very stiff peaks form, 3 to 4 minutes.
Using a rubber spatula, gently fold about one-third of the almond mixture into the egg whites. Fold in the remaining mixture in two more additions, just until the ingredients are completely combined.
Fit a pastry bag with a medium (1/2- or 5/8-inch) round tip and fill the bag with the meringue. Pull up the cuff and twist it to seal and tighten the meringue down into the cone. Purge the bag of air bubbles by squeezing the bag. Keep the bag tightly twisted so that meringue doesn't come back up on your hands. Using the template as a guide, pipe 1-inch circles, 1/2 to 3/4 inch high, onto the baking sheets. Set the room temperature for 2 hours. this allows the macarons to develop their distinctive crust and a "foot"or base on the bottom.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Bake the macarons until set but not browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let the macarons cool completely on the pans. When they are cool, use your fingers to carefully lift half of the cookies from the parchment and turn them upside down. Using a pastry bag fitted a medium (1/2- or 5/8-inch) round tip and filled with either the grapefruit buttercream, squeeze a nickle-size dollop of filling onto each of the upside-down cookies, and then top with the remaining macarons to complete the sandwich cookies.
Store the macarons, refrigerated, in airtight containers for up to 2 weeks. Serve at room temperature.
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoon freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
2 teaspoon grated grapefruit zest
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, sugar and milk until smooth and creamy. Add the vanilla, grapefruit juice and zest. Stir until well combined and smooth.