Macaroons vs. Macarons

Nothing makes me roar with indignation more than when people confuse this

Macaroons

with this

Macarons

One is spelled with two Os and is made with coconut, and the other is a tender, airy and crisp French sandwich cookie made of almond flour.  Do not refer to the wee little French cookies as macaroons because that will make me call on my ghetto beginnings and so help me God, I’ll cut you with a pastry wheel.

In my inaugural batch of fail, I used an Italian meringue (hot sugar syrup beaten into egg whites) that, according to several sources I later consulted, is a bit more finicky than the French one in that it involves the extra step of making the syrup.

This time, I chose to go with the French meringue, and after doing further reading, I learned to let the egg whites sit in the fridge for a couple of days and then overnight (loosely covered) on my counter before whipping them.  The idea behind this is to allow some of the extra moisture evaporate so the end product develops a lighter texture.  I also let the piped macarons sit for an hour to develop a crust.  This is called the crouter stage and is the time to add any decorative touches like edible gold dust or paint letters or patterns on the tops.  I didn’t do any decorating this time around, but I will when I develop my macaron skills!

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To help my macarons along, I further ground, then toasted my almond meal to dry it out a bit more before weighing and sifting it.  A side benefit to toasting the meal is it really boosts the almond flavor.

PhotobucketWeigh the meal.

PhotobucketSift

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PhotobucketWhip room-temperature egg whites to stiff peaks, adding gel or powdered coloring at the medium peak stage.

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Macaronnage describes the folding of the almond meal into the stiffly beaten egg whites, though it’s mostly about being able to sense exactly when to stop folding.  Clearly this takes more practice than making a single batch of macarons will give to the macaron beginner.
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Rather than have me clumsily explain proper macaronnage, here’s a video of Chef Nini making macarons.  There’s no sound and the text is in French, but it’s not hard to follow along:

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PhotobucketLet the piped batter sit for at least 30 minutes to develop a crust.

PhotobucketLOOK!  See those little frills at the bottom of each macaron?  Those are the pieds, or feet, the mark of a good macaron!  Wheee!

PhotobucketThe macaron batter looked pretty damned green to me, but it baked into this greenish-beige color instead.  I guess I’ll have to add more food coloring next time.

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My macarons weren’t perfect but they were a damn sight better than the chocolate ones I made months ago.  Thanks to the aging process and the labor-intensiveness, the macaron is not something you can bake on a whim, though I think if you want to be able to do so, you can have a rotation of egg whites going in the fridge and just keep your other ingredients (powdered sugar, superfine sugar, and finely-ground almond meal) on hand.  Macaron shells can be frozen for up to a month if really well-wrapped.

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