If get asked a lot what I would ultimately like to do with my baking.
And it doesn’t matter how many times I get asked the question, I never have a good answer. Because the truth is I really don’t know. I know my strengths do not lie in business or anything involved with running one. I know that I’m horrible at marketing, and even if I took some classes I would probably never apply them correctly because it doesn’t really fit my personality. I know that I’m a morning person, so waking up at an ungodly hour to start my work day wouldn’t bother me. I know that I thrive on lists and completion of something, so recipes and a finished project make me smile. I know that I was made to create, and without this kind of outlet in my life, I suffer. And I know that when life spins around me, heartache seeps in, and nothing feels right, the certainties of baking put my soul at ease.
But if I had to shoot for the moon and dream big, this is what I would do. I would go to patisserie school. I would study under some of the best patisserie chefs in the world. And then I would open a patisserie where somebody else did all of the business and financial side of things. Where I didn’t have to market myself or what I made. Where I would go into work each day, make the most simple and yet elegant sweets, and watch from the back with joy as people enjoyed them.
And these would be at the top of my menu…
French Macaroons (recipe courtesy of Fine Cooking)
1 3/4 cups plus 2 Tbsp powdered sugar
1 1/4 cups plus 2 Tbsp almond flour*
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Yields about 1 cup
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 4-6 pieces
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
- Line 3 completely flat baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking liners (like a Silpat) and set aside.
- Using a medium mesh sieve, sift the powdered sugar and almond flour into a large bowl and set aside.
- In a clean stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a large bowl and a hand mixer), whip the egg whites on medium speed until foamy and the wires of the beater(s) leave a trail, 1-2 minutes. Add 1 Tbsp of the granulated sugar and continue to whip for another 30-45 seconds. Repeat 3 times with the remaining granulated sugar. Once all the sugar is mixed in, continue whipping the whites until they turn glossy and stiff (when you lift the beater(s) from the bowl the whites should hold a straight peak that doesn’t curl at the tip), 4-8 minutes more. **
- With a large rubber spatula, fold in half of the powdered sugar mixture. Once most of it has been incorporated, fold in the remaining mixture until just combined.
- Using a piping bag fitted with a 1/2-3/4 inch round tip, pipe the batter onto the prepared sheets in rounds that are about 1 inch in diameter and 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, spaced about 1 1/2 inches apart. As you pipe, hold the bag perpendicular to the baking sheet and flick the tip of the bag as you finish each cookie to minimize the peaks. Rap the sheet against the counter several times to flatten the mounds and pop any large air bubbles.
- Let rest until the meringues no longer feel tacky, 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, position racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Put 2 of the cookie sheets in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 300 degrees (let the third sheet sit at room temperature). Bake rotating the sheets and swapping their positions after 8 minutes, until the meringues are very pale golden, 15-20 minutes total. Cool completely on the baking sheets on racks. Meanwhile, return the oven temperature to 325 degrees and then bake the third sheet as above.
- Remove the meringues from the parchment and pair them by size.
Make the buttercream
- In a small heatproof bowl, whisk the sugar and egg whites. In a 1-quart saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Set the bowl over the simmering water (don’t let the bowl touch the water) and heat the mixture, whisking occasionally, until hot to the touch, 4-6 minutes. It will thin out a bit as the sugar melts.
- Remove the bowl from the heat and scrape the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip it on medium-high speed until the mixture is light, white, and cool to the touch, 4-6 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the chunks of butter one at a time. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until the buttercream is smooth, 4-5 minutes. Mix in the vanilla and the salt.
- Using a piping bag with the same tip used to pipe the cookies, pipe 1-1 1/2 tsp of the filling onto half of the cookies–you want to use just enough filing that it spreads to the edge when topped but doesn’t squish out much when bitten. Top the filled halves with their partners. The cookies are best the day they’re made, but you can store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one day or in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.
*I used almond meal, which is slightly more coarse than almond flour. I found it to be just as appropriate to use, but it does put specks of dark brown into the meringue batter. I personally like this little touch, but if you don’t want that look, you’ll want to definitely use pure almond flour.
**I added some pink food coloring to my batter right before I added the flour mixture, just because I thought it would be cute. And it was.
What I love about these charming macaroons: Where do I begin? I love the way that they look. I love that they are simple and yet beautiful all at the same time. I love that the almond flour puts specks of brown into the pink meringue. I love that they naturally have no gluten in them so I can actually sit back and eat one with my eyes closed…and dream. ♥
What I hate about these charming macaroons: What a stupid question.