Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Les Macarons Ladurée

I can't seem to go a week without day dreaming of Paris, but this week I was able to make one french dream a reality ... I took a stab at french macarons! I fell in love with these delicate confections years ago and died happy when I got the chance to enjoy Ladurée macarons in Paris last year, THE best in my opinion. I came back and died again when Ladurée: The Sweet Recipes was released in English  ... you mean I can make my own? All for me?! C'est manifique!

The hard cover book is amazing in and of itself, presented in one of their signature boxes and wrapped in tissue paper. The gilded pages house all of the recipes that make Ladurée the sweet paradise that it is.

Ladurée macaron

Ladurée macaron

Ladurée macaron

Ladurée macaron

read on to see the recipe and my finished macarons!

I had been wanting to try my hand at baking french macarons for some time now, but thought it would be far too difficult. The recipe was actually pretty easy to follow, and I was moving right along. But turns out, what I thought would be the easiest step — piping out the meringue rounds — was my biggest challenge! I thought being an artistic person, I had it in the bag ... but no sir, out of the dozens of shells I baked, I don't think there's a perfect circle in the bunch. I will definitely get practice though as I plan to make these again and again, what matters is I now have my very own stash of Ladurée-like macarons! (well, that may be an overstatement, but they do taste pretty good!).

Macarons Amande (almond macarons)

Macaron shells
2 ¾ cups + 1 tbsp almond flour
2 cups + 1 tbsp confectioners sugar
6 egg whites + 1/2 egg white
1 cup + 1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 cup chopped almonds (I omitted this so I could focus on first making decent shells)

Almond filling
10 ½ tbsp butter
1 ½ cups almond paste
4 oz heavy whipping cream
⅓ cup whipping cream, cold

Macaron shells
1. Combine the almond flour and confectioners sugar in a food processor and pulse to obtain a fine powder. Sift or strain through a sieve to remove lumps.  
**I do not own a food processor so I sifted the ingredients together multiple times. As far as I can tell, the difference is my shells turned out very slightly translucent, maybe not as smooth as Ladurée, I would bet the fine powder gives the nice, opaque shell.

2. In a clean, dry bowl, whisk the 6 egg whites to a foam. Once frothy, add a third of the granulated sugar and whip until sugar dissolves; add another third of granulated sugar, whip for another minute; finally add the remaining granulated sugar and whip for 1 more minute. Using a rubber spatula, delicately fold the sifted mixture of almond flour and confectioners sugar into whipped egg whites. In a separate small bowl, beat remaining ½ egg white until just frothy. Then add to the final mixture, folding gently to slightly loosen the batter.

3. Transfer mixture to piping bag fitted with a plain tip. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, pipe small macaron rounds 1 ¼–1 ½ inches. Lightly tap sheet so the macarons spread fully. Sprinkle chopped almonds on top if you wish.   
**I also do not own a piping bag (yes, this would probably help me make my rounds, round), so I just use a gallon zip-lock bag, fill it with batter and snip a tiny corner off. Hold it like you would a regular piping bag, squeezing from the top with one hand, and controlling and cutting off the batter with the other.

Preheat oven to 300˚F. Allow piped rounds to sit uncovered for 10 minutes before placing in oven. Bake for approximately 15 minutes until they form a slight crust. 
**I read to let them sit 1 hour before baking and to also crack open the oven door with a wooden spoon ⅓ of the way through baking. I followed both of these and they seemed to work well.

4. Remove baking sheet from oven, and with small glass, carefully pour a tiny amount of water between paper and sheet. The moisture and steam that results will allow the macarons to peel off more easily once they are cool. Don't pour too much or they could become soggy. Allow to cool completely. Remove half of shells and place them upside down on a plate.

Almond filling
5. Cut butter into small pieces. Put in heatproof bowl in microwave and soften until creamy, without allowing it to melt.
 In a large bowl, thin the almond paste by mixing it with the heavy whipping cream. Add the chilled cream and the softened butter. Beat on high speed using electric mixer with paddle attachment until mixture is homogenous.
**I used my KitchenAid flat beater attachment and it seemed to work fine.

6. Spoon the almond cream into a clean piping bag fitting with plain tip. Pipe coin size of almond cream onto the macaron shells resting upside down. Top each one with the remaining macaron shells.
Keep macarons in airtight container in the refrigerator for 12 hours before tasting.
**Again, I used the zip-lock as my piping bag, and definitely let the macarons "marinate" overnight, they are perfect the next morning! 

Ladurée macaron
I ran the powder mix through a sifter twice to remove lumps
(note to self: add food processor to wedding registry)

Ladurée macaron
my (not so) rounds of almond batter

Ladurée macaron
cool the shells on wire racks before sandwiching

Ladurée macaron
Voilà! They may not be perfect, but they are chewy and delicious!

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