I must admit that before I moved to New York, when I heard the word macaron my point of reference was not the delicate and airy French cookie, but the dense, heavy coconut hockey puck called the macaroon. I have since been enlightened to the heavenly world of French macarons, which are a sweet meringue-based cookie made with egg whites, almond flour, and food coloring. But I have yet to try the pinnacle of the confection, available in NYC via airlift from Paris at Ladurée on the Upper East Side. Macarons are distinctive in shape, with a smooth, square top and a ruffled circumference called the “foot.” They can be flavored and brightly colored in myriad different ways. And while there is somewhat of a debate about their origins, Larousse Gastronomique believes that they were invented all the way back in 791 near Cormery, France.
Being a novice to the world of macarons, I have always assumed that they were probably one of the most complicated french pastries to make, especially considering that the average price tag runs about $2.75 for a cookie that is eaten in one bite. So when my sister and I took an afternoon macaron class at The Brooklyn Kitchen, I figured that I would have the opportunity to make them in a beautiful, perfectly equipped kitchen and then never again in my life. But low and behold, I found that while the process has many steps, macarons are not impossible for the average at-home chef. While you must pay careful attention to your egg whites during the whipping and folding process, it is fully possible to make these delicacies yourself. So next time you want to truly impress your friends with you baking abilities, spend a little extra time making macarons. You will not disappoint!
Lemon Cream Cheese French Flag Macarons
⅔ cup almond flour
1 ½ cup powdered sugar
3 large egg whites (room temperature, cracked the night before, wrapped in a bowl with saran wrap)
5 Tb. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt
red & blue food coloring gel
20 oz. cream cheese (softened)
5 oz. butter (softened)
6 oz. powdered sugar
¾ tsp vanilla extract
1-2 Tbs. lemon curd
pinch of salt
1. Preheat the oven to 275 and position two racks on the lower part of the oven. Line sheet pans with parchment paper and draw 1” circles ½” apart across the parchment.
2. Sift together the almond flour, powdered sugar, and salt.
3. Place egg whites in a mixer and begin to whip on high speed. Once the eggs are frothy and foamy, gradually sprinkle in the granulated sugar. Continue whipping until shiny and stiff peaks are achieved. Gently stir in the vanilla extract. Fold in half of the sifted flour/sugar mixture and repeat the folding until all is just combined. Do not over stir!
4. Using the flat end of a spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and repeat until batter is mixed and is the consistency of molten lava. Divide the mixture in half and add a few drops of food coloring gel to the different batters and fold. DO NOT fold too much or the batter will be runny and the macarons will not rise properly.
5. Scoop the batter into pastry bags with large, round tips (make sure they are not too small or it will change the consistency of the batter). Pipe onto the prepared pans with 1” rounds. Tap the sheet pan on the counter a couple of times to smooth the tops. Allow the macarons to dry uncovered for at least 15 minutes. They should form a very thin, smooth crust. If it is a humid day, let them sit for an hour.
6. Place the sheet plans in the oven and bake for 15 – 18 minutes. After the first 2 minute open the oven door and allow excess humidity out. Rotate the pans halfway through baking. They are done when shells are just hard. Do not allow them to turn brown. Cool the pans completely and scrape the cookies off of the parchment with a cake server.
7. While the macaroons are cooling, prepare the filling. Beat the cream cheese and butter together until completely smooth and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl and add sugar. Continue beating until combined. Then add the vanilla extract and salt until creamy and fluffy. Add the lemon curd to taste.
8. Assemble the macarons by piping the filling onto one red macaron and then sandwiching the blue macaron on top. Press together lightly until the filling just shows on the sides. The assembled macarons can be stored in an airtight container in a refrigerator for two days.