Red macaron cookies dressed with light green pistachio pastry cream (see chocolate eclair post) are echoing the winsome jolly spirits of the holidays season. For me, there was nothing more memorable than bonding with my lovely niece S., who lives in New Zealand. The jubilation we felt over our success in nailing those finicky macarons when I visited a few years ago was most unbelievable.
Prior to my New Zealand trip, I had no knowledge that S. loves baking and decorating cakes and cookies. S. loves the visual beauty of colorful and whimsical pastries, who wouldn’t? She was unwrapping the gift box with the meticulous attentiveness typically reserved for our most priced possession. Inside the box was the pastel green book, Laduree: The Sweet Recipes. This recipe book on macarons clearly has never been used; it was to be admired. I wanted to change that. Instantly, I was on a mission to show her a few tricks up my sleeve in making macarons in the home kitchen before the end of my stay.
I turned to my trusty go-to macaron recipe while in New Zealand. See the cheat sheet below. This recipe has consistently produced wonderful cookies in my kitchen at home in the U.S. It’s always tricky to try to replicate it elsewhere in another kitchen. Let alone in another country in the Southern Hemisphere. S. and I were ecstatic to get something close to what I was able to do at home. Producing macarons with good-looking feet, a crispy exterior and a moist interior is always a challenge.
I spent months researching and testing recipes, starting with a macaron class in Paris. I believe I’ve come up with a recipe that is reliable and less intimidating. It is a variation of the French meringue technique made stable by the addition of dehydrated egg white powder to the mixture of whipped egg whites and sugar. (Please don’t confuse egg white powder with meringue powder.) There is no need to cook sugar to above boiling temperature, commonly used in Italian meringue, which gets me very nervous. Can’t promise that you’ll get everything right in the first round using this recipe, but success is certainly within reach with some practice.
I don’t make macarons frequently; they are reserved for special occasions. They make the most delightful crowd pleasers as they are unwrapped and served up on fine china — one small bite at a time.
Postscript: I presented these macarons to the hostess at a holiday party in Manhattan. The host took one bite and exclaimed: “it is better than Laduree’s.” He passed them along to his siblings, who all grew up in Paris. A brother-in-law chimed in nonchalantly in French. He nodded approvingly, “it is fresh, not industrial.” This is exactly why and how I bake — small batch, artisan and not mass produced. It is so gratifying to have a discerning and appreciative audience.