I am not a baker. Well, at least not yet. I love the idea of effortlessly whipping up a batch of croissants on an early Saturday morning – you know, like we see in movies. But I haven’t quite mastered the skill of baking bread, let alone croissants.
So, this weekend, I thought I would start somewhere in the middle with French macarons (I was really inspired by a recent article in Fine Cooking). They resemble little whoopie pies, but the texture is very different. In my opinion, this is a perfect addition to any Easter dessert table.
I chose to fill my almond macarons with lemon curd to give it a fresh spring taste and color. You could purchase store-bought lemon curd, which would cut down your cooking time, but I made mine from scratch and it wasn’t too difficult. One word of warning though: You will have a pile of dishes in the sink, so prepare yourself for a fairly heavy cleanup.
But don’t let that deter you from making these light and airy, tart and sweet, elegant bites of perfection!
1 ¾ cup plus 2 Tbs. confectioners’ sugar
1 ¼ cup plus 2 Tbs. almond flour
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ cup granulated sugar
Piping bag fitted with ½-inch round tip
(recipe for filling to follow)
Start by sifting the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour into a large bowl; set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the room temperature egg whites with the whisk attachment on medium speed until foamy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1 Tbs. of the granulated sugar and continue to whip for another 30 seconds. Add the remaining sugar in three additions. Once all of the sugar has been incorporated, continue whipping the whites until they turn glossy and stiff, about 4 to 8 minutes more.
When you lift the whisk from the bowl, whites should hold straight and not curl.
Fold in half of the confectioners’ sugar mixture with a rubber spatula. Once incorporated, add the remaining half and fold into whites until just combined.
Using the piping bag, pipe the batter in half-dollar sized rounds onto two parchment-lined baking sheets, making sure to keep the bag perpendicular to the sheet.
Tap the sheets on the countertop to pop any air bubbles and leave at room temperature for 20-30 minutes, or until the rounds seem less tacky.
Meanwhile, arrange your oven racks in the upper and lower third of your oven. Preheat to 325F.
Place the baking sheets in the oven and reduce the temperature to 300F. Bake for 8 minutes; then swap the positions of the baking sheets. Repeat this process until the rounds are done, up to 15-20 minutes total. Cool completely on baking sheets, then remove the rounds and pair them up by size. (It is so important to cool the rounds completely – if you don’t, they will most likely stick and break.)
Lemon Curd Filling
½ cup fresh lemon juice
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. salt
Heat lemon juice and butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, just until it lightly boils.
In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolk and then slowly whisk in the sugar. Gradually and slowly whisk in the lemon mixture, being very careful not to scramble the eggs.
Return this mixture to the saucepan and set over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon and scraping the bottom of the pan frequently. (If you start to see a few scrambled egg bits, immediately take the mixture off the heat and use a whisk to break up the bits. Return to a lower heat and continue cooking.)
In about 2-4 minutes, drag your finger across the back of the wooden spoon. If there is a clean streak, the curd is ready to be taken off the heat.
Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve and into a bowl. This will eliminate any potentially scrambled egg bits. Whisk in the vanilla and salt. Cover and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours before using.
Assembling the Macarons
Using a piping bag fitted with a ½-inch round tip (or a Ziplock bag with the tip cut off), pipe the lemon curd filling onto the center of the macaron, leaving room around the edges. (I may have been a bit conservative with my filling, so you could go a little heavier than this picture shows. Just make sure not to overfill!)
Place another macaron of equal size on top, pressing gently but without allowing the filling to ooze out.
And that’s it – this is a really fun project, even though it is a little time-consuming. The result is a delicious, unique-tasting treat. Enjoy!