In Paris, they are the rage of the century. Macaroons of all flavours and colours are flying of the shelves of the best Parisian bakeries and there are no limits to the combinations. When I was a kid, a macaroon was more like a regular-shaped cookie of Italian origin and made from an almond meringue. What the French refer to when they ask for “macaron” is now a sandwich cookie with two layers of meringue and a filling of ganache, mousse, cream or caramel, a super deluxe Oreo cookie, that melts in your mouth, a divine moment created by giving in to the temptation of eating basically pure butter and sugar!
This recipe was made from notes from Pavillon Elysée passed on to me by the Food Fluffer, my friend Anita, and is not that straightforward. My first attempt tastes pretty good but the presentation needs improvement. ( A project for quiet January). Part of the mystery is the language, the main ingredient is “tant pour tant” which means equal quantities, in this case, icing sugar and raw almond powder. They suggest that you go buy that, but it is easy enough to grind in the food processor, just make it very fine. So here we go for the outer layers ( about 4 dozens). Mix 500 gr of “tant pour tant” ( 1+1/4 cup icing sugar and 1+3/4 cup whole raw almonds, then crushed to powder). Add another 7/8 cup of icing sugar, and mix gently with 2/3 cup+1 tbsp beaten egg whites with 2 tbsp sugar added at the end. (about 5 large egg white). Add brown or red food coloring. They said a few drops, but it looks more like a tsp is what it takes. Shape the cookies with a piping bag on parchment paper and bake at 340 for 10 minutes.
The filling is done in two steps. First a custard: Boil 1/3 cup milk with 3 tbsp sugar and a tsp vanilla extract. Mix 3 egg yolks with 3 tbsp sugar. Drizzle the milk in the eggs. Whisk on very low heat and add the soften butter ( 7/8 cup). Second: the caramel, melt 1/2 cup sugar to a golden brown color, stop with 1/3 cup luke-warm cream, add 2 tbsp salted butter and 1/2 tsp salt. Mix the custard with the caramel, cool, and spread on the macaroons.
It is easier to keep the macaroons small, mine were too big. My filling was a bit too liquid so I added 2 tbsp tapioca flour to thicken it. Caramel will not work if the pot is not spotless, adding a tbsp lemon juice to the sugar helps. All in all, this is quite a production, a fantastic Christmas treat especially for those of us not spending it in Paris! a small treat from France.
After much trial and error with this recipe I have to conclude that it is not reliable. Of course, we kind of managed to eat all the macaroons but they don’t look great and are just not quite right. I feel a bit burned out right now, the damp weather does not help either, so maybe someone away from the rainforest here could try the recipe from Lucy Waverman published in the LCBO Magazine in 2006, and let me know how it works. I am sure it is a good one!