After posting recipes for almost 5 years, I realized I had never paid homage to the most famous French pastry: le macaron. Today is my attempt to correct this oversight. I made cherry-flavored macarons since this delicious red fruit is finally available in the market.
Making this delicate confection is very time-consuming but so rewarding. I'm not as good at it as I would love to be. They really should rise a bit more in volume, but the meringue still looks decent and the taste is there. The elements of the macaron are egg whites, powdered sugar, granulated sugar, almond flour and a bit food coloring. This assembly is also tricky as the shells can be crushed very easily. I simply add a small mound of cherry-flavored white chocolate ganache and then holding them by the base of the cookie, gently press the two shells together against each other to form the beautiful sandwich cookie.
Servings: 20 sandwich cookies
1 cup whole almonds, blanched (see tips)
1¾ cups + 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
4 egg whites
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 pinch red food coloring powder (optional)
½ cup heavy whipping cream
1¾ ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
¾ teaspoon honey
¼ teaspoon cherry extract
3 fresh cherries, pitted and very finely chopped
For the almond flour: Coarsely chop the almonds then grind them with a food processor or spice grinder (I use the VitaMix Dry Blade Container) until they turn into a powder. Make sure you stop before it turns into almond butter. The result should be a fine white mill. Set aside or bake a few minutes in the oven to ensure a dry product (see tips).
Sifting the flour: Gather 20 tablespoons almond flour. Using a coarse-mesh tamis (or sieve), sift the almond flour with the powdered sugar. Remove and discard the solids (about 1 tablespoon).
For the egg-whites: Place the egg whites in a mixing bowl. Whisk until you get soft peaks then, adding 1 teaspoon granulated sugar at a time, whisk until you get stiff peaks (don't over-mix or it will become grainy). The egg whites should stick right up. Using a spatula, gently fold the almond flour mixture and a pinch of red food coloring into the egg whites until just combined and smooth (don't over-mix).
For the white chocolate ganache: Make a "double boiler" (a pot filled with hot water, covered with a piece of cloth) and place a stainless steel bowl filled with the chopped white chocolate on top. Make sure the bowl circumference is larger than the pot, so there isn't any splatter of water in the chocolate. Slowly melt, stirring frequently. Turn off the heat and add the honey and ¼ cup cream. Stir well until uniform. Let cool to room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator until ready to assemble.
Preparing the baking pan: Preheat oven to 325°F. Using a pencil, draw 20 spaced-out 1½" circles on 2 parchment paper sheets (I used a "1-tablespoon" measuring spoon). Flip the sheets and line 2 baking pans with the parchment paper.
Baking the macarons: Fit a pastry bag with a 5/8" round-shaped tip and spoon the macaron batter filling into the bag. Pipe the macaron batter into the circles, using the drawn circles on the parchment paper as a guide. Using the tip of your finger, make sure there are no air bubbles. Let set for 20 minutes. Once they're sticky but dry to the touch at the top, they're ready to bake. Bake for 15 minutes. Transfer to cooling racks and let cool to room temperature.
For the macaron cherry filling: Whip the remaining cold heavy cream. Add the chilled white chocolate ganache. Add the cherry extract and the cherry bits. Transfer to a small piping bag, then to a bowl and set aside in the refrigerator until ready to assemble.
Once cooled, gently lift the halved shells from the parchment paper. Pipe the filling onto the flat side of half of the cookies and top with the other halves, forming a cookie sandwich. Be very gentle as the shells are very delicate and can break very easily.
Little reminder on how to blanch almonds: Place the almonds in a saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil for about 2-3 minutes. Drain and remove the skin.
You can buy ready-made almond flour. You can use Bob's Red Mill brand flour or the flour at Trader Joe's. I prefer to make it myself. Remember to get a little more than 4.5 ounces of whole almonds (I buy them at Costco) to get the correct amount of almond flour.
To guarantee a dry product, spread the almonds (once turned into almond flour) onto a baking pan and bake in the oven at 300°F for 10 minutes.
If coloring the macarons, it's important to use powdered food coloring so as not to change the texture of the shells. You can find red food coloring powder in most Indian markets.