Every April, SoupAddict heaves a huge, full-body sigh of relief. Winter snow is surely gone. Temps are on their way up, and everything outside is turning green and gorgeous. Except for the trees.
No, the trees are turning every color except green. You see, they’re too busy blooming to be greening up right now. Tulip trees, apple trees. White, purple, yellow. And pink. Lovely, cheery pink. SoupAddict’s favorite color.
To SoupAddict, April means flowering trees, and flowering trees mean cherry blossoms. Simple, delicate. And pink.
When the cherry blossoms bloom, artists and photographers are moved to break out their medium of choice to capture the blossom’s beauty.
SoupAddict, on the other hand, celebrates with her stomach and breaks out the sugar. Can you blame her? Sugar creates such fabulousness as brownies, and tarts, and macarons. French macarons, that is. Pink macarons. With delicate cherry and vanilla flavors. It’s just what April ordered: pink, cherry, sugar.
But first, can SoupAddict share something with you? It’s been nagging at her for some time.
SoupAddict is having an identity crisis.
SoupAddict has had many life changes in the last many months. And with these changes has come realizations. Stunning realizations.
Like the fact that she prefers this Spring beauty (Georgia Crystal garlic) …
… to this one (the first tulip to bloom in SoupAddict’s yard, the gorgeous Zampa Parrot).
Don’t get SoupAddict wrong. She loves her tulips (like this World’s Favorite Tulip).
But if she were cruelly, evilly forced to choose, it would be the garlic. Yes, plain, stinky, garlic. Wonderfully glorious garlic.
SoupAddict thinks she should be disturbed by this revelation, but is not. Which disturbs her.
More astonishing, however, is the recent realization that SoupAddict likes making something like this, more than …
… this. More than soup. [Gulp] How can that be?
SoupAddict’s world is spinning about. SoupAddict loves soup. Adores soup, is addicted to soup. But when push comes to shove, she’s discovered that she’d rather be baking. Bread, sweets, doesn’t matter.
While she figures out this most puzzling turn of events, she’ll distract herself by celebrating April’s blossoms with sugar.
French macarons are ever so much funand maddeningto make. Do not confuse them with the coconutty American macaroon (notice the extra “o”). The Parisienne version is a delicate confection of almond flour, sugar and egg whites, with surprising flavors and fab colors. Magnifique!
When you, Dear Reader, go about making your first French macarons, you will discover for yourself how amazingly tricksy three ingredients can be when they team up to stump the humans. The recipe I give below is from a macaron pro (the renowned foodie blogger, Tartelette). Follow it to the letter. Still, your first batch will probably be a train wreck (SoupAddict’s was). Because remember: macarons are tricksy.
And they’re taunting you, daring you, to figure them out. This is war, people!
Tip: Buy a digital scale. Baking is as much science as art, and measuring dry ingredients by weight rather than volume is considerably more reliable. “3 egg whites” is not a measurement you can bank on. Macarons will laugh at you and your three egg whites. “90 grams of egg whites” is an honest-to-goodness measurement. (90 grams, btw, is about three egg whites from large eggs. But go ahead and weigh them anyway, because the macarons are looking for every possible way to trip you up.)
Tip: Take a slightly damp paper towel and wipe out the bowl of your mixer before whipping the egg whites. Part of macarons’ arsenal of tricksiness is the finicky nature of egg whites. The slightest residue in the bowl can cause the egg whites to fail. Don’t take a chance: the macaron battle is only beginning.
Tip: Choose the best confectioner’s sugar you can find. Don’t go value-brand on this ingredient. Manufacturers cut the sugar with cornstarch to save coststhe cheaper the brand, the higher proportion of cornstarch. A little cornstarch is helpful as an anti-caking agent while grinding the almonds, but too much will interfere with the baking process.
Tip: Add a bit of the perfect, fluffy, glossy egg whites to the almond mixture, and give it a good stir. No need to be gentle here. Show the macarons who’s boss.
Tip: Once the initial mixing is done, add the remaining egg whites and switch, suddenly and unannounced, to your loving, light touch. The macarons won’t know what hit ’em.
Tip: Fold the mixture gently, by scraping around half of the bowl, turning over the loaded spatula in the center, and rotating the bowl 45° before repeating. A rubber or silicone spatula is your ally here.
Tip: The best food coloring for macarons is powdered coloring (which is mixed with the almonds and confectioner’s sugar). Do not use liquid food colors: they’re too weak and you’ll need to add so many drops that it actually impacts the texture of the macaron. Lacking powdered coloring, use gels, which are very concentrated. Add your gel coloring about halfway through folding in the egg whites.
Tip: Macaron batter is thick but loose. It’s easiest to control by piping from a decorator’s bag. There’s no saying you can’t use a spoon to place the batter on the parchment paper, but you’ll get some whacky shapes. (And the macarons will laugh at you.)
Tip: Fill the bag over a container. In addition to providing some support for holding the decorating bag, it will catch the mixture as it drips out of the tip.
Tip: SoupAddict is not an expert at piping consistently sized circles. She’s suspects you’ll do better without any tips. (And know what? Consistently sized or not, it doesn’t matter. They all somehow find their size soul-mate. It’s weird like that.)
Tip: Give the baking pan a good whack on the counter. This releases air pockets from the macaron circles. Then let the pan sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to allow the formation of a sort of skin on the macaron.
Tip: One characteristic of a properly baked macaron is what’s referred to as “feet,” the crinkly, spongy-looking lower part of the macaron. Feetless macarons = Epic fail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Go straight to macaron jail.
But when you get everything right…
When it all comes together in perfect almond-sugar-egg harmony…
It’s just bliss. Pure pink, cherry-flavored bliss.
SoupAddict hopes you find yours.
Cherry Blossom Macarons
Adapted* from Tartelette
For the shells:
90 grams egg whites (use eggs whites that have been preferably left 3-5 days in the fridge)
25 grams granulated sugar
200 grams powdered sugar
110 grams almonds (slivered, blanched, sliced, whatever you like)
pink or red food coloring
cherry flavoring (SoupAddict uses Lorann Oils’ Washington Cherry)
*SoupAddict is not a macaron pro, and has encountered every problem you can encounter with macarons. The idea is to learn from your mistakes and adjust. Your kitchen environment and your handling technique impact the macarons in ways a recipe can’t predict. But no worries: with practice, you’ll find ways to compensate, and soon your own method will be slightly different, but nonetheless perfect, from even the best of the best macaron recipes.
Prepare the macarons:
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, (think bubble bath foam) gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue (think shaving cream). Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry. Place the powdered sugar and almonds and powdered color in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add them to the meringue, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that falls back on itself after counting to 10. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809 – note: in SoupAddict’s photo, she’s using a #805, because that’s all she had) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper or silicone mats lined baking sheets. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 280F. When ready, bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool. Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store them in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer.
For the filling: SoupAddict does not have a recipe for you here. She originally made a white chocolate ganache with cherry flavoring. And then remembered that she hates white chocolate ganache [side note: SoupAddict is okay with all of these huge realizations landing on her at this time of life, but wishes that the simple things, like remembering what tastes gross, wouldn’t get lost in the shuffle]. So, she took the ganache and transformed it into a sort of buttercream frosting. Such a technique is better lost to the world. Just make the buttercream frosting and you’ll be fine.