Happy Halloween everyone! I thought I would celebrate this year by looking back on one of my favorite memories of the holiday. Last year, I was lucky enough to spend Halloween in Paris with my mom. She flew over to London to visit me for a week while I was living there. In the middle of our week together, we took the Eurostar over to Paris for a few days. She and I were simply captivated by the beauty of the city. Instead of taking the Metro, we decided to walk down the streets and along the Seine to reach our destinations. We instantly fell in love with the Eiffel Tower, so much that we changed our plans so we could visit it both days!
We also fell in love with the food of Paris. Boy, do the French know what their doing with their desserts. Our favorite sweet treat was definitely the macarons, which we bought from the famous French bakery Ladurée. Macarons are a meringue-like sandwich cookie that come in a variety of flavors, making it fun to try out a few different ones. Since the macarons are made with almond flour, they are naturally gluten free. Plus, depending on the filling (some are filled with ganache or buttercream, while others are filled with fruit spreads or jams), they can also be a dairy free dessert.
To celebrate my fond memories of eating macarons in Paris, I decided to try and make them myself. I found a recipe for chocolate maracons on David Lebovitz’s blog (he’s a professional baker, so I thought I should trust an expert). As he notes in his post, macarons can be difficult to bake because the sensitive nature of the cookies makes their outcome very unpredictable. My experience in baking these macarons is the perfect example of their inconsistency: one pan of cookies cooked well, while the others had large (and ugly!) cracks on the top.
Other than that, however, I was fairly happy with how they turned out. My only complaint was that the outer shell of the cookies was too hard and crunchy (which made them hard to eat as well!). When I make this recipe again, I think I will try cooking them for 10-12 minutes instead of the full 15. Also be sure to follow his advice to let the macarons age for at least 24 hours before eating them. I tested this theory and he was right–the macarons were softer, sweeter, and had a richer chocolate flavor the day after I made them, and were even better the day after that.
I filled my macarons with nutella, raspberry jam, and leftover chocolate whiskey ganache from the Irish Car Bomb cake I made from my brother’s birthday. Try out your own flavor combinations to find your favorite! Enjoy!
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- ½ cup almond meal
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
- Filling of choice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farhenheit and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a blender or food processor, grind together the powdered sugar, almond meal, and cocoa so there are no lumps. In a standing electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they begin to rise and hold their shape. While whipping, add the granulated sugar until very stiff and firm, about 3-4 minutes. Gently fold the dry ingredients in two batches into the egg whites with a rubber spatula. Fold the mixture just until it is smooth and there are no streaks of egg white. Scoop the batter into a pastry bag (I used a large plastic bag with a cut corner because I don’t have a pastry bag). Pipe the batter on the baking sheets in 1 inch circles (about 1 tablespoon of batter per cookie). Rap the baking sheet a few times firmly on the counter to flatten the macarons. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let them cool completely before removing from the baking sheet. To assemble the macarons, spread your filling of choice on the bottom of one cookie and sandwich it with another. Let them sit at least one day before serving so the flavors meld together and the texture becomes softer. Store in an airtight container.