If you keep up with culinary trends, then you know all about America’s latest sweet obsession: French macarons. These beautiful, delicate cookies have been a tradition in Europe for centuries, but have recently been making waves here in the U.S.A.
Enthusiasts are heading to Macaron Café in New York City for an entire storefront dedicated to these sweets, which are comprised of two meringue-based cookies, sandwiched with ganache, buttercream or jam. And, when I researched recipes for this article, I found 11 cookbooks entirely dedicated to macarons published in this year alone.
Here on the Main Line, Lila Colello, executive pastry chef & owner of Brûlée Bakery, shared with me, “Macarons have been fashionable in France since 1533 — they actually sell them at McDonald’s in Paris. These little cookies are a blank canvas, allowing pastry chefs to play with flavor combinations and colors to create little, delicious works of art.”
“While macarons have always been around in France, they are more popular than ever now — it’s the new posh thing to do,” said Malvern resident Delphine McGlohorn, who moved here from France several years ago.
Colello, who trained at NYC’s French Culinary Institute, sells her macarons every Saturday at the Bryn Mawr Farmers Market and accepts special orders anytime. Her best-selling flavors include Honey-Pistachio Mascarpone, Lemon Crème, Blueberry Jam, and Apricot. Look for salted caramel during cooler weather, as well as seasonal varieties that incorporate local seasonal produce like apples, pumpkins and sweet potatoes.
Also on the Main Line, head to Malvern’s Strawberry Bakery, where Chef/Owner Jean-Pierre Bournazel offers flavors like almond, chocolate and strawberry. Aux Petits Delices in Wayne also offers these beautiful treats in almond, raspberry and pistachio varieties.
The following recipe is a simplistic take on macarons for the home cook, using nutella as a filling. Master these and then move on to the more challenging classic macaron recipes… or simply head to the Bryn Mawr Farmers Market to get your fix!
- 1 1/2 cups hazelnuts, toasted
- 2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 2 tablespoons baking cocoa
- 6 large egg whites at room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a 2-inch cookie cutter (I used the lid of a sprinkles jar), trace circles on the parchment. Turn the sheet of parchment over. Repeat for a second baking sheet.
Grind the nuts with 1/4 cup of the confectioners’ sugar in a food processor until a fine nut flour forms; do not allow mixture to become a paste. Add cocoa and remaining confectioners’ sugar and pulse just until incorporated. Sift.
Whip the egg whites and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until frothy. While mixer is running, slowly add granulated sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time, and whip until the meringue is shiny and holds medium peaks, about 5 minutes.
Using a rubber spatula, fold in the almond mixture one-third at a time until thoroughly combined. Fit a pastry bag with a 1/4-in plain tip and fill the bag halfway with batter. (Or use a plastic zip-top bag; cut off 1/16-in to form a tip.) Holding the bag upright pipe macarons inside the traced circles in a spiral, beginning in the center of the circle.
Let the cookies sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to dry. This will create the crisp crust on the outside of the macaron. Heat oven to 300 degrees F. Bake cookies for 18-20 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through until they have risen and look crisp and set on top. Remove from oven and let cool completely.