*The Coffee Macaron*
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman attempting a French macaron recipe must be in want of unnecessary frustration.
“It’s the only explanation…” I exclaimed the other day, standing over a tray of systematically arranged macaron shells, just as my sister skipped down the staircase.
“Are you quoting Shakespeare to yourself again, weirdo?” she asked, approaching the stove to see the baked pastries, fresh out of the oven.
I hadn’t realized I had been speaking out loud.
“It is the only explanation…” I continued, “for why an otherwise balanced and sane individual would embark upon such a seemingly fruitless journey.”
“Why do you stand in the kitchen making loud random proclamations, oh ‘balanced’ and ‘sane’ one?” She asked.
“How do you not know the difference between Jane Austen and Shakespeare, oh college graduate?” I asked in return.
“I know the difference! I was’t paying attention to what you were blabbering!” She responded, but I was too wrapped up in my train of thought to hear.
“A fact has dawned on me, dear sister,” I interrupted –she shot me a very familiar look of annoyance–“that after spending not one or two, but THREE days of massaging, sifting and aging every ingredient in these macarons, what I am left with are A)–” (I held up one finger for her) “bland cookie shells which completely rely on the flavor of the filling for their taste and B)–” (I held up a second finger) “–A very large– and perhaps misguided–sense of immense pride and accomplishment.”
“You? Proud?” She coughed, disbelievingly, her voice entering a high octave of concern as she removed my fingers, still hovering in mid-air, away from her face.
“Startling, isn’t it?!” I agreed. Her eyes narrowed.“Even one as humble as I must experience a dash of pride! Do you have any idea how hard it is to make these?!” I asked, as my sister gave one of them a poke.
“Yeah, you told me only eight hundred bajillion times.”
“But.” I looked at her.
“I don’t get it.”
“What” she enunciated quietly, like a teacher trying to extract a difficult answer from a particularly slow student, “–don’t you get?”
“Basically, if these were pre-packaged and sold next to twinkies at the grocery store instead of prettied up in a glass case, no one would bother paying a million dollars for them.”
“I must enjoy frustration,” I said, pacing back and forth now, “because the more complicated I found out the process was, the more determined I became to make them… I spent weeks!” I said, turning towards my sister, who was now looking as though she regretted coming downstairs, “Weeks!! It would be constantly running in the back of my head, as I tried to figure out the best way to mix the ingredients, how I’d sift them–I could have spent the same amount of energy to learn rocket science, or a new language, but I chose this!”
My sister offered some words of what sounded like compassion intermixed with several pointed aspersions directed at the state of my mental health.
Wrapped up in my thoughts, I hardly noticed when she nudged me towards the couch, then went back to the kitchen to dig a spoon into the coffee-infused white chocolate ganache and dollop it onto a nearby macaron, twisting a second on top and taking a large bite.
“Do you realize what this means?!” I burst forth, getting up again. “I could have learned French in the time it took to make these little round pointless cookies! How many hours of my life have I wasted?!”
But then I heard a sound.
“Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm” my sister said, closing her eyes, almost reverently.
I hadn’t noticed that she had tried one.
“THIS IS THE BEST MACARON I’VE EVER HAD…OHRMGORD.”
Suddenly, it didn’t matter how much effort was expended after all.
“Is it good?”
“MMGGOOD SOO GOOD” she articulated, mouth full of macaron.
“Huh,” I said, a new realization dawning on me, “I guess some frustrations are worth it after all.”
“No.” She stated.
“No, not worth it. Way too much work. But SO SO GOOD.”
“What’s going on?” My mom wandered into the kitchen.
“It turns out, dear mother,” I began, recovering, “that frustration is its own reward, and a woman wanting to make a French macaron recipe…must be in want of that rewarding frustration…”, and as my mother raised her eyebrows, my sister, with the freed air of an escaped zoo animal, tucked out of the room, three macarons in hand.
The first step of making macarons is to clear your mind of doubt, and exercise the same amount of resilience and focus as when embarking on a project that could go wrong at pretty much every moment. Good luck.
Step One: The Egg White… The Older, The Wiser, The Better.
The story begins with three egg whites.
You separate the egg yellows from the whites, and then measure them, by the gram. Specificity is a necessity in this adventure. Remember, making a macaron is like dating the most high-maintenance partner in the world. They will never be happy until you jump through all the hoops. And then they still probably won’t be happy. But don’t think about that.
How many grams do you want? About 90g. But if you get 95g or 96g, then that’s okay too. The macaron will allow you some margin of error, but not too much.
Now that you’ve measured the egg whites, you can’t just use them.
You have to age them. (This is the part where my sister rolls her eyes. She spends a lot of time rolling her eyes when I explain the process going into this recipe.)
So stick some aluminum foil on top and put them in the fridge. The longer the better. But a day or so should be fine.
Step Two: Almond Flour and Powdered Sugar…The Friends Who Are Sifted Together, Stay Together
Ah, the dry ingredients.
The second step begins with three pieces of equipment: The sifter, the weighing scale, and the food processor.
Sift the almond flour onto a plate or bowl, and then measure about 110g.
Next, sift the powdered sugar into a bowl, and measure about 200g.
Third, sift the ground coffee. I’d use about a tablespoon or two.
Put the three ingredients into a food processor, and pulse together until well blended.
Then, when you think you are done, you sift the ingredients again together.
Cover the dry ingredients with foil and put away in the fridge.
Step Three: Preparing the special equipment
The day that you want to make the cookies, keep the aged egg whites outside on the counter.
Take two pieces of parchment paper, and trace circles onto them to ensure symmetry. I use the lid of my baby’s bottle. It makes the perfect-sized circles.
Place a large ziploc bag in a tall glass, with one corner at the bottom of the glass, and fold the ends of the ziploc bag over the edge of the glass.
Step Four: Coffee White Chocolate Ganache
(This ganache is the best thing I’ve ever had. I could eat a bucket of this.)
Heat the heavy cream and coffee beans in a separate sauce pan until steaming, for a few minutes. Remove from heat and let steep for 30 minutes to an hour.
Heat some water over the stove in a saucepan–it shouldn’t be steaming but not boiling. Place a heat proof bowl on top of the sauce pan, and break white chocolate pieces into the bowl and stir until melted.
Warm the coffee mixture again, and pour the strained mixture into the melted white chocolate. Throw away the coffee beans.
Mix the ganache together until a thicker consistency and set aside. You could place the ganache, once cooled, into a plastic bag to pipe onto the cookies later, but I find it easier to just spoon it on.
Step Five: It All Comes Together
In a bowl –preferably steel, but at this point, who cares– whisk, (on medium speed) the aged egg whites, lemon juice, vanilla and salt together until frothy. Once frothy, whisk on high speed and slowly pour in the granulated sugar.
When the egg whites form stiff peaks–this is when they stand on their own–fold them into the dry ingredients.
Do not over mix.
And do not under mix.
Because if you do, the cookie will grow angry.
Fold the mixture until it forms a lava like consistency–usually 37-40 folds–and place the batter into the plastic ziploc bag assembled earlier.
Cut off the tip of the bag. At this point, you can get a second ziploc bag and poke a round piping tip into it, then stick the bag with the batter inside to make the piping more “round” but you don’t have to.
Step Six: You’re not done yet.
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Pipe cookies onto a parchment paper lining a cookie sheet until they fill out the circles. If after doing this for a while you find, like me, that you cannot draw circles with batter even when they are drawn onto the paper for you–make different shapes. I chose hearts.
When the batter is piped onto the parchment paper, tap the cookie sheet on the counter a few times. When members of your family look at you like you’re insane, explain that it’s all a part of the process.
Once tapped, take a little toothpick, and smooth out the air bubbles that will have risen to the top.
“Are you kidding me?” Well meaning loved ones might ask, incredulously, as they watch you hunch over your little circles of macaron batter, staring maniacally over the tops of them to see if they’re smooth and perfect. Ignore them and plow on. It is too late to turn back now.
Let sit outside for 20 minutes until the tops are dry, and batter doesn’t come off on your fingers when you poke them. Don’t let them sit for too long, because that causes them to crack.
“You don’t even bake them yet!?” They might interrupt.
They don’t know the half of it. It’s better they not know.
When the cookies are dry, use two cookie sheets underneath each parchment paper to bake. This distributes the heat better or something.
Bake cookies–until lightly golden brown, for about 25 minutes. If they under bake, they won’t scrape off the parchment paper, but they’ll still taste good. If they over bake, they get a little hard.
Step Seven: The Assembly
The cookies have to be completely cooled before the ganache can be scooped in the center. Assemble the cookies based on the shape. You won’t have too many problems unless like mine, your macarons are less circular and more amoeba shaped. Find the two amoebas that most closely resemble each other.
Scoop ganache into the center of one cookie and gently twist another on top of it.
Step Eight: You thought you were done.
Don’t eat them all right away. Store in the fridge; they are better the next day. The flavor of the ganache must have time to infuse into the macaron shell.
I wish I was kidding.
After writing all this down, I kind of feel like I deserve a cookie.
Maybe I’ll just go to the store and get a twinkie.
Recipe, with ingredients are included on a previous post.
Coffee Macaron Shells
- 90g Aged Egg Whites
- 110g Sifted Almond Flour
- 200g Sifted Powdered Sugar
- 2 tbsp Sifted Ground Coffee (I use Colombian decaff)
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1/8 tsp Lemon Juice
- 25g Granulated Sugar
- Pinch Salt
Coffee Infused White Chocolate Ganache
- 200g White Chocolate
- 150g Heavy Cream
- 1/4 cup Whole Coffee Beans (I use Colombian decaff)
To make ganache, warm heavy cream with coffee beans in a sauce pan until simmering, then let steep together at room temperature for about 30 minutes to an hour. Heat white chocolate pieces over a double boiler. Strain and re-heat heavy cream mixture. Pour the cream over the melted white chocolate, stirring constantly. Mixture will thicken. Set aside or refrigerate.
For cookies, put the sifted coffee grounds, sifted almond flour and sifted powdered sugar into a food processor. Sift all the ingredients together again and place in a large bowl. Next, make a meringue by whisking egg whites, lemon juice, vanilla and salt until frothy. Slowly pour in the granulated sugar util stiff peaks form.
Fold the egg whites into the dry ingredients until a lava-like consistency, then pour into a piping bag. Pipe cookies in circular shape onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Once piped, tap the cookie sheet down on the table a few times to release air bubbles. Pop the air bubbles with a toothpick to smooth out the surface.
Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Let cookies dry at room temperature for 20-25 minutes until the surface is elastic when touched lightly and you don’t get batter on your finger.
Bake cookies with two cookie trays to one parchment sheet for about 25 minutes.
When cookies are completely cooled, make sandwiches with them by putting ganache in the center. Enjoy!