For the first time in over a year, my life is a glorious, wide-open blank slate of free time. With no one to answer to besides myself, and no huge (forseeable) changes on the horizon, I’m determined to drift into spring with the speed of a lazy caterpillar, and hopefully the same level of buoyancy that I’ll achieve while floating on the Caribbean sea in just a few short weeks (finally!).
I spent a few hours yesterday pilfering through and organizing hundreds of photographs I’ve taken over the past two years; images primarily of food, in all its various rough and alchemic states. I was amazed by how many beautiful photos and subsequent ideas never made it onto this blog for one reason or another; usually, though, because I simply lacked the time.
One set of images particularly stuck out as I rifled through the album on yesterday’s warm spring afternoon; those from the Taste of Spring event I covered at Old Westbury Gardens last May. It was a completely perfect day, from the sunshine, to the breeze, to the numerous types of food that the caterers and bakers at Taste of Spring set forth. And while the gardens themselves exploded with color, the food was no different.
Pink Raspberry Macarons
One treat I couldn’t stop photographing were the macarons! A food photographer’s dream, these were, especially in the warm late afternoon light. The colors were magical and romantic, and so reminiscent of spring, that looking back on these pictures yesterday, I couldn’t help but daydream about macarons, just a little bit. And then I passed Laduree on my evening run, and, with patrons teeming out the front door, I knew these was a recipe worth sharing.
Lavender and salted caramel Macaron
Delicate, utterly feminine and pretty, classy and classic, and celebratory – macarons may have come back into vogue as of late, but they are always on trend in spring, when they seem to be the baked symbol of the bright, colorful re-birth of nature. We made these in culinary school, and were surprised to find that despite macaron-making horror stories of flat, dense cookies and overwhipped egg whites, they were actually quite easy and fool-proof to make. Don’t believe me? Try it yourself.
And your reward will be a springtime full of beautiful, colorful, sweet treats!
Below is a standard french macaron recipe that I find to be pretty fool-proof. You can customize this by adding one to three drops of food coloring, or flavored extracts like vanilla extract, lemon extract or rose water. Sandwich the macarons with chocolate ganache or salted caramel sauce (both below), or your favorite jam!
Classic French Macarons
Adapted from several recipes
Ingredients (please note all measurements are by weight, except for eggs which are by volume)
- 16 ounces of almond paste
- 12 ounces of granulated sugar
- 2 ounces of confectioners sugar
- 4 fluid ounces of egg whites
- 1 to 3 drops of food coloring, if desired
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray and line with a piece of parchment paper.
2. Crumble the almond paste into small pieces. Combine with granulated sugar and confectioners sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fixed with a paddle attachment. Mix on slow to combine sugar and almond paste until crumbly.
3. Next, add the egg whites one at a time, continuing to mix slowly. Scrape down the bowl after each egg white is added. If adding any food coloring or flavored extract, do so now.
4. Using a pastry bag with a straight 1/2″ to 3/4″ opening, pipe the macaron batter in small rounds onto the lined baking sheets, leaving 1 inch between each macaron. Lightly tap the sheet to settle the batter. Let the cookies sit at room temperature until a light crust forms, about 15 minutes.
5. If desired, sprinkle macarons with granulated sugar. Bake at 350º F for 10 minutes, rotating once halfway through baking. Macarons are done when they are well puffed. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
6. Peel cookies from the parchment paper, moistening the back of the paper if necessary. Spread one cookie with about 1/2 a tablespoon of desired filling, and sandwich!
Chocolate Ganache Filling - Makes about 1 1/2 cups of ganache
- 8 ounces (by weight) of semi sweet chocolate
- 8 fluid ounces of heavy cream
- 1/8 tsp of a flavored extract or liquor, such as raspberry or peppermint extract, if desired
Salted Caramel Filling
Adapted from this salted caramel recipe
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons of water
- 2 fluid ounces of heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
- 3/4 teaspoon of Fleur de Sel, crushed sea salt, or kosher salt
1. Start by combining the sugar and water in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and bring to a boil without stirring. Boil until the syrup is a deep amber color, about 5 to 7 minutes. Watch this carefully – it’s not the time to walk away from the stove.
2. Remove from the heat and carefully whisk in the heavy cream. The mixture will bubble up in the pan, so be careful. Stir in the unsalted butter and sea salt.
3. Transfer the caramel to a dish and cool. Hold at room temperature until ready to use, or return to heat to soften. Will set in fridge.