Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring Fever

by hungry rabbit

When I get Spring fever, it's not the daffodils, grape hyacinth, or snow caps that evoke the feeling. Flowers are beautiful, but it's the food that truly touches my heart. I long to stroll through the farmer's market and buy the produce of spring. There's the fragrant garlic scape, the abundance of asparagus, and the sweet smell of strawberries. But my true romantic notion of spring is being in Paris and eating those beautifully colorful macaroons in a café and sipping tea or espresso. The delicate nature of these sweet treats is seemingly simple, yet alluringly satisfying.

As the weather warms and daylight saving is upon us, I can't help but to make these French classics that may be the next sweet phenomenon after cupcakes. Since both M and I are lovers of all citrus, I naturally made Lemon Macarons for this occasion. The crunchy shells are sweet, yet the scent of lemon brings the perfect balance of freshness. The creamy curd is made not just for the textural contrast, but it provides a tangy sharpness to brighten the palette. When you bite into a Lemon Macaron, you'll be pleasantly surprised with the complexity.

(Recipe after the jump)

Lemon Macarons 
Recipe by hungryrabbitnyc, 2010
Make 32-35 macarons

2/3 cups (3 oz) ground almonds
1-1/2 cups (5 1/4 oz) confectioner's sugar
1/8 teaspoon table salt
3 large egg whites, room temperature
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
3 drops of yellow food coloring

Prepare baking sheet and template: Using two half-sheet baking pan, fit each pan with a sheet of parchment. Use either a circle template or the wide end of a pastry tip, draw 1-1/8 inch-diameter circles on the papers, spacing them at least 3/4 inch apart. (I get 35 circles per sheet). Set aside.

Attach an Ateco #804 tip to a pastry bag. Twist the bag to hold the tip tightly. This prevents the batter from leaking out. Place the pastry bag, tip down, inside a measure cup or any container that will hold the pastry bag vertically. Set aside.

Grind almonds and confectioner's sugar in food processor until powdery, about 30 sec. This step is optional, but will breakdown any large lumps of ground almonds. Sift almond mixture and salt through a medium-mesh sieve. Set aside.

Add egg whites into the bowl of a hand mixer or a standing mixer with whisk attachment. Beat on low speed for 45 seconds to break up the whites. Increase speed to medium high and beat until foamy, about 1 minute. Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue to beat until meringue holds stiff, glossy peaks, about 1 minute.

Reduce speed to low, add vanilla extract, lemon extract, and food coloring to just combine. Remove bowl to a work surface. Using a silicon spatula, fold in half of the sifted almond mixture with a circular motion (scooping from bottom of bowl) until just incorporated. Fold in the rest of the almond sugar mixture with same motion. (Meringue will deflate slightly.)

Press and spread out the batter against the side of the bowl. Scoop the batter from the bottom and turn it upside down. Repeat this process about 12 times. This is what the french refers to as 'Macaronnage'. This technique gives the baked macarons a luster. Be careful not to do it too many times, or you might get oil stains on the surface of your baked macarons, not so pretty.

Pour batter into prepared pastry bag, twist or clip to close. Refrigerate batter for 15-20 minutes. This process makes the batter easier to pipe.

Pipe the batter onto the center of the circles. Make small circles since the batter will spread out after it's piped. (You'll get the hang of it once you've piped a few.) Rap the baking sheet firmly on the counter. This will help the macarons to hold the rounded shape and pied (little foot) to formed.

Preheat oven to 300°F with racks in upper and lower thirds.

Dry the batter at room temperature, uncovered, for 30-45 minutes. A slight crust should form on top of the macarons. (This might take longer on rainy or humid days). The batter is ready if it doesn't stick to your finger when you touch it gently.

Bake macarons for 10 minutes. Switch position of sheets, top to bottom, front to back. Bake for another 8-10 minutes, until crisp and interior does not give easily when gently pressed. Remove baking sheets from the oven and cool on wire rack. (Residual heat from baking sheet will harden bottoms), about 30 minutes. Loosen macarons gently from parchment with offset spatula (they will be fragile).

Lemon-Curd Filling
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup superfine sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 2 lemons

Melt butter in a double boiler over low heat. Gradually whisk in sugar, eggs, zest and juice. Continue to whisk until curd is thick enough to hold the whisk's marks, 6 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap and cool in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

To assemble the macarons 
Sandwich flat side of macarons together with a generous teaspoon of Lemon-Curd Filling. Layer macarons between sheets of parchment in an airtight container and let stand at room temperature at least 2 hours to soften before eating.

Note: Filled macarons can be kept in an airtight container wrapped in plastic wrap, chilled 2 days or frozen 1 month. Bring to room temperature in wrapped container (to avoid condensation), about 1 hour if chilled or 2 hours if frozen.

1 comment:

  1. I just found Cafe Macarone on 36th and 7th Street a few weeks ago and have been having the worst lust for these treats.
    Thanks so much for giving such a complete recipe with tips, I can see I'm going to be very, very busy this weekend.