In general, my thoughts are that they taste so much better when someone else makes them (especially if that someone is Pierre Herme, for instance); however, the newly-released book Les Petits Macarons: Colorful French Confections to Make at Home might just be the book to change my mind. The recipes at first glance seem long and daunting, but really, they're just full of informative tips and are ultimately quite user-friendly. The book covers various methods of macaron-making in great detail, so you can choose your own adventure--sweet! Plus, they have all sorts of fun flavor combinations in their recipes--here follows a recipe, which is very international as it employs the Italian Meringue method of macaron-making and contains all-American bacon in the filling: Walnut Macarons with Maple Bacon Bourbon filling. As the French would say, "Le nom".
Walnut Macarons with Maple Bacon Bourbon Filling
Makes 40 macaron sandwiches
For the macarons
- 1 1/4 cups walnut flour
- 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
- 1/2 cup aged egg whites from 4 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
For the filling
- 12 ounces bacon, sliced thinly
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed and strained orange juice
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon bourbon
- pinch freshly ground pepper
- Place the flour, confectioners' sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor; pulse 4 times for 3 seconds each to combine. Scrape the bowl in between pulses with a spatula. Sift with a fine-mesh strainer onto a sheet of waxed paper.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes.
- While the egg whites are whipping, heat the granulated sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir to dissolve sugar. If sugar crystals stick to the edges of the pan, use a small pastry brush dipped in water to remove them. Cook until the sugar reaches 235 F (use a candy thermometer).
- When the candy reaches 235 degrees F, quickly and steadily pour the syrup down the side of the mixer bowl, with the mixer running on medium speed. Rest the lip of the saucepan on the side of the bowl so the sugar does not hit the whisk attachment and splatter all over. Continue whisking until stiff peaks form and the meringue is lukewarm and glossy, about 4 minutes. Do not overwhip the meringue or the "feet" won't form correctly (although they will still taste good, so don't fuss too much!). Turn the bowl upside down to check that you have reached the right stage: the meringue should not slip in the bowl.
- Place the sifted dry ingredients into the bowl and push them toward the sides to form a well in the center of the bowl. Spoon the lukewarm meringue into the center. With a rubber spatula, stir the meringue from the center out in a circular motion, as if you were making a pasta dough. The meringue will pick up the dry ingredients from the inside to the outside of the bowl; this process should take about 1 minute.
- Spoon the batter in a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round tip (or, simply cut a 1/2 inch opening in the bag). Fill the bag halfway, leaving the rest of the meringue in the bowl while piping; cover it with plastic wrap while a batch is in the oven. If you overfill the bag, you'll not be able to squeeze it hard enough to pipe even shells. Twist the top of the bag to close.
- Pipe into quarter-sized mounds, about 1/4 inch high, on a silicone or parchment-lined sheet, with 1 1/2 inches around each. Bake at 200 degrees F for about 15 minutes; increase temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for 9 more minutes, or until the shells feel firm and just come off of the paper or silicone. repeat until all of the batter is used.
- Once all of the macarons are baked and cooling, prepare your filling. Line a large plate with paper towels. Cook the bacon in batches in a saute pan over medium-high heat until it is crispy, 8-10 minutes. Remove the strips to the lined plate and let cool enough to handle, then chop finely.
- Cook the orange juice, maple syrup, bourbon, and bacon in a wide saute pan over medium heat until warm, about 2 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure that nothing sticks to the pan. Remove from heat, and immediately spoon the filing onto 40 macaron shells, evenly dividing it. Top with another shell, twisting slightly to secure the filling, and serve warm or at room temperature.