Macarons

Every time I bite into a macaron, I am reminded of a lovely evening spent in Paris last summer.  It was the last night of my family’s trip to France, and it was unique in that we had no plans–no dinner reservation, no museum to visit.  Instead, we strolled along the Seine and through the streets, trying to imprint every sight, sound and scent upon our memories, so that we could savor Paris forever.  On a street near our hotel we came across a beautiful little chocolate shop, with rows of different colored macarons in the window.  There were chocolate, raspberry, pistachio and coffee, each a perfectly shaped work of art.  We each chose one, eating it in small bites to make it last.

The next morning we were up early and at the airport, tired and a bit cranky.  I was sad to be leaving Paris, frustrated because of some confusion with our seating, and overall just not in the best of moods–but then I saw it.  A macaron shop in the airport, and not just any macaron shop: Laduree, said to make the best macarons in Paris!  My brothers and I raced over, pooled our leftover euros and bought a small bag of chocolate and raspberry macaron to eat on the plane.  I usually eat nothing during a plane ride, since airline food makes starvation seem comfortable, so the macarons were a welcome treat.

As much as I love them, I’ve always been a little wary of making macarons; I tried once last summer, but they didn’t rise and were not very tasty.  However, I decided today that it was high time I tried again.  The second trimester of my school year had just ended, so macarons would be a perfect treat to celebrate the end of finals.

To my surprise, these chocolate macarons came out pretty perfectly!  They rose, held together,  formed “feet” at their bases and took surprisingly little time.  They’re yummy and they’re adorable, so I am very proud of myself.  The trick, I think, is to make sure the almonds are ground very finely, to beat the egg whites enough, and to let them sit on the baking tray for two to five minutes before popping them in the oven.  I wish you the best of luck, and enjoy!

Ingredients

For the shells

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup almonds, powdered
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 egg whites
  • 5 tablespoon sugar

For the chocolate ganache

  • 4 ounces dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Powder the almonds in a food processor until ground very fine.  Place in a small bowl and mix with powdered sugar and cocoa.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until they begin to form stiff peaks.  Add the sugar and continue beating for a minute, until stiff and firm.  Fold in the dry ingredients in two installments, using a spatula.

Use a spoon to make inch-long dollops of the batter on a lined baking sheet.  Allow them to sit for some minutes, then tap the baking sheet on the counter to settle them and pop  them in the oven.  Bake 15 to 18 minutes.

Next, make the ganache filling. Pour the cream into a saucepan over low heat and bring to a simmer, then add chocolate and butter.  Allow to melt and stir until incorporated.  Let the ganache cool, even placing it in the fridge before using.

To assemble the macaron, choose two halves of similar sizes.  Use a spoon to place a small dollop of ganache in the center of one half, then press them together.  Allow to settle before eating.  Enjoy!

  

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies are the holy grail of bakers.  We are constantly trying out new recipes, searching for the perfect cookie (however, unlike the holy grail this is more likely to ensure early death than elongated life, since one must of course gorge oneself on the perfect cookie).  In our house we have two very delicious recipes that we usually use, but I am always on the lookout for something a little different.  Unfortunately, most of the other recipes that I attempt are merely mediocre; they taste good, but come out thin or crumbly.

And then, four days ago, everything changed.  I found a recipe that called for the use of browned butter, which was both intriguing and appetizing.  It called to me, and I abandoned all pretenses of studying for my A. P. Government test and decided to try out the cookies.

They were fantastic.  The browned butter gave them a richness of flavor and an amazing texture–crisp on the outside yet soft and doughy on the inside.  And they were thick, big and perfectly chewy.  And beautiful.  I’m in love.
  
Ingredients

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  •  2 sticks butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

In a saucepan over low heat, melt twelve tablespoons of the butter, swirling occasionally.  Keeping one eye on the butter, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.  Set aside, and devote your full attention to the butter.  It should be bubbly and noisy.  Swirl until it turns a nice amber color, then remove from heat and add the remaining butter.  Allow this to melt, then pour into a large bowl.  Add both sugars and vanilla, then the eggs and yolk one at a time. Mix well ( I mixed by hand, but you can use an electric mixer) and gradually add the flour mixture, then the chocolate chips.

On a baking pan lined with parchment paper, drop 3-tablespoon sized balls of dough.  bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown.  Enjoy!