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Monday, January 10, 2011

Dueling Cookbooks: French Macarons, Alice Medrich and Fiona Cairns

So I've been seeing these french macarons around the world wide interwebs for awhile now, and finally had to see what all the fuss was about. I decided to play dueling cookbooks and used recipes from two different books: Alice Medrich's "Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy Melt-In-Your-Mouth-Cookies", and Fiona Cairn's "Bake and Decorate"

French macarons are basically a meringue with almond meal added. The almond meal is very pricey-$10 for a 1 pound bag. That was really hard for my cheap self to place in the shopping cart:)
The recipes were very similar, but had some differences in ingredients and technique. First up: Alice Medrich's Recipe

First, the almond meal and powdered sugar are mixed together, and then go through a strainer to aerate
I wanted to try the coffee-flavored variety, so I added some coffee powder to the dry ingredients. I only had regular instant coffee, which didn't dissolve much- next time I will definitely use espresso powder.

The egg whites and food color get whipped to stiff peaks. Well, that was what the recipe said: mine just turned into a foamy blobby shape:

Said Foamy blob:

Not sure if I just overbeat? Then the almond meal gets folded into the whipped egg whites:

I was a little nervous at this point that I had failed, since it was kind of a lumpy-looking mess; but as the ingredients were quite expensive I persevered on and put the mixture in a pastry bag and piped it onto parchment-lined cookie sheets:

Then the macarons "rest" for 20-30 minutes before going into the oven. In this recipe, the macarons go into a pre-heated 400 degree oven, which is immediately turned down to 300- the quick blast of 400 is supposed to help give the macaron a "foot" or platform- a desirable macaron quality apparently:P

Then the filling:Nutella:) I try not to buy Nutella too often as I have the tendency to eat it straight from the jar. The flavor combo was soooo good!

Now time for Fiona Cairn's recipe. In her version, the powdered sugar is sifted, and then the almond meal mixed in.

Then the egg whites get whipped with the food color. Note to self- in future use a LOT more food color to get the garish macaron colors you see in pictures (usually I don't like to go overboard on food color in baked goods- but something about those bright, bright cookies makes me smile:)

Cairn's recipe differs from Medrichs as it uses a little superfine sugar with the egg whites. (I don't have superfine sugar in my kitchen, so I just put some for a spin in my coffee grinder and Voila! superfine sugar)

Then, the almond mixture is folded in, and piped onto the prepared pans:

Let rest for 20-30 minutes. The baking instructions also differ a bit from the other recipe. In this recipe, the oven is pre-heated to 325 degrees, and baked with the door slightly ajar- she recommends putting a wooden spoon handle in the door.

The Cairn's recipe gives guidelines for different floral fillings: lavender, rose water, and orange flower. I tried the lavender. It is basically a white chocolate ganache, but the cream is first heated, then dried lavender is stirred in and steeps for 30 minutes to add flavor. It smelled so good in my kitchen:)

Very yummy, although the 1/3 cup cream to 3 ounce of white chocolate ratio is too runny. It also makes waaay more than needed. I was going to try and make a truffle with it, but managed to drop the bowl on my kitchen floor:(

The verdict? Both were delicious. I'd say the Medrich recipe is a little easier - no messing with superfine sugar- just the powdered, and turning the oven down seems better to me than leaving the door slightly open. Only the coffee macarons had the coveted "foot" but I'm not sure if that was because I erred on the side of under-beating the eggs since I feared I had overbeat the first ones. Both books are excellent and I can't wait to try more recipes from both.

Can't wait to make more varieties- the lemon flavor with lemon curd filling and cocoa flavored with ganache filling from Alice Medrich sound divine, as does the rose-water filling :)from Fiona Cairns

And I leave you with some cuteness to go with the sweetness:)

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