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After eating the last macaroon from the famous bakery that has been crafting these religious experiences since 1620, I thought I would give macaroon making a shot myself. After all, if they were making them way back then, I should be able to do now with all of our modern conveniences...or so I thought.

If you have kids who like sweets, this is the treat for them. You'll notice the main ingredients are sugar and sugar. This favorite Auntie just needs a couple of her kids to help eat these!

And for us adults, the most important ingredient of them all...vino! To assist in the baking process.

So I get started, whipping the egg whites, when I realize that I should probably read allllll the way through the recipe.

Which was a good move on my part. I found out that I needed to have cookie sheets ready (since I can't find any it becomes tinfoil wrapped around the oven shelf), a pre-heated oven, and certain ingredients mixed together. Just little things like more sip of this delicious Bordeaux!

I also discovered that it was hard being the cook, photographer and model all roled into one. Yes, every-so-often I make one of those typical photography mistakes. Adds to the funniness of me juggling all of this!

Because there wasn't a pastry bag to pipe the cookie dough onto the sheet, I start looking for a gallon bag that I could rig to work. In doing so, I discovered why Lucy and I hit it off....she is the Queen of throwing parties! No gallon bags, but plenty of crazy bags that make ice cubes of all sizes with whatever ingredients you put into them. You should have seen me trying to read the directions (in French) and figure out these jokers!

With everything now prepped and ready, an oven heating up, another sip of vino and I was ready to start again. One of the most important utensils for making all of this old-fashioned hand mixer.

Then the almond meal and confectioner sugar mixture went in. Here's the tricky part...I couldn't find any measuring cups...I made my guestimate of what 2/3 of a cup of almond meal and 1 and a half cups of confectioner sugar looked like. Think I went a bit to heavy on the sugar!

I just had to taste to see how it was coming together...

Then it was time to give this impromptu pastry bag to the test.

Only one slight mishap with the coming out of the intended spot along with some out of the top when I squeezed too hard. Just gives me an excuse to stop lick my fingers and take another much needed break (and toast), so far my foray into the baking world was happening without a hitch. It has been a good three years or so since I've attempted this!

A little breather while I put the first batch in the oven. And once again, one of those "read the directions" have to let them sit for 15 minutes and harden up before you put them in the oven. Dumb me reached in and grabbed the hot tray with a wet towel...not smart! I screamed, hastily slid the tray back in and in the process watched the little cookies sink. Ah, to have the talents of Julia Child!

First batch wasn't bad. Now time for the second batch.

Not exactly like those treats that I got from the famous bakery in St. Emilion. I'm just going to have to keep practicing! A gluten-free cookie...there's no way I'm going to give up on this one!

Do you want to give it a try yourself? It would have probably helped for me to actually have all the necessary utensils. The first recipe is the one that I attempted, it was too heavy on the confectioners sugar and needed more almond meal. The second recipe is from Martha Stewart. Every recipe I've ever tried of hers has come out perfectly. Think I'll be trying that one next!

2/3 cup almond meal or ground almonds
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 large egg whites at room temperature and preferably aged up to 3 days
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 280º and position two racks in the lower section of the oven. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. If you have time, draw 1-inch circles on the back of each sheet, spacing the circles at least 1/2-inch apart.

If your almond meal is very coarse, grind it with the powdered sugar in a food processor until fine. Sift the almond meal-powdered sugar mixture twice through a mesh sieve.

Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a hand mixer) and begin to beat on medium-high. When the eggs are frothy, gradually add granulated sugar one tablespoon at a time until fully incorporated. Continue to beat the egg white mixture until glossy and stiff peaks form when you lift the beaters. Gently stir in the vanilla extract. Be careful to not overbeat the meringue (e.g., the meringue takes on a clumpy texture).

Add half of the sifted almond mixture and gently fold it into the meringue using a flexible silicone spatula. Lift from the bottom, up around the sides, and toward the middle, being careful to not overagitate the meringue and lose too much air. Once the almond mixture is predominantly incorporated, add the second half and repeat the folding motion.

When the almond mixture is just incorporated, you will need to transform the batter into the appropriate texture. Using the flat of the spatula, "punch" down into the center of the batter, then scrape more batter from the sides to the center, and punch again. You will need to repeat this 10-15 times (or more, depending on your arm strength and the beginning texture of your batter) until the batter slowly and continuously drips back into the bowl when you scoop it up with the spatula. Think of the consistency of molten lava. For the best results, punch the batter a few times, check the consistency, then punch a few more times, etc. Do not make the batter too runny or the macarons won't rise as they should, and you could end up with oil stains on the surface.

Pour batter into a pastry bag fitted with a 0.4-inch tip. In a pinch, you can also use a gallon size Ziploc bag: just snip a teeny bit from one of the bottom corners. Twist and clip the top of the bag to avoid overflow. On your prepared baking sheets, pipe out 1-inch rounds in the circles you drew (remember to draw the circles on the back side of your parchment to avoid ink or pencil stains on your macarons!).
Holding the baking sheet in both hands, rap each baking sheet firmly on the counter two or three times. This smooths out the tops and helps form the "pied" or frilly foot on the bottoms of the macarons.

Allow the piped macarons to dry, uncovered, for at least 15 minutes. The macarons should form a very thin, smooth crust where, if you tap it lightly with your finger, the batter will not stick to your finger. If after 15 minutes, the batter is still sticky, let it dry longer. This may take up to an hour on humid days.

Place both baking sheets in the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes. After the first 2 minutes, open the oven to allow any excess humidity to escape. Halfway through, swap oven racks and rotate the sheets for even baking. The macarons are done when they are baked all the way through and the shells are just hard. Take care to not underbake (insides will still be mushy) or overbake (tops will begin to brown). Remove them from the oven, and cool on baking sheet placed on a wire rack.

The assembled macarons can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Martha Stewart’s recipe for Macaroons

1 cup confectioners' sugar
3/4 cup almond flour
2 large egg whites, room temperature
Pinch of cream of tartar
1/4 cup superfine sugar

Pulse confectioners' sugar and almond flour in a food processor until combined. Sift mixture 2 times.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk whites with a mixer on medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and whisk until soft peaks form. Reduce speed to low, then add superfine sugar. Increase speed to high, and whisk until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes. Sift flour mixture over whites, and fold until mixture is smooth and shiny.

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip, and pipe 3/4-inch rounds 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets, dragging pastry tip to the side of rounds rather than forming peaks. Tap bottom of each sheet on work surface to release trapped air. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake 1 sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until macarons are crisp and firm, about 10 minutes. After each batch, increase oven temperature to 375 degrees, heat for 5 minutes, then reduce to 325 degrees.

Let macarons cool on sheets for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. (If macarons stick, spray water underneath parchment on hot sheet. The steam will help release macarons.)

Serve immediately, or stack between layers of parchment, wrap in plastic, and freeze for up to 3 months.

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copyright 2011-2017 Loxley Browne

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