Macarons: My new favourite use for egg whites

As a predominantly savoury-kitchen cook, I don’t follow pastry trends closely – I pretty much completely missed the cupcake trend, for example – but more and more, I’ve been seeing rows of lovely, pastel-coloured French macarons in local bakeries lately. I know they’ve been trendy for several years in other cities, but trends are often late making their way to Canada.

Truth be told, I much prefer macarons to cupcakes, which may be why I decided I needed to learn how to make them. That and the fact that they’re a good way to use up egg whites, which I have a large supply of in my freezer, due to an undying love of all things custardy. Their almond flour content and indulgent fillings put them miles ahead of their meringue cousins, and their individual size makes them more manageable to eat than a dacquoise.

Macarons (not to be confused with macaroons, though the latter term is sometimes applied to both) are notoriously difficult to perfect, which may explain why they’re so expensive. To my mind, a good macaron should be crisp but not dry, chewy but not overly moist, airy but not hollow, rounded but not puffy. The top should be smooth and the colour should be even. There should be a foot. Unique flavour combinations are nice, but not a must. One of the best macarons I’ve ever had was a candy cane macaron from Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner Center. (After having them, we made a special trip back for a second one. They’re that good.)

Of course, that doesn’t mean I have the slightest clue how to achieve any of those characteristics consistently. I’ve made two batches of macarons (plain, to minimize the variables I’m working with), using Francisco Migoya’s recipe in his book Frozen Desserts. No, a macaron is not itself a frozen dessert, but you can fill it with ice cream to make a very delicate ice cream sandwich!

The first time, I know I overwhipped the egg whites, and probably overmixed the batter, resulting in macarons that were overly flat. I was more watchful with the second batch, which turned out much better, but they had bubbles on the surface and were unevenly coloured. Still, they were more than good enough to share with guests, and their gooey dulce de leche filling made up for any visual imperfections.

Macarons: delicious or precious?

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