Let’s ring in the new year with macarons

Considering we’re on the brink of a brand new year, I should probably write about New Year’s traditions, resolutions and blackeye peas… but I’ve done all that before, and quite frankly, this year is not one that has held fast to our regular traditions. If you want my favorite blackeye pea recipe, email me and I’ll be happy to share.

But to bring 2020 to a close, I’m going to write about cookies again. I said I was going to wrap up 2020 with cookies and sweets, and so here we are. Mainly because I just received a fantastic recipe for a favorite cookie that I can’t wait to try, and it will be the first thing I bake in the year 2021. The lovely little French Macarons.

These are not to be confused with macaroons, even though the French word for “macaroon” is “macaron”. While both confections are up at the top of my list, they couldn’t be more different from each other. A macaron (pronounced mack-a-ROHN) is made up of two round, flat, almond-flour-based cookies sandwiching a soft filling, like ganache or jam.

A macaroon (pronounced mack-a-ROON) is a mounded cookie made with shredded coconut and often dipped in chocolate. I’ve shared my best coconut macaroon recipe here before, and I never tire of them.

I’m not one to ever let a trip to Trader Joe’s happen without buying at least one box of their delicious macarons. The last time we were shopping at Trader Joe’s was in San Antonio, a mere 6 hours from home. I nearly swooned as I pulled two different boxes of the lovelies from the freezer section and added them to our cart.

I ate the entire box of chocolate and vanilla macarons, more servings than I care to verify because I ate them all without sharing them, before we even made it to Sonora. I have a true weakness for the lovely little French cookie that is normally gone in two bites.

They kept them in the freezer section at the store, so surely that meant that I needed to eat them before they got too warm in the car, right? Not really. They are best served room temperature. Gluten-free, made with almond flour, my gluttony was nearly guilt-free. I didn’t even take a picture of the cookies before they were gone. I did manage to keep a box of the colorful macarons in the ice chest, and they made it home safely. That was only because I couldn’t get to the ice chest.

(Please focus only on the delightful macaron – pay no attention to my dry fingers or terrible manicure. Just the cookies, y’all. Just look at the cookies… )

I bought a macaron baking set a couple years ago and haven’t used it yet, although this new recipe has  me chomping at the bit to make the delicate, little round cookies and fill them with jam. The baking set has a silicone mat that has circles printed on it that show how much batter to provide for each cookie. It also comes with a neat little piping bag for perfect macarons every try. Macarons need dry weather and low humidity to set, and that’s essentially what our West Texas weather is on a daily basis.

My new year’s resolution is going to be to bake the perfect macarons. Is that a resolution? Sure, why not? Sounds good to me! Let’s just eat some blackeye peas, however you like to eat them, and keep those resolutions simple and enjoyable. And everything will be more enjoyable with macarons.

Easiest Macarons

FOR THE MACARONS
3 egg whites, room temperature
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup finely ground almond flour
1 to 2 drops food coloring of your choice

FILLING
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons whole milk

Step 1: Prepare the Macarons: Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Beat egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, until loose peaks form. Gradually add granulated sugar, and beat until sugar is dissolved and stiff peaks form.

Step 2: Sift powdered sugar and almond flour through a fine mesh strainer. Fold flour mixture into whipped egg whites. Add food coloring until desired color is reached.

Step 3: Transfer mixture to a ziplock plastic bag or piping bag with a rounded tip. Pipe 1-inch rounds onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and let stand in a dry place until rounds are dry to the touch, 1 to 2 hours.

Step 4: Preheat oven to 300°F. Bake in preheated oven until ruffled edges (also called “feet”) have formed and macarons are set and not jiggly, 10 to 12 minutes.

Step 5: Prepare the Filling: While macarons bake, beat together powdered sugar, butter, and milk with an electric mixer on medium until fully combined and smooth. Transfer filling to a piping bag.

Step 6: Remove macarons from oven, and let cool on baking sheet set on a wire drying rack for 15 minutes, then transfer macarons directly to wire rack and continue cooling. Pipe or spread Filling onto 1 macaron, and top with a similar size macaron. Serve immediately or store in an air-tight container up to 2 days.

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