Since meeting the excellent folks from White Lion Baking Company, I have been experimenting more with almond flour. This flour is high in protein and has a low glycemic index. It’s a great way to add some protein into your diet. I also like that almond flour produces a beautiful, light batter with no weird aftertaste.
The first thing I think of when I think of almond flour is French macaroons. I had my first French macaroon in London. The firm I worked at occasionally ordered macaroons from Paul Patisserie for afternoon meetings. Since I worked nights, I got to sample a lot of left over pastries. Every time I found macaroons in the kitchen, I housed those things. I loved the delicate crunch of the cookie and the flavors; just hints of pistachio or chocolate or vanilla.
When I finally made my way to Paris, I was enchanted by their presentation: rows of drool-worthy rainbows of cookies lining the windows of just about every patisserie.
However, making macaroons has been a less enchanting experience. The list of ingredients is short, but the list of things that can go wrong is pretty much endless. I have been a little afraid of making my own since my first two attempts came out mediocre: they were either dry or overly toothsome without the pretty little “feet” typical of the ones made by the pros.
Two things were critical in overcoming these barriers: the first is this helpful article by Helen Dujardin aptly entitled Demystifying Macaroons, and the second was reading Elena Amsterdam’s the Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook and learning about the importance of the brands of almond flour. I had been using Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal Flour, readily available at my local Whole Foods, but this coarser grind almond flour does is a bit heavy for a delicate recipe like this. I bought Honeyville Farm’s almond flour online (recommended by Amsterdam) and have been pleased with the results.
Be sure to keep almond flour in the fridge to avoid spoilage, especially on those odd days it is actually warm and humid this summer. Nut flours are prone to molding.
Despite the expert opinions I had read, my first batch of egg whites fell flat and didn’t whip into stiff peaks. I got to soft peaks, but after 20 minutes with the mixer I had to admit defeat and tossed the marshmallow-y mix into ramekins and baked at 325 for 20 minutes. They made nice little angel food-like cakes, which I served with fresh fruit for dessert.
The second time around, I managed to get the stiff peaks I was looking for. I can’t really account for how or why I was able to get it right the second time around, but I do know that it is worth trying again rather than moving forward with so-so egg meringues.
4 extra large egg whites
dash of salt
¼ tsp cream of tartar
zest of one lemon
4-5 drops yellow food coloring
½ cup extra fine sugar
1 ½ cups almond flour
1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
2 tsp lemon curd
½ cup mascarpone cheese
2 T Greek yogurt
2 T confectioner’s sugar
Makes about 28-32 macaroons, depending on how large you pipe out the rounds
1. Separate the eggs while cold. Allow the whites to sit out on the counter and come to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Instead of tossing the yolks, try reserving them for fresh lemon curd. Line 4 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Pulse the almond flour and confectioner’s sugar together until well blended, about 15-30 seconds. I neglected to sift my flour mix. That was a mistake, so make sure you sift this mix! My batter came out a bit lumpy.
3. When the egg whites are at room temperature, put them in a mixing bowl and starting on low speed, start to beat the egg whites. Add the dash of salt and the cream of tartar. After about 30 seconds, move the mixer speed to medium, mix for another minute or two, until the egg whites start to turn white and foamy. Turn the mixer speed up to high.
4. When the eggs look like melted marshmallows, starting add the superfine sugar, very slowly. I try to add about a teaspoon at a time, allowing each addition a few seconds to become incorporated. The meringue should whip into stiff peaks. This video is a fantastic guide to making meringue.
5. Add the lemon zest and the food coloring. Mix until incorporated.
6. Folding in by hand with a spatula, gently fold in the almond flour mixture in thirds. Try not to over mix; sifting the flour will make this easier.
7. Using a pastry bag, pipe little circles (about 1-1 ½ inches in diameter) onto the lined baking sheets. I start by piping in a circle from the center. The macaroons will look a little flat. That is normal.
8. Tap the baking sheets on the counter firmly. Go ahead: give them a good whack. It releases air bubbles and helps the cookies to rise.
9. Preheat the oven to 325°F / 160°C. Allow the cookies to stand on the counter 30 minutes.
10. Bake for 10-15 minutes. The macaroons should puff up and have those little “feet” that Dujardin writes about. They should just start to brown a little around the bottom edges.
11. Allow to stand for about 10 minutes. Carefully remove from baking sheets and transfer to a cooling rack.
12. Make the filling by combining all the ingredients and stirring together. At least the filling is easy!
13. When the cookies are completely cool, spread a little of the filling on the cookies and sandwich together. If you want a little extra lemon zing, spread a little additional lemon curd directly onto the cookies.
I suggest you store these in an airtight container separated by layers of wax paper. They should keep in a cool place for 3-4 days.