Happy almost Easter! I'm looking forward to Isabelle's first Easter egg hunt, since she was too little last year to go hunting for eggs. She's still too little for Easter candy, fortunately: hopefully when she's older and finds out I kept all the chocolate bunnies and jellybeans from her she won't hold it against me! So since we're not stocking our place with Easter candy yet, what sweets to have for the holiday? What about macarons?
I got an invitation from Sucré, a bakery in New Orleans, to sample their famous macarons and make my own spin on them. I never say no to macarons so I thought this would be a fun challenge. With Easter on my mind, it was no surprise that after sifting through several options I ended up being inspired by Easter candy: specifically, Peeps.
Yes, Peeps, those Easter basket mainstays. It seems almost wrong walking down the Easter candy aisle without sighting those little neon-sugared marshmallow bunnies and chicks. When I was little I was confounded by how they managed to make a marshmallow that didn't have the outer skin, but a coating of sugar sprinkles. Eventually I figured out that they weren't true marshmallows but marshmallow creme, and, even better, that I could make it myself. Homemade peeps? It's in my book, by the way .
So when I pondering macaron possibilities I suddenly realized that I could fill them with marshmallow creme - Easter dessert found!
While you can use store-bought marshmallow creme or fluff, or maybe even sandwich a Peep between macaron shells (Peep-a-rons, perhaps?) I strongly suggest making your own marshmallow creme since it's really simple, and it's really good.
Also, fun fact: making marshmallow fluff is essentially the same as making Italian meringue macarons! They both use the Italian meringue method, which involves cooking a hot sugar syrup and pouring it into whipped egg whites. I love discovering how pastry recipes are tied together by the same universal threads. If you learn one technique, you've unlocked a whole trove of recipes. So if you make this recipe with Italian meringue macarons, you'll get to see how Italian meringue is used in two different ways. One: add a little corn syrup to the mixture and it turns into gooey swirls of marshmallow creme. Two: fold it into some ground almonds and confectioners' sugar, and it bakes up into delicate, crisp, chewy-on-the-inside macarons. How magical is pastry?
Of course, you can also make them with Chef Tariq's recipe as given below. The French meringue style is the first way I learned to make macarons; advantages are it's fast and simple. It's not quite as foolproof for me as Italian meringue - I feel it's more susceptible to differences in variations in temperature, humidity and technique, but I know it works for many people and if it works for you, great! Macarons are as individual as people: you find the recipe and the technique that works for you, and stick with it!
By Tariq Hanna, executive chef at Sucré, A Sweet Boutique, in New Orleans
Makes 12 to 24 cookies, depending on size
1 cup almond flour and powdered sugar - sifted
½ cup plus 1 ¾ tablespoons sugar
½ cup egg whites
food color as desired
1 cup fresh buttercream
2 sticks fresh butter
½ cup heavy cream
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tbs vanilla
Preheat oven to 290 degrees. Sieve together almond flour/sugar mixture and ½ cup
sugar. Set aside. Whisk egg whites and food color together with 1 ¾ tablespoons sugar on medium speed until very stiff. Fold dry ingredients into egg white mixture. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a plain nozzle. Pipe small disks on a baking sheet lined
with parchment paper. Bake 10 - 15 minutes. (best with door closed for the first 4 minutes and open for the remaining 10. If the cookies are too dry reduce cooking time.) Remove from oven, and cool.
Bring butter and cream to room temperature.
Cream butter till smooth, add cream, and vanilla, mix till smooth and homogenous.
Add sifted powder sugar and mix till smooth.Whisk buttercream, and transfer to a pastry bag.
Swirl a thin layer of filling onto the bottom of a cooled cookie, and top with another cookie.
The Italian meringue method seems more complicated, but once you've done it a few times it hardly takes any extra time. And the consistent results make it worth the few extra steps for me. After piping the meringue into the macarons, I dusted them with sparkling sugar, just like Peeps. The crunch of the sugar along with the sticky gooeyness of the marshmallow creme is totally reminiscent of the candy, but better. It works amazingly well as a macaron filling - I'm surprised I didn't think of it sooner.
If you like these macarons, consider voting on it at Sucre's site. Here are the other participants in the challenge:
Happy Easter to all!
- 200g almond meal or ground blanched almonds
- 200g confectioners’ sugar
- 200g sugar
- 50g water
- 150g egg whites, divided into two 75g portions
- 3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) water
- pinch of salt
- 2 large egg whites
- 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the macarons
- Stack two baking trays on top of each other. Line with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
- Process almond meal with confectioners’ sugar in a food processor. Sieve out any large bits of almond.
- Combine sugar and water in a saucepan. Heat on medium until all the sugar is dissolved.
- Meanwhile, place 75g of egg whites in a mixer bowl with the whisk attachment.
- Continue cooking until the sugar syrup reaches 118 C/245 F. While the sugar is cooking, begin whisking the egg whites. They should reach stiff peaks by the time the syrup is at 245 F. If it whips too fast, turn down or turn off the mixer.
- Turn the mixer speed to low. Carefully pour the sugar syrup in a slow stream into the mixer.
- Turn the mixer speed to high and let the meringue for several minutes until it has cooled and appears glossy and firm.
- In a large bowl, combine the almond meal mixture with the remaining 75g of egg whites until partially combined.
- Scoop the meringue on top of the almond meal mixture. Using a spatula or dough scraper, carefully fold the meringue in, trying not to deflate it. The final batter should be thick and flow slowly like magma. Do not overmix.
- Scoop the batter into a piping bag fitted with a ½” diameter plain tip. Pipe 1 ½” rounds of batter onto the prepared baking sheets. Let the sheets sit for about 20 minutes to let the shells harden.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 160 C/320 F.
- Bake one set of macarons for 15 minutes, rotating once. Let tray cool for a few minutes before removing from the silicone mat. Let finish cooling on wire racks.
For the marshmallow creme
- Combine sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue cooking until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F.
- While the sugar is cooking, place egg whites and cream of tartar in bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip egg whites just to soft peaks. If the sugar mixture has not reached 240 degrees F yet, turn off the mixer.
- With the mixer running on high, pour the sugar mixture in a steady stream down the side of the bowl into the egg whites. Whip on high speed for several minutes until meringue becomes stiff and glossy.
- Add vanilla and whip to combine.
- Scrape marshmallow creme into a container. It can be used right away or refrigerated.
- Fill a piping bag fitted with a 1/4" round tip with the marshmallow creme. Pipe a swirl of marshmallow creme on half of the macarons. Top with the remaining macarons.