Monday, February 25, 2013

Lemon Macarons

I'm not sure why the bad luck with lemon macarons, but I've ruined more batches of them than any other variety. I'm starting to really hate the lemon ones. First time I made them, I used a recipe I found that added a little bit of lemon juice and rind to the shell batter. It was a flop, as were a few other attempts, even when I only added the yellow food coloring and nothing else.

I decided to attempt it again tonight, as I had to get some lemon ones to go with my blackberry ones. I'm giving them as a "thank you" from our middle school band, whose colors are blue and yellow.

Once again, the first batch was a disaster. I realized the problem I was having, at least tonight, was with humidity. Macarons hate humidity, which may end my current love affair, at least until next fall. Not only did the air feel humid today, the almond flour was one I was using was an opened bag that had been in the cupboard for a week and absorbed some of the humidity, which made it a little too wet. The second batch worked well enough, but still not as pretty as all the other varieties have turned out. Luckily, I at least have enough to complete my gift bags and the kids love eating the cookie shells that just didn't make the cut!

Lemon Macarons

2/3 c. almond flour (sometimes called meal)
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
3 egg whites
5 T. granulated sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
yellow food coloring

Heat oven to 280 degrees and place the racks on the two lowest positions. Cut pieces of parchment paper to fit two cookie sheets perfectly and then make 1-inch circles all over the papers, leaving at least 1/2-inch of space in between circles. With practice, you will be able to skip this step and pipe your macarons without the circles, while maintaining a fairly consistent size of circles. Also, silpat baking sheets are so much easier than parchment, if you want to make the investment.

Whisk the almond flour and powdered sugar together and set aside.

Place egg whites in the bowl of a mixer and start to mix on med-high. When they start to get frothy, add sugar, 1 T. at a time. Continue to beat until glossy, stiff peaks appear. To test it, pick up the whisk and if the egg whites peak and the top doesn't fall, they are ready. If it falls down, keep mixing. Make sure you don't over mix (it will become clumpy).

Transfer egg whites to a large bowl. Add half of the dry mixture and fold it about a dozen times until just mixed. Fold with a spatula, going up the sides, pushing down the center. Finish mixing the rest of the dry ingredients, being careful to fold and not stir. When you lift your spatula, the mixture should pour off like thick molten lava. If it's not flowing when you lift the spatula, it is too thick and needs more mixing.

Use a piping bag (ziplock bag with the tip cut does not work) with a large round tip. Place it in a large cup and fold over the sides. Pour in half of the mixture and twist the top. Start piping the batter into the circles. The best way to do it is hold just over the pan (not touching) and let the batter come out until the circle is perfectly filled. Then quickly turn your wrist as you lift the tip to try and not leave a tail. Once the first pan is filled, hold the pan with both hands and tap hard on the counter 3 times. Turn the pan so your hands are on the opposite ends and tap again 3 times (helps get any air pockets out and flattens the cookies). Continue until both pans are filled and the rest of the batter is used up. Let them sit on the counter for at least 15 minutes, or until the tops are no longer wet when you touch them.

Place the cookie sheets on the two bottom oven racks. You will have to experiment with the cooking times, but this is what worked for me. Set the timer for 2 minutes and when it rings, open the door to let any humidity escape. Then set the timer for 6 minutes. Once the time is up, change the pans so that the top one is now on the bottom, as well as turn around so the back of the pan is now in the front. Bake for 7 more minutes. To test the doneness, carefully lift the cookie off the sheet. If it comes off the parchment easily, they are done. If the cookie separates in half, bake one more minute, and so on. Cool the macaroons completely before filling with the lemon curd.

Lemon Curd Filling

4 lg. egg yolks
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 lemon, finely grated zest from

Prepare an ice water bath; set aside. Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a medium heatproof bowl. Add the lemon juice, butter and lemon zest. Place over a pan of simmering water and cook, whisking occasionally, until thick, about 15 minutes. Transfer bowl to ice water bath and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cool. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd. Transfer to refrigerator until completely cold, at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

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