Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tea Scented Macarons with Lemon Cream

This is the post that almost wasn't.  I tried and failed the first time.  Yes, that does happen, even to someone as experienced in the kitchen as me.  I should have taken a few pictures of the mess that resulted on my baking sheets, but I was so irritated with myself that I just stuck the baking sheets in my sink and walked away.  But, as I used to say back in my teaching days, you learn as much, if not more, from your failures as you do from your successes.  And perhaps I was just as motivated to try again by the look of disappointment of my 4-year old sous chef's face when he earned that I had to throw out all of the cookies he had helped me make.  Boy, does that kid know how to get to me.
Here's the other thing that kept me trying- I knew something was wrong with that first batch and I didn't listen to my instincts.  Instead I just crossed my fingers and hoped that the macarons would turn out okay.  But if you had asked me to be truly honest, I knew they wouldn't.  And of course, I was right.  Instead of cute little cookies with the characteristic smooth tops and "feet" at the bottom, I ended up with a soupy mess coating my silicone baking mats.  There was too much egg white and I knew it right from the start.  It took me another week and a half to work up the courage to try again.  But I couldn't let it go.  It was at the back of my mind nagging at me the whole time.
Attempt number two was much more successful.  There were a few cracks and smooshed bottoms (I think I should have let them bake for another minute or two), but over all I was delighted with the result of my macaron experiment.  The inspiration came from one of my favorite drinks- the Arnold Palmer- and a more than giant lemon macaron that I actually had to cut into three pieces and share because there was no way I could eat it all by myself....okay, I totally could have eaten it but it wouldn't have been wise....

I had meant to submit these macarons for Love & Olive Oil's April kitchen challenge but after my initial failure I just couldn't get my act together on time.  No matter, I'm still glad I tried again.  And so is that little sous chef of mine, his sad face wiped away by the many macarons he swiped while I was getting together the materials to photograph them.  It's a good things he's cute.
Tea Scented Macarons with Lemon Cream
Makes enough for about 2 dozen 2 inch sandwiched macarons.  Recipes adapted from Les Petit Macarons, by Kathryn Gordon and Anne E. McBride  and Food and Wine Magazine.
For the printable recipe, click here.

I've made macarons before- there's even a recipe for chocolate macarons posted on this site.  So I'm not a stranger to them.  I thought I would try a different method this time around.  Bad idea.  After my initial failed attempt to use a "quick method" of making macarons, I thought I would do much better with a more traditional recipe.  And I was right.  I made these macarons using the French meringue method and I was happy with both the ease with which they came together and the resulting cookies.  One trick is to age the eggs.  I left mine on the counter in a bowl while I made the lemon curd and waited it for it to cool.

I used my absolute favorite tea in the world for these macarons because I had just enough left in the bottom of my tin to make the cookies but not enough to make a cup of tea.  It's a black tea called Marco Polo from France.  I think Earl Grey would be a wonderful substitute for the more expensive tea.  The lemon creme is a combination of two recipes and requires an extra step beyond making traditional lemon curd, but I think beating in the almond paste helped tame some of the tartness of the lemon.  Trust me, it's still plenty lemony.

For the Lemon Cream:

5 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 tsp lemon zest
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs honey
4 tbs butter, but into small pieces
4 oz. almond paste (not marzipan)

In a medium heavy bottomed pan, whisk together the egg yolks, egg, lemon zest, lemon juice and honey.  Cook this mixture over medium low heat, whisking constantly, until it is thickened and glossy.  Remove from the heat and stir in the butter.  Place the lemon curd in a bowl and cover the surface directly with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate until cool, at least three hours.

To finish the cream, place the almond paste in the bowl in of a mixer and beat until it is crumbled.  Add 1 cup of the cooled lemon curd to the mixer slowly and beat until combined.  Refrigerate until needed, up to one week.

For the Tea Scented Macarons:
1 1/4 cups almond flour
3/4 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp ground Earl Grey tea (use a mortar and pestle, spice grinder or small food processor to grind it very finely)
1 tbs powdered egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup egg whites (from 4 eggs- crack the eggs, quickly beat with a fork to break up the whites and then measure)
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment or a silicone baking sheets.

Place the almond flour, powdered sugar and tea in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse the mixture several times to blend and grind the almonds very finely.  Pour the almond mixture into a fine-meshed sieve and sift onto a sheet of waxed paper.

In the bowl of a mixer, quickly whisk together the powdered egg whites and sugar.  Add the egg whites and cream or tartar and whisk until thoroughly combined.  Turn on the mixer and, using the whip attachment, whip the egg whites until they are thick, glossy and form stiff peaks.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and quickly fold in the almond mixture until fully incorporated.  Fill a pastry bag fitted with a half inch tip or a half inch hole cut in the tip with the macaron batter.  Pipe the batter onto the prepared baking sheets into half dollar sized mounds about 1 1/2 inches apart.  To remove any "tails" from the piping and any air bubbles, slam the baking sheets on the counter at least three times and up to six.

Bake the macarons for 15 minutes, then raise the heat to 350 degrees and continue baking the shells for 9 more minutes until the foot and edge of the cookie are firm and the shells just come off the parchment.  Slide the parchment onto a cooling rack and cool the macarons completely.

To fill, turn half of the macarons with the flat side up and pipe or spoon the lemon cream about 1/2 inch high and leaving a 1/4 edge around the cream.  Gently press another cookie on the top, flat side down.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

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