I have a friend who, every so often, brings back delicious French macarons from one of her favorite bakeries in San Francisco. Turns out her least favorite flavors are some of my personal favorites (hazelnut and chocolate orange, to be exact), which means I usually end up with plenty of macarons of my own. They are perfectly chewy with just the right amount of sweetness, and eating a whole box is a relatively easy task.
Recently, I had a craving for macarons — not the bland American version with overbaked shredded coconut (called macaroons), but the French kind, with filling sandwiched between two chewy, melt-in-your-mouth cookies. I scoured the internet for recipes, but finally settled on one from an article in the April/May 2011 issue of Fine Cooking, from pastry chef Joanne Chang.
I think the original recipe, found here (along with a how-to video), is supposed to yield many cookies, with a much crisper texture than I ended up with. This was probably the result of the substitutions I made in the recipe (I used flour instead of almond flour, which definitely made the cookies much more cookie-like and doughy and less like meringues). However, they did end up chewier, which just made them more to my liking.
I made three types of macaron cookies: vanilla (I didn’t have vanilla bean, so I added extract to the basic recipe), cocoa, and lavender (I added crushed dried lavender blossoms and a syrup made from steeping the blossoms in a small amount of hot water and saturating it with sugar). I paired the vanilla with a chocolate-orange ganache filling (I just used orange extract and it was delicious), the lavender with basic chocolate ganache, and the cocoa with hazelnut-chocolate ganache (bad idea on my part, because the crushed roasted hazelnuts in the filling tasted terrible after a day or two).
The Fine Cooking recipe also gives instructions on other cookie variations (such as almond, sesame, cinnamon, and black pepper), as well as more filling options (lemon curd, rosemary-lemon curd, vanilla buttercream, and espresso buttercream), but it’s pretty easy to experiment and come up with your own flavor twists.