Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Laduree, Paris - Macaroon History & Recipe

Because I love all things French (and simply because I've been hunting down the best macaroon in Hawaii and the mainland) I thought I'd dedicate one post to my favorite macaroon place of all time: Laduree in Paris, France.  (See their enchanting website here.)

The macaroon cookie was said to have been first created by two French sisters in 1792.  A ganache filling was added 108 years later and this concoction has remained a French staple ever since.  It's presence and trend in the U.S. is a little surprising to me as Americans don't typically have tastebuds for the small, for the textured, for the flavorful. (Juicy hamburgers, bursting hot dogs, and greasy fries are what seem to tantalize the American tongue.) 

Laduree is the most famous and popular macaroon establishment in France, if not the world. Ernest Louis Laduree opened his first bakery in 1862 for the delight of his wife who dreamed for a place outside the home for women to gather for afternoon tea.  With this entrepreneurial vision in mind, Laduree became France's first tea parlour, catering mostly to the city's bourgeois class. Laduree now has chains set in different European countries, and the growing macaroon trend in the U.S. may just put Laduree on the map of American minds.

After introducing macaroons to my dad, the adventurous chef, he toyed with the idea of baking his own macaroons.  This would be quite a task as these delicate cookies are even too challenging for me to try. Yet for the bold and curious, here is a macaroon recipe from Laduree:

Macaroon Cookie:

2 cups confectioner’s sugar (480g)
1 cup plus 3-1/2 tablespoons ground almonds (280g)
7 egg whites
A few drops of flavoured food coloring, such as red raspberry

1. Preheat the oven to 355°F (180°C). Line two baking trays with parchment paper.
2. If using whole almonds, pulse in a food processor until very finely ground, 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Add the confectioner’s sugar and process to a fine powder. Sift to remove any lumps.
4. Beat the egg whites in bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed, adding the food coloring as you go until you reach the desired shade. Then increase speed to high and continue to beat until the whites just hold stiff, glossy peaks.
5. Quickly and carefully add the almond-sugar powder. (Meringue will deflate.)
6. With a wooden spoon, mix from the center of the bowl outwards, turning the bowl as you go. You want to achieve a smooth, lightly colored mixture.
7. Spoon batter into a piping bag with a 1/4-inch round tip. If you don’t have a piping bag, use a plastic freezer bag, pressing out excess air. Snip off one corner to create a 1/4-inch opening. Pipe inch-wide macaroons onto the baking trays, about 1-1/2 inches apart. You should have peaked mounds of batter, about the size of a chocolate kiss.
8. Cook for eight to nine minutes, leaving the door of the oven slightly ajar.
9. Remove the macaroons from the oven. Pour a little water between the baking tray and the parchment paper; this makes the macaroons easier to lift off when they have cooled. Cool completely on racks, about 30 minutes.
10. Carefully peel macaroons from parchment; they are fragile. Sandwich a thin layer of fillings between two macaroons—ganache, marmalade, jam or whipped cream. The two bottoms face the filling.
11. If you can, leave the finished macaroons in the refrigerator for 24 hours. This allows the flavors and texture to develop and intensify.
12. Whipped cream macaroons must be stored in the refrigerator; others can be kept in airtight tins at room temperature for up to three days after production.

Chocolate Raspberry Ganache
3 ounces quality bittersweet chocolate (buy a 70% cacao chocolate bar), finely chopped
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1/16 teaspoon quality raspberry extract

1. Melt chocolate with cream in the top of a double boiler, stirring until smooth. If you don’t have a double boiler, use a metal bowl set over a pot of barely simmering water. The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water.
2. When the chocolate is melted into the cream, remove bowl from heat. Add the butter and raspberry extract, stirring until butter is melted.
3. Let stand at room temperature until cooled completely and slightly thickened.

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