A different shade of macaron (recipe)

Macaroons with Tomato and Olive Ganache

Adapted from Larousse Gastronomique

Makes about 25 macarons

Equipment you might not have hanging out in your kitchen:

Pastry bag

#8 (3/8-inch opening) and #10 (1/4-inch opening) pastry tips

Parchment paper

Candy thermometer

For the cookies:

8 ounces granulated sugar

3 1/2 ounces water

5 egg whites beaten to stiff peaks

2 egg whites

8 ounces ground almonds

1 ounce confectioners sugar

Optional: food coloring

For the ganache:

2 1/4 cups whipping cream

3.5 ounces inverted sugar syrup

1 3/4 pounds (28 ounces) chocolate, chopped (or "almond bark" chocolate found in baking aisle)

5 ounces black olives, pureed

5 ounces sun dried tomatoes, pureed

1. Preheat your oven to 275°F. Combine the granulated sugar and water into a pan and bring to a boil.

2. Using your candy thermometer, meticulously monitor the temperature of this mixture and pull it off the heat as soon as it reaches 241°F (you’ve got until 244°F until it’s too hard, so be careful!). Immediately pour this boiling lava liquid onto the 5 egg whites you’ve beaten stiffly. Continue to gleefully whisk the two together until the mixture is thoroughly cold.

4. In a separate bowl, mix the ground almonds, confectioner’s sugar and remaining 2 egg whites until you have a smooth, even paste in your bowl. Add the food coloring at this point if using.

5. Take this batter and carefully fill your pastry bag fitted with the no.10 nozzle. Pipe into silver dollar size discs on a sheet of parchment paper. Let these guys hang out, uncovered for 45 minutes in order to let the surface dry out and form a delicate crust. Now they’re ready for your toasty oven, where they need to bake for 12 to 15 minutes. When done, remove from your oven and let them cool. Now, make the ganache!

6. Bring the cream and syrup to a boil and immediately remove from heat.

7. Add the couverture chocolate and stir with a wooden spoon until it is thoroughly incorporated and is a smooth ganache. Strain the excess oil from the purees and combine with the ganache.

8. Pipe ganache onto one macaron using the no. 8 nozzle and top with another macaron. Let them cool so the ganache will harden a bit before enjoying.

Image: Claudia Dunitz via Wikimedia Commons.

When I was growing up, my mom always went crazy when baking cookies for the holidays. She baked the same ones every year, and it was something my sister and I always looked forward to. The exception: her macaroons. My sister and I complained so much that she finally stopped making them. These pastry nightmares were the size of a bloated golf ball and the edges of the coconut that made up 90% of its ingredients were browned, just shy of being burned. Sometimes she would top the mess with a maraschino cherry slice. I really do like coconut, and I truly love my mother, but these were just offensive.

Fast forward to the present where I have just opened a fresh box of Paulette macarons. Like magically puffy, pastel shaded Oreos, these classic French wonders melt in my mouth. Paulette bakery ships their fresh treats daily from Beverly Hills, but the origin of the recipe is heavily debated. According to the Larousse Gastronomique encyclopedia of gastronomy, Renaissance era Italy can claim creative rights to the macaron, however, some insist that a recipe from an 8th century monastery is the original. Regardless, macarons are the same no matter which country you’re in (except for in my mother’s kitchen). The basic recipe for macarons includes almonds, sugar and egg whites, modern adaptations include flavorings like coffee, pistachio, and cassis. My mother’s infamous macaroons are a variation of the original recipe (no matter how far they strayed from the classic) and coconut macaroons continue to plague most American memory banks. The colorful, almond-based macarons are an entirely different pleasure.

If you’re like me (a complete klutz in the pastry kitchen), you can order Paulette’s decadent treats online, or head to Sarasota and feast at Le Macaron. If, however, you’re adventurous and up to the task, arm yourself with a pastry bag and get to work!

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