Two and a half years ago I was newly pregnant and standing in line at Pierre Herme, wondering why the shop was so small and why I decided to trek so far just to get pain au chocolate and cookies when it was early in the morning and I was hungry and pregnant, hello? But we were there because of my planning problem. Before we left the states I did an exhaustive search of the places I needed to visit while we were in Paris. And I found out about macarons.
I wasn’t really sure what they were – OK, I knew they were some sort of sweet meringue cookie with amazing flavors but this animal didn’t exist in Minneapolis. (French macarons are NOT what most Americans know as macaroons. No coconut was harmed in the making of these cookies.) All I knew was that there was some sort of macaron war with factions divided between Laduree and Pierre Herme, and that we needed to get a macaron, any macaron, stat.
To be completely honest, I don’t remember the exact taste of the macarons. We bought a good assortment of flavors and maybe because of the pregnancy all I could remember was SWEET. And that I don’t like things flavored like rose petals.
But I knew that I should like them, and when I saw the Daring Bakers’ challenge for this month I was ecstatic.
For my first batch, I used egg whites that were aged 5 days in the fridge (left over from my son’s birthday cake). Since I wanted to do multiple flavors, I divided the ingredients in half before mixing anything.
And for my first flavor I decided to do bacon.
Yeah, I know.
I was discussing flavors with my pastry friend* and my exact words were, “Also, this would be hilarious but also maybe disgusting.”
Bacon macarons with cream cheese and cheddar filling:
To add the bacon flavor, I cooked up a piece very crispy, got as much grease off as possible, and crumbled it into chunks. Then I tossed the chunks and 1/4 c of the almond flour into the processor to try and get the bits finer. That didn’t work so well, but I don’t know if it was the bacon or the fact my son kept giving me death looks for running the processor while Backyardigans was on.
I kept a close eye on the macarons while they were in the oven, and when they started growing feet I actually did a little dance in the kitchen. I was a bit worried based on other people’s experiences on the forums (and the fact I added fat to the meringue) but my batch turned out really well!
It’s hard to explain what they taste like. The flavor was not overly bacony, and in fact, when I get the chance to make them again I’ll use more bacon. They were still sweet with just a hint of savoryness. My friends liked them, so they couldn’t have been that bad.
For the second batch, I added 1 tsp of instant coffee to the meringue and filled the cookies with the chocolate buttercream I had left over from the birthday cake. These didn’t puff as much (I think I needed to beat the egg more) but they are quite tasty. A lot of the macarons I see have easily twice as much filling as these, but because macarons are so sweet to begin with, I think they don’t need a gob of filling.
I wanted to make more batches because I had a small notebook quickly filling up with macaron flavor ideas, but when I did my next batch it was a dismal failure.
Bubbly all over, no feet, and they stuck like crazy to the parchment. I’m letting you know about this to illustrate how temperamental macaronage can be. There was both success and failure on the DB forums and we all used the same recipe (to start with, at least). It was really interesting to read everyone’s experiences and hear tips from experienced macaron makers.
I am definitely going to be making macarons again. After all, I still have those flavor ideas to use!
*I should maybe note that my pastry friend is a friend who went to pastry school. Not a friend made of pastry. I am not BFF with the Pillsbury Dough Boy.