I have been intimidated by a French cookie for years.
"What?" You say, "But the French are...the French! They buckle like a teenager at a Twilight screening."
No, seriously, it's the cookie.
You see, French macarons are one of the marks of a great pastry chef. The world is full of people who have failed the macaron test, we call them fry cooks.
When my cooking club decided to have a holiday cookie swap I knew it was time to take on the challenge. I read, I studied, I freaked, I was hospitalized for several days, and I now live in a half-way house with a dude named Balls.
But I did it.
I know, it really doesn't look like much, but that's a macaron. A delicate, crispy, chewy almond cookie. What makes it special, even adorable in the eyes of the fickle French are the feet: the little ruffly bottom on the cookie. If you don't fold it just right, if you don't wait until precisely the right time, you won't get those feet. If your macaron doesn't have a foot you might as well become the unabomber; it's that unacceptable.
And then you take that gorgeous footed cookie, put a ganache filling in it, and make it collide with another cookie.
You have to stack them, there's just no other way of showing off macarons.
I used the venerable Tartlette's recipe and tutorial for macarons, which goes like this:
100 grams egg whites (about 3)
50 grams granulated sugar
200 grams powdered sugar
110 grams blanched almonds, ground
Whip the whites and gradually add the granulated sugar until you have a stiff, glossy meringue. Process the almonds with the powdered sugar for about a minute. And then, this is when things get CRAZY YO, you dump the almond-sugar into the egg whites, no, the whole thing, just dump it. Don't try to lighten the meringue with a little of the mixture, or take a gentle hand, just dump and start folding.
I told you it was crazy.
Tartlette estimates you fold about 50 times. The best way to tell is to let a little of the batter fall on a plate. If the little beak of the cookie stays and doesn't relax into the cookie to make a dome, you need to fold a couple more times. REALLY. You want a smooth dome. Yes, the French are nuts, but in a completely awesome way that makes them right. Put the batter into a pastry bag with a round tip and pipe out rounds onto parchment paper about the size of a quarter. Then walk away.
Yes, walk away.
Come back in one hour and pop the trays in the oven where they will bake for 10-14 minutes. Don't let them color. Remove them from the oven and let them cool before removing from the sheet. You will end up sobbing tears of anguish if you try to remove them too soon. You want a good thin spatula for removing them from the parchment. If you're destroying your cookies (ahem) you can heat up a couple tablespoons of water in the micro and (very) carefully, put the water under the parchment paper. The heat from the water makes the cookies far easier to remove, but hurry so the paper doesn't soak.
Make some filling and assemble with cooled cookies.
Eat only one because they are too sweet.
Macarons are tirelessly flexible. You can look at Tartlette's saffron pumpkin, black tie, or red berry macarons. Such lovely colors.
For my macarons I doubled the recipe, substituted half of the almonds with roasted hazelnuts (as much skin as possible removed,) and filled with Nutella.
They were outrageous.