Recipe: Mockingjay Macarons
The books may all be out and the movies released, but that's no reason to stop getting your geek on. The Hunger Games is one of my favorite YA series, immensely readable and engaging, I found it all too easy to root for Katniss in her struggle as the reluctant leader of a revolution against a totalitarian society.
Speaking of, you may think it odd to create a well-known "fancy" dessert for book series about extreme class subjugation. I wanted to create something that would feel straight out of the Capitol, where they would no doubt miss the irony in decorating their desserts with a symbol of the resistance against them.
Though I'm generally comfortable with many things in the kitchen, the finicky macaron has long eluded me. Over-mixing, under-mixing, and under-baking have led to batch after batch of flat, goopy, or stuck-to-the-sheet cookies. I'm happy to say my losing streak has come to an end. I'm going to include as much advice as possible in my recipe below so that, hopefully, if this is your first attempt at macarons, you'll be much more successful than I had previously been.
- 3 Egg Whites (at room temperature)
- ¼ cup white sugar (50 g)
- pinch of salt
- ¼ tsp cream of tartar (2 ml)
- 2 cups confectioners sugar (200 g)
- 1 cup almond flour (120 g)
Be sure your eggwhites are at room temperature. I like to separate my eggs and then leave the whites out, covered, for at least an hour to make sure.
Sift the confectioners sugar and almond flour together into a medium sized bowl. Discard any big pieces left in the sifter. Set the bowl aside.
Put the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Begin whisking at medium speed until they get foamy, then add the white sugar, salt and cream of tartar. Increase the speed to high and continue whipping until soft peaks form. At this point, you can add gel food coloring, if desired. Continue whisking at high until stiff peaks form in your meringue - when you lift out the whisk, the meringue should stand straight up.
Add 1/3 of your almond flour mixture, and fold until just incorporated in the meringue - about 10 turns. Add the next 1/3 and do the same, then the last 1/3. Continue folding until the mixture falls from your spatula in "ribbons", like flat strings of batter. It should be about 50-60 turns total.
Transfer the mixture to a piping bag and create 2" mounds of batter on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Tap the pan, hard, 8 times to release any air bubbles that may be stuck in the batter. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Leave the cookie sheets to sit for at least 20 minutes untouched, until the batter forms a "shell" on the outside.
Bake for 20 minutes. DO NOT UNDERBAKE. If you underbake, it will be impossible to remove your cookies from the parchment paper. If unsure, you can attempt to remove a cookie straight out of the oven - it should lift off with little difficulty. If you have trouble, back into the oven for a couple more minutes. Once baked, allow to cool completely and remove from the pan.
You can fill your macarons with any number of fillings - buttercream, ganache, jam. I love lemon curd and the egg yolks left over from the cookies makes it all too easy to make.
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup finely grated, loosely packed lemon zest (from about 2 to 3 large lemons)
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 1 to 2 lemons)
- pinch of salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 6 pieces, at room temperature
Create a double boiler. Bring about 2 inches of water to a low simmer in a saucepan. Whisk all ingredients except butter in a large, heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over the saucepan, being sure that the bowl does not touch the water. Mix until the mixture thickens and falls from the whisk in thick ribbons.
Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, mixing until each pad of butter has become incorporated before adding the next. Once all of the butter is in, transfer the lemon curd to a strainer over another bowl and stir until most of the curd has strained through, leaving only solids.
Place a sheet of plastic over the curd to prevent a skin from forming, and refrigerate until chilled, at least 3 hours.
To assemble, pipe a small circle of buttercream around the rim of a cookie, fill the inside with lemon curd, and then top with a decorated cookie.
Store macarons in the fridge. They're best a day or two after they're made.