Serious Eats: Recipes

Cook the Book: Pistachio Macarons

[Flickr: lilivanili]

My experience with French macarons is sadly limited. Sure there were a few wonderful ones in France and a handful of lesser-good versions from New York bakeries, but all in all, I haven't eaten more than two dozen in my life.

I figured I knew enough about these little sandwiched meringue cookies to make a passable version at home, so a few days ago I set out to make these Pistachio Macarons from Unforgettable Desserts by Dede Wilson. In the recipe's intro, she warns that macarons are notoriously problematic to make—but I was undeterred.

Allow me to preface this by saying that my macarons didn't turn out not nearly as picturesque as the pictured ones, but they were delicious and full of pistachio goodness.

The process begins with a cup of shelled unsalted raw pistachios, rubbed clean of their papery skins. I picked a day for my macaron project when I little else to do, so the task of shelling and peeling countless pistachios wasn't really a big deal—at least not for the first half hour.

I'll just say that it took a while, and all of my pistachios were covered in a papery brown skin (which I had no idea how to get rid of). A little research informed me that a two-minute blanch in boiled water would make the skins much easier to peel off, so into the pot they went.

The boil left the skins soft and easy to peel but the pistachios were soggy and not at all ready to be ground into the floury powder called for in the recipe. I decided to dry them off with a quick toast in a hot pan, then tossed them into the food processor. When I ground them I realized that although they were dried on the outside, the inside was still wet. Instead of a dry flour I had a damp paste.

Once mixed with the confectioners' sugar, the mixture dried a bit and I was able to sift and sieve into something that resembled what the recipe implied.

I whipped up the meringue and folded in the somewhat powdered pistachios, and placed the base for my macarons into a pastry bag. I left them out for an an hour and baked them until firm on the outside and soft and moist within. They didn't look picture perfect, but I tasted one and it had all of the sticky, chewy, sweet qualities that macarons should, and I left them to cool and started the filling.

With a combination of butter, sugar, pistachios, vanilla and almond extracts there was no way to mess up the filling, and once the little cookies cooled, I filled my homely macarons.

They tasted great, the texture was spot-on, but they looked well, a little less than perfect. I decided to chalk these little guys up to a learning experience, and enjoy them in the comfort of my own kitchen. They might not be the most beautiful macarons in the world, but the experience of baking them will be some sort of insurance that the next batch I attempt will turn out to be a little more photogenic.

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