Friday, December 16, 2011

Almond Macaroons and the Curse of a Tradition

Someone else's macaroons, but
this is what the plain ones look like
I have a special cookie--do you?

Every Christmas for the past 15 years, I've baked Almond Macaroons, a recipe from Cook's Illustrated.  I make them 3 ways--plain, fudge and sometimes pine-nut crusted.  These cookies are actually relatively healthy because their only ingredients are almonds, sugar, egg whites & almond extract (plus cocoa powder for the fudge ones and pine-nuts for the pine-nut crusted.)

The funny thing though, is that while I like these cookies, I no longer LOVE them.  They're still good, but perhaps familiarity breeds contempt.

Yet I make them every year because it's expected, they're what I'm known for, and it almost feels like it's not really Christmas if I don't.

I liked the idea of creating traditions in our family like our nightly Advent celebration, but me being me, almost all other traditions have to do with food.  As the resident chef, that means I'm cooking.  So we have the cinnamon rolls on Thanksgiving and Christmas morning tradition, the Christmas Beef Wellington tradition, and the whatever kind of dinner & birthday cake you want tradition.

This is the pickle (hah!) you get into when your primary language of love is food.

This is the Cook's Illustrated version--mine have
only looked this nice once--usually the pastry
splits.
There's outrage in my family that we're going 2 Christmases in a row without Beef Wellington.  Last year we traveled to Maine for turkey with the grandparents, and this year we're traveling to New York for who knows what with my cousins.  It's been decided by powers beyond me that we WILL have beef wellington on New Year's Eve.

This year, I was tempted to skip the almond macaroons but my mother was in town and they are her favorite cookies of all time, especially the pine-nut version--I sometimes even mail them to her  in Hawaii via next day mail.

Anyway, I've already had 3 requests for the recipe, so thought I should post it.

Bon Appetit!

Note:  I usually make a quadruple recipe of both plain and fudge.  These cookies dry out quickly, so I freeze them as soon as cooled and pull them out of the freezer before serving.  I've kept them in the freezer as long as six months and they still tasted pretty darn good.

ALMOND MACAROONS
Makes about 2 dozen 2-inch cookies.   Published September 1, 1996.  
Macaroons must be baked on parchment paper. They will stick to an ungreased sheet and spread on a greased one. You need a slightly less stiff dough if piping the macaroons, so add water, as needed, to make a pipeable paste.

INGREDIENTS
3
cups blanched slivered almonds (12 ounces), measured without packing or shaking the cup
1 1/2
cups granulated sugar
1/3
cup large egg whites , plus 1 tablespoon, from about 3 large eggs
1
teaspoon almond extract

INSTRUCTIONS
      1. Set racks in upper-middle and lower-middle levels of oven and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.
      2. Turn almonds into food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade; process 1 minute. Add sugar; process 15 seconds longer. Add whites and extract; process until the paste wads around blade. Scrape sides and corners of workbowl with spatula; process until stiff but cohesive, malleable paste (similar in consistency to marzipan or pasta dough) forms, about 5 seconds longer. If mixture is crumbly or dry, turn machine back on and add water by drops through feeder tube until proper consistency is reached. 

      3. Allowing scant 2 tablespoons of paste for each macaroon, form a dozen cookies upon each paper-lined sheet, spacing the cookies 1 1/2 inches apart. You can drop the paste from a spoon (see illustration below) or for a neater look, roll it into 1-inch balls between your palms (illustration 2). (Rinse and dry your hands if they become too sticky.) To make fancy macaroons, pipe the paste using a large pastry bag fitted with a 3/4-inch open star tip, (illustrations 3 and 4).
4. Bake macaroons, switching cookie sheet positions midway through baking, until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. If overbaked, macaroons will dry out rather quickly when stored. Leave macaroons on papers until completely cooled or else they may tear. (Can be stored in an airtight container for at least 4 days or frozen up to 1 month.)


FUDGE-ALMOND MACAROONS 
INGREDIENTS
1 1/2
cups blanched slivered almonds (6 ounces), measured without packing or shaking the cup
1 1/2
cups granulated sugar
1
1/4
teaspoon table salt
1/3
cup large egg whites , plus 1 tablespoon, from about 3 large eggs
1
teaspoon almond extract

INSTRUCTIONS
      1. Set racks in upper-middle and lower-middle levels of oven and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.
      2. Turn almonds into food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade; process 1 minute. Add sugar, cocoa and salt; process 15 seconds longer. Add whites and extract; process until the paste wads around blade. Scrape sides and corners of workbowl with spatula; process until stiff but cohesive, malleable paste (similar in consistency to marzipan or pasta dough) forms, about 5 seconds longer. If mixture is crumbly or dry, turn machine back on and add water by drops through feeder tube until proper consistency is reached. 

      3. Allowing scant 2 tablespoons of paste for each macaroon, form a dozen cookies upon each paper-lined sheet, spacing the cookies 1 1/2 inches apart. You can drop the paste from a spoon or for a neater look, roll it into 1-inch balls between your palms . (Rinse and dry your hands if they become too sticky.) To make fancy macaroons, pipe the paste using a large pastry bag fitted with a 3/4-inch open star tip.
4. Bake macaroons, switching cookie sheet positions midway through baking, until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. The macaroons are done when they have cracked lightly across top. If overbaked, macaroons will dry out rather quickly when stored. Leave macaroons on papers until completely cooled or else they may tear. (Can be stored in an airtight container for at least 4 days or frozen up to 1 month.)


PINE NUT-CRUSTED ALMOND MACAROONS

INGREDIENTS
3
cups blanched slivered almonds (12 ounces), measured without packing or shaking the cup
1 1/2
cups granulated sugar
6
large egg whites , separated
1
teaspoon almond extract
10
ounces pine nuts (2 1/2 to 3 cups)

INSTRUCTIONS
      1. Set racks in upper-middle and lower-middle levels of oven and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.
      2. Place 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon egg whites in a small bowl. Place remaining in second bowl and beat lightly, set aside for dipping. Turn almonds into food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade; process 1 minute. Add sugar; process 15 seconds longer. Add first bowl of egg whites and extract; process until the paste wads around blade. Scrape sides and corners of workbowl with spatula; process until stiff but cohesive, malleable paste (similar in consistency to marzipan or pasta dough) forms, about 5 seconds longer. If mixture is crumbly or dry, turn machine back on and add water by drops through feeder tube until proper consistency is reached.
      3. Allowing scant 2 tablespoons of paste for each macaroon, form a dozen cookies upon each paper-lined sheet. Roll into 1-inch balls between your palms . (Rinse and dry your hands if they become too sticky.) Dip each ball into beaten egg white, then roll in pine nuts, lightly pressing with fingertips, (see illustration 5 below). Transfer cookies to parchment-lined baking sheet and flatten slightly with fingers, making inch-wide buttons, (illustration 6).
4. Bake macaroons, switching cookie sheet positions midway through baking, until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. If overbaked, macaroons will dry out rather quickly when stored. Leave macaroons on papers until completely cooled or else they may tear. (Can be stored in an airtight container for at least 4 days or frozen up to 1 month.)


4 comments:

Teaching Tiny Tots said...

Looks delicious!!! I might have to try one of these for our family get together.

Teaching Tiny Tots said...

Looks delicious!!! I might have to try one of these for our family get together.

Lois said...

Thank you for sending the recipe! I really loved them!

Ling said...

well why wouldn't you get complaints about not having beef wellington for two years in a row when you only get it once a year and it's pretty much the most delicious meal that exists in the Western Hemisphere? of course the higher dadly power would decide that the lower momly power should make it for new years eve. and also we should get some sparkling cider to go with it. to continue the maclean-drinks-tradition