Our friends Mel and Keith are about to have a baby! It will be their first and they are having a girl! We are so excited for them and can’t wait to meet the little one – literally any day now. They recently had a baby shower which was no ordinary affair. Maybe it’s a San Francisco thing, but more and more I’m seeing a transition from the traditional shower to something more couple friendly and less pastelly. Maybe it’s like a Baby-Moon (the final vacation possible before baby comes) or the last struggle to hold on to your DINK lifestyle (double-income-no-kids) but I definitely support the non-traditional shower movement, especially when I don’t have to guess the melted candy bar in a diaper….
Mel and Keith had their shower in a live/work warehouse in SF. It was an amazing space complete with a pingpong table, darts, and a baby-grand piano. Top this off with adult beverages, 90’s slow jams, and a minimal amount of baby trivia it was a great night. Who doesn’t like dressing up for a party? (Especially Mel and Keith – they are too cute). Definitely more a celebration of Mel and Keith rather than an explosion of pink. There was this one little item I couldn’t let go of being pink (big surprise I’m sure).
I was asked to make some desserts for the party. Desserts for a cocktail party/ baby shower need to be a little more magical than mini cupcakes and cookies. I decided on mini cream puffs and Raspberry French Macarons. I kept lemon bars in my back pocket just in case the macarons failed. It had been a while since making French Macarons but this wasn’t going to stop me. I did ruin about half of each batch, but practice makes perfect right? I didn’t want to make it seem like these beautiful morsels were easy by any means! I think half of baking success is luck; the other half skill and patience. Macarons are very exact. So specific you need to measure the weight of your egg whites. This is the skill part. The luck part is using the right amount when given a 5 gram window in the recipe (the wetter batter turned out better). Then you need patience when you try baking two sheets at once and the bottom sheet gets too hot resulting in cracked tops. The other lucky part happens when you mix your batter correctly and which yields the perfect consistency for piping without peaks. Over time I’m hoping that there will be less luck and more success based on instinct and feel. Until this moment becomes a realization, I’m going to keep practicing.
One of my new year’s resolutions was to bake things that were difficult. I get in the habit of making the same things because they take minimal effort (even when they look pretty) and I know the end product will not be a waste of time or ingredients. If you have any suggestions I’m all ears (please leave a comment)! If you’re up for a challenge and you want to try French Macarons you definitely should. You might be amazing! You may even make them better than the little french bakery around the corner, but how will you know until you try?
Raspberry French Macarons
150g sugar (or 3/4C)
168g powdered sugar (1 1/2C)
168g almond flour (1 1/2 C – use store bought Bob’s Red Mill or Trader Joe’s vs grinding your own)
55-60g egg whites
55-60g egg whites (this is not a repeat – you need 4 egg whites total divided)
gel paste food coloring optional
Place 2 egg whites measuring 55-60g in the bowl of a standing mixer with the whisk attachment.
Line two jelly roll pans with silpat baking mats with circle templates. Alternately you can use parchment paper with circles drawn on the backside of the paper. 1 1/4″ circles work well. I used the lid of a spice jar to trace circles. The circles don’t need to be too far apart because the batter doesn’t spread once it’s piped onto the mat.
Preheat the oven to 275˚F.
Make your simple syrup. In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the granulated sugar and slowly pour in the water, careful not to splatter the water on the edges of the pan. Place the thermometer in the bowl (best is a digital thermometer) and turn up the heat until the flames touch the outer-most edge of the bottom of the pan. (The flames shouldn’t come up the sides.) Once the temperature reaches 226˚F, turn the mixer on medium speed. Continue cooking the simple syrup until it reaches 230˚F. Remove from the heat. At this point the egg whites will look like foamy bubble bath. While the mixer is running, slowly pour the syrup along the side of the pan so it trickles down the bowl and doesn’t splatter onto the whisk. This is really important because you want all of the simple syrup to be incorporated into the egg whites rather than splatter and harden along the sides of the bowl. Continue to beat the meringue until the bowl feels cool to the touch (the bowl will be very hot when you first add the sugar), then turn off the mixer.
Mix your almond flour:
While the egg whites are mixing, measure out your powdered sugar and almond flour. Add your egg whites (when I used 60g my batter turned out better), food coloring, and extracts if using. Mix all of these together with a large spatula.
Fold in the Meringue:
Scoop about half the meringue into the bowl with the almond flour mixture. Fold this in to lighten the batter, then add in the rest of the meringue. Keep folding until the batter looks shiny and has a lava like consistency. You want the batter to flow so it doesn’t have any peaks. Test a couple of spoonfulls on a piece of parchment to see if the batter has peaks. If it does, keep folding until you get a batter that smooths out into a perfect dome when you spoon it out. Transfer the batter to a piping bag with a plain 3/8″ or 1/2″ tip. Pipe little circles following your template and put them immediately into the oven. Some recipes tell you to let them sit to form a crust, but if you’ve made your batter correctly, it doesn’t matter.
Watch the cookies after about 12 minutes. They should have formed feet at this time and you’ll want to start checking them overy two minutes. To test doneness, touch the top of the cookie and wiggle it. The cookies are done when the the top barely moves against the ruffle. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet.
Cool completely or refrigerate overnight before filling. If refrigerated, bring the cookies to room temperature before filling.
If the tops are cracked, your oven is too hot. Try adjusting the racks. If you need to adjust the temperature, try baking at 300˚ or 325˚F. My oven was probably around 270˚ and worked well. Every oven is different though. If its too low, the feet will not develop.