When I had my bakery I was looking to make a new addition in the cookie department of our standard menu. We had been open a little more than a year and I felt the menu needed something new. I struggled long and hard over what to add. I went through countless books, scrolled the internet, tested a few recipes, and was left feeling really unsure. You see my cookies were popular…sometimes too popular, but that is another story. Picking just one recipe was hard; picking the perfect addition was even harder. It was not until I was slicing a piece of our Flourless Chocolate Cake (it was topped with dark chocolate ganache and some gold leafing that intrigued everyone) for a customer that I knew what kind of cookie to add, and it was going to be flourless.
A French Almond Macaroon would be a perfect addition to our menu. They were light and airy, with a slight chew in its texture. Now a traditional French Almond Macaroons are usually made in various flavor, colors to match, and also have many fillings. Traditionally the fillings are an Italian Buttercream of sorts, but I felt that was a bit too sweet for our bakery and opted for the dark chocolate ganache instead. Also, by keeping the cookie a plain and natural Almond base, when it was sandwiched it looked somewhat like a hamburger. I thought the cookies were so cute to look at, while being fun to eat.
Each morning I would bake off a batch and would wait for it to cool and shortly before we would open for business each day I would sandwich two of them together with a dollop of dark chocolate ganache.
When they caught on and gained a fan base with my customers it was sometimes hard to make them fast enough for them. They developed a following of loyal customers.
Fast forward to this past week - Brian and I went to Portland get away for a couple days .While we were there we got to visit and catch up with one of our old costumers and now friend that is a chef there. We got to gossip about the food scene, caught up on each other’s lives, had a few drinks, ate a really great meal, and low and behold my he began to tell me all the reasons he loved my cookies! Of all the cookies his favorite was the French Almond Macaroon. He explained how he felt the texture was just right, that these cookies had a nice light chew, and how the chocolate center finished it off well. I was touched to hear I left such an impression on him…but I will admit these cookies are that good. They are downright—Powerful! That is when I told him one of my secrets about these cookies. I increased the amount of almond that goes into the cookie so that the overall taste would be less sweet and have more mouth feel to them. I later told him I will write up the recipe here so that he and his friends can give it a try. Maybe you will too. Once again a good cookie is powerful, but I will take the good company and catching up with a friend over them any day. I can always make these cookies; you cannot just whip up a friendship with someone who loves food just as much as I do!?!
French Almond Macaroons (from the Sweet Pea – bakery and catering)
*Makes about 28 – 36 cookies depending on the size you pipe them out.
1 ¼ cup powdered sugar
1 1/3 cup almond meal or almond flour (see notes below)
3 large egg whites
¼ cup of sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Chocolate Ganache (recipe to follow)
First, preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Have ready a piping bag fitted with a round tip that has about a ½ inch opening to it. You will also need to have your baking sheets lined with parchment paper or Silplats if you have them.
Next, in a large bowl add your almond meal / almond flour and powdered sugar and whisk it together. In another bowl or in the bowl of a standing mixer place your egg whites and begin to whip them until they become foamy. Once foamy, begin to whip on a high speed and slowly add the sugar. You are looking for the egg to at least double in volume and hold a medium to soft peak. Then stir in your vanilla extract.
Then, place half your whipped egg into your bowl with the almond and powdered sugar mixture. Fold it together until you have lightened up the almond mixture. Add the remaining egg whites and fold together until the mixture is light, yet smooth.
Afterwards, you will fill your pastry bag with your mixture and pipe out anywhere from the size of a nickel to a quarter. Be sure not to leave a peek when piping, you can tap you pan gently to see if your peeks fall. Or with a slightly damp finger you can push them down. Place them in oven for about 25 minutes rotating them half way through. I found that depending on the batch they might need 5 – 10 minutes extra time, it might vary. Before pulling them out you want to see the cookies you piped are firm, set in place, and will lift from your lined pan when pulled.
Finally, let the cookies cool about 10 minutes before sandwiching with the ganache. Once you sandwich the cookies let them sit about 15 minutes to be sure the ganache has set before serving. Can be made ahead of time and wrapped in plastic to hold. Can be refrigerated once wrapped, and best not to sit longer than two days. I personally think these cookies taste best when eaten at room temperature.
5 oz. Semi-sweet chocolate (chips are fine but chopped chocolate is best)
1/2 cups cream
First, place Cream and chocolate in a bowl of a double boiler over medium heat (there should only be an inch or two of water in the pan, and the bowl should not be touching the water).
Next, you will want to gently stir the chocolate and the cream together as the chocolate melts. You will keep stirring until your chocolate and cream have unison and are a smooth sauce, and glossy looking.
Finally, remove your mixture from heat and let cool slightly before using. You are looking for the ganache to be smooth touched but hold its shape when dropped or piped.
NOTES: I know that the Almond Meal or Almond Flour may not be the easiest to find, but I do see it more frequently than years ago. Trader Joe’s has a version, so does Bob’s Red Mill, but I have even seen it pop up in the bulk section of stores like Whole Foods. Sometimes it will be blond in color and that is perfect. Sometimes it will be speckled with brown and that is fine too. It is just the skin of the almond in there. If you still cannot find any Almond Meal or Almond Flour you can make your own. Take whole or slivered blanched almonds and pulse them in a food processor until finely ground. Then sift the mixture so that you have a somewhat even texture remaining. If there are larger bits of almond left in the sifter you can toss them away.