from pistachios to paris

Do you know your macaroons from your macarons? One is an American cookie, usually made with shredded coconut and, if you’re lucky, chocolate chips. One is a French confection, with flavored buttercream or ganache sandwiched between two meringue-like cookies. And one if them is what we here at iowasthinking were cooking up this morning with baited breath.

This, friends, is a macaron. I got such a fabulously enthusiastic response to the chocolate cupcakes mini-soufflés that this was really the only appropriate follow-up. The dainty delicacy that the Wall Street Journal has already heralded as the next cupcake — cupcakes being terribly passé, didn’t you know? We have spotted the trend, and we are following it. Macarons are going to be big.

To be fair, as macarons go these are roughing it. I happen to find the crackly, pock-marked shells endearingly rustic and honest, but this would be quite déclassé at a designer macaron supplier in Paris, like gold standards Fauchon or Laduree. See theirs? See the eggshell-smooth surface and the little foot at the bottom? This recipe won’t give earn you those glamour points — though I’ll be auditioning a David Lebovitz recipe next time that promises a prettier result.

If they taste any better than these, though, I will just keel over and die, because these pistachio ones are going to blow your mind. The outer sandwich cookie, made of sugar, ground pistachios, and stiff egg whites, is chewy and elegantly flavored, but light and crispy too. And the pistachio buttercream inside — ohh, that creamy richness will stay with you. Nigella Lawson writes that of all the recipes in her book, this is the one she’s most proud of. She calls it “cookie bliss,” and she’s right. These are perfect.

We’re going to New York on Friday, have I mentioned that? So since macarons don’t really keep, I’d cut the recipe in half and planned to share the results with the kids I babysit. Then I took a bite. And suddenly became a much less generous person.

Pistachio Macarons

(From Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess)

For the macarons

  • 1/3 cup or 3 oz pistachios [weigh for better accuracy]
  • 3/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Grind the pistachios and confectioners sugar together in a food processor on high speed, until the mixture is reduced to a fine dust. Transfer to a medium bowl. Beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks, sprinkle the sugar on top, and continue beating until very stiff. Gently fold the whites into the nut dust.

If you have a pastry bag, great! Using a plain, 1/2-inch nozzle, pipe small rounds onto the baking sheet. If you don’t, join the club. A spoon will work fine. Try to get the dollops as round as possible. You should get around 40 rounds. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until set but not dry.

For the buttercream

  • 1/4 cup or 2 oz pistachios [weight for better accuracy]
  • 1 2/3 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

Grind the pistachios and sugar in the food processor, as before. Cream the butter in a small bowl. Continue creaming as you add the nut dust. Make sure you have a smooth, fully-combined buttercream. Then just sandwich between the cooled macaron cookies.

Makes 20 sandwiches


2 responses to this post.

  1. It’s great to be “au courant” about macarons! These look good enough to eat!


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