Well when I was last in France, I had that experience with macarons. Not to be confused with macaroons, macarons are these totally gorgeous pastel French confections, which marry crunchiness and chewiness in this way that is completely addictive. They're so pretty you can barely bring yourself to eat them, but when you do you just want to keep eating them. It is my personal opinion that macarons are going to be the new cupcake (after pie has its day in the sun.)
Macarons can be found all over France, although the most famous macaron bakery is undoubtedly Laduree, which coincidentally has a super fun pastel website: www.laduree.fr. (Macarons can also actually be found in Seattle, especially at Honore Artisan Bakery in Ballard and they are worth the trip! http://www.yelp.com/biz/honore-artisan-bakery-seattle-2.) They're super excellent as last-minute birthday presents, I-love-you-presents, Valentine's or Easter presents. Gentlemen, take note!
In any case, macarons are beautiful, delicious and hard to come by. While I was busy planning our wedding, I had seen a couple of tutorials on how to make them yourself, which I had filed under "things to do when I have time to do things". That time is now, my friends. So on Wednesday, following this tutorial, I made my first attempt. They turned out ok!
I had trouble getting the egg whites to make peaks as stiff as I wanted, but I think that was because it was so rainy a.k.a. humid a.k.a. not stiff peak weather? Which I think then later resulted in a more flat macaron than I really wanted, but I did manage to get at least a little crunchy/chewy. And the best news is, it isn't that hard! Check out the cuteness:
OK, not quite up to Laduree standards, but not bad by my kitchen standards!
This is my version:
1/2 c. egg whites
Enough almonds to make 1 1/4 c. flour when ground
2 1/4 c. confectioners sugar
Pinch of salt
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1.) A day or two before, separate the egg whites. Put the egg whites in the fridge (I covered mine but I'm going to try it uncovered too,) and let them sit there for at least 24 hours. Better separate slightly more than 1/2 a cup, so some can evaporate, I think I used about six eggs.
2.) If you can find almond flour, you are extremely lucky and can skip this step and just measure out 1 1/4c. almond flour. If you can't, I processed slivered almonds in my food processor until they vaguely resembled flour. Gritty large grain flour, but whatever. (It gives the cookies texture?) Process the almond flour and the confectioners sugar together until it is as fine as you can get it.
3.) Using a stand mixer and whisk attachment, whip the egg whites with the pinch of salt on medium speed until frothy.
4.) Turn the speed up to high and gradually add granulated sugar until glossy stiff peaks form.
5.) Gradually and gently fold in the confectioners sugar/almond mixture. The batter will be slightly lumpy.
6.) Add six drops of food coloring. I used red to make pink cookies, but I'm looking forward to making purple and yellow ones in the future.
7.) Line some cookie sheets in parchment. (If you want to be anal retentive, trace circle outlines on the back of the paper as guidelines.)
8.) Using a pastry bag, or ziploc with the corner cut off, pipe the batter into circles on the parchment.
9.) Let the cookies sit half an hour on the counter until they are matte and have a soft skin on the top.
10.) Bake in a 300 degree oven for 12 minutes with the door propped open by a spoon (very important).
11.) Let them dry completely on their parchment before trying to move them.
12.) Match the halves together with the jam of your choice in the middle and enjoy!
I did pink cookie halves with boysenberry, raspberry and strawberry filling but I'm looking forward to trying yellow cookies with lemon curd, lavender cookies with grape and the French are very fond of pistachio with green cookies. Laduree also does a caramel fleur de sel which sounds off the chain! OMG I can't wait to get started on my next batch.