French almond macaroons

By Wendy Monro

I started out planning to make a high fiber risotto (using barley instead of arborio rice). I really wanted to create a recipe, which cooperated with the Heart of New Ulm’s latest newsletter. The most recent newsletter highlights the importance of fiber in our diets. That sort of recipe is right up my alley. I love high fiber, loads of vegetables, low fat, delicious recipes. Then, things took a turn.

Daphne called me from her friend, Josie’s house. Josie is a good friend of Daphne’s who also attends the performing arts high school. She is a dancer. Daphne and Josie both have sweet teeth. Is that right, “sweet teeth?” I am not sure. They love sweets.

Josie was going to be spending a few hours with me on the day that I would be photographing my article. Daphne had a rehearsal with her band. So, Josie and I were going to cook together while she did this. I figured she would make the risotto with me, until the call came in from Daphne.

“How about making macaroons with Josie?” Huh? Macaroons? What? I am not one for sweets. I am also not very good at baking anything, except fish or chicken. However, I do love to learn new things and I absolutely adore it when people are interested in helping me broaden my horizons and want to cook with me. So, obviously, I said, “Yes”.

“Make me a list. Coconut, and what else?” I asked. Daphne said, “You won’t need coconut.”

“Didn’t you say macaroons?” I responded. She told me these were macaroons that do not have coconut. I had never heard of such a thing. I thought macaroons meant coconut cookies. Daphne told me that these were French macaroons and that I would need to buy almond flour. Okay? She said I would also need food coloring. I was completely confused and intrigued. French? I love French food. This was going to be fun.

When I picked up the girls from Josie’s house, they were eating Nutella with strawberries. No, not strawberries dipped in Nutella. Judging by the amount of Nutella consumed, I’d call it Nutella with strawberries because I think Nutella was the main ingredient. These girls love sweets! Josie and I dropped Daphne off at her rehearsal and headed to the store for our ingredients. We needed almond flour, powdered sugar, cream of tartar and eggs. That seemed simple enough.

Once we were in the kitchen and ready to go, I just let Josie take the lead. I was certain that would make for a better cookie. I know my faults. Making these macaroons was fairly simple. We combined the flour and sugar, beat the egg whites, and folded it all together. We poured the mixture into plastic Baggies in order to pipe them onto the cookie trays and make cute little circles. Then, we had to let the raw cookies sit for 20 minutes. That’s the difficult thing about baking, for me anyway, everything is so scientific. I am used to a pinch of this and cook that until it feels and looks right. I can’t do that with baking. The measurements need to be so precise. It doesn’t leave much room for error.

Josie told me that the 20-minute wait is necessary in order for the cookies to have a nice crispy crust while containing a chewy center. Next, we divided the batter in order to make a few different colors. Part of the fun of these French macaroons is making them colorful. I love the French. Everything French is so pretty: the language, the architecture, the clothing, you name it. I looked at the images of these cookies on the Internet and French macaroons always come in cheerful hues. Also, they are so petite and adorable. We made batches of cream, purple and green.

Then, Josie told me that they needed to have frosting for the middle. Apparently, these cookies are like little delicious creamy sandwiches. You take two of the little cookies and place some delicious frosting in the middle. So, we whipped up some simple vanilla frosting. I showed Josie how to use real vanilla pods instead of extract. I just happened to have some ready to use in my cupboard. We mixed vanilla, butter, a touch of milk and powdered sugar. In a few minutes, we had the most delicious frosting ever.

I was so impressed with how adorable these little delights turned out. They were crispy and tasty and the frosting made them decadent. They are the perfect accompaniment for a cup of tea or a nice strong cup of coffee. I love these. Thank you, Josie. I’ll go high fiber next week.

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