November is officially here: school is in session, days are shorter, nights are colder and now that we’ve survived Halloween (snow and all) its clear that fall is in full swing. As the endless early wake-ups, chores, homework, and commitments take their toll, a moment of sanctuary becomes increasingly important. A week-day appointment to actually look forward to?
Because we all still need The After-School Snack!
These days I have supplanted that back to school momentum with a back to the stove schedule, but I’ve never been able to shake that mid afternoon hunger for something sweet. For a brief moment in time Thursday afternoons were marked by a special trip to the local french pastry shop. Hot chocolate and a carefully chosen pastry still seem like worthy rewards for getting through a week of fractions and phonics. I wonder if les enfants these days would still agree?
And I think they do! Anyone who walks past the newly opened Laduree here in NYC will understand that macarons are indeed the new cupcake!
This first US outpost of the beloved Parisian macaron shop was bursting with mother-daughter duos all vying for a space inside, or at the very least in line!
Similar to their Harrods shop in London, where I’ve spent many hours adding pounds to bill and waistline, Laduree NYC is Madison’s macaron: in a sea of uber-chic dark-windowed storefronts, Laduree’s pastel and gold facade glitters with elegance and charm.
Much like The Little House, this tiny, sweet, and sparkling spot makes it’s sexy fashion house neighbors look rather menacing.
Once inside, the legendary sugar sandwiches are the center of attention. A forest of macaron trees line the window, while macarons of every color and flavor fill glass cases and powdery blue boxes that leave the shop in the happy hands of lick-lipping young ladies.
And so the macaron after school snack is a magical tradition that is alive and well on the streets of New York, and in one kitchen on the Upper East Side:
My Mother-Daughter Hazelnut Macarons
Crispy vanilla-hazelnut cookies are nestled in a center of rich hazelnut praline spread. Macarons are meringue based cookies softened by the addition of and almond and powder sugar meal. But in my macarons freshly ground roasted hazelnuts make the macaron surprisingly rich and different. The addition of a fresh vanilla bean adds such floral brightness to the batter that these macarons stay fragrant and fresh for up to a week if covered and stored in the fridge.
Inspired by Hisako Ogita’s I Love Macarons
makes 20-24 macarons
2/3 cup hazelnut meal
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 large egg whites
5 tablespoons caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla or hazelnut extract
seeds of 1/2 large Tahitian vanilla bean (or seeds of 1 vanilla bean)
1/2-3/4 cup praline hazelnut spread (or one or the other, such as nutella)
*This macaron preparation uses the French method of making meringue. It is the easiest and fastest but least stable so you must be careful when incorporating the meal mixture so to not knock the air out of the egg whites
Preheat the oven to 375 F
1. Blend roasted hazelnut meal (made from several cups of roasted hazelnuts) in a food processor until reaches a flour consistency. Sieve the nut flour with the powdered sugar through a medium sieve twice onto a piece of parchment paper. This step insures that no lumps remain and also makes the final batter light in texture, avoiding a dense and heavy macaron from forming.
2. In a separate bowl combine clean egg whites and begin to beat/ whisk the whites until foaming. Add 1/3 of the caster sugar and continue to beat until the foam thickens, then add the second 1/3 of sugar and beat until soft peaks form. Add the remaining caster sugar and beat for about 1 minute more or until hard peaks form. Really make sure that you have uniform firm peaks (it is harder to over beat the whites here but very easy to under beat them).
3. Once you have firm peaks, add half of the hazelnut/sugar flour, extract, and vanilla bean seeds to the meringue and fold the flour gently into the meringue with a spatula. Add the remaining flour folding about 10 times until just combined. You want to stop folding when combined and when the batter is still thick and drops slowly and heavily off the spatula into the bowl bellow.
4. Pour the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a #8 tip or rather small tip. Using a baking sheet lined with a silpat mat or parchment paper pipe about 15 same size circles giving each circle of batter about a 1/2 inch space around it. You want your circle to be about the diameter of the widest end of the piping tip (if you want larger ones though feel free just be sure to make them all even in size so that they cook evenly).
5. When the sheet is full take the baking sheet and give it a good bang against the side of the counter and place it out in a dry area for about 30 minutes. These 2 steps will insure that the pied or “foot’ forms around the edge of the macaron and that the meringue will form a crisp shell with a soft interior.
6. When the macarons have formed a crust (you will know this because they tops will look dryer and will not be sticky to the touch) place the tray on top of another baking tray and place the double tray of macarons on the center rack in the oven.
7. Bake the macarons for about 17-18 minutes. Remove the trays and leave for 2-3 minutes. Then remove the top tray to cool completely on a wire rack. Wait until the macarons are completely cool to the touch before peeling them off of the silpat mat.
8. To build the macaron simply spread a good teaspoon size amount of hazelnut/praline spread on the bottom (flat) side of one cookie and sandwich the flat side of a second on top.
Time to serve and savor….
Just dust the top with cocoa powder or dust the plate with cocoa powder before placing the macarons on it to serve! Pair with a wonderful glass of sherry after a meal or an espresso if eaten pre-homework time…
Because who needs Paris when you have the Upper East Side…