I’ve often carried on about my love of macarons, the tiny French cookie developed just miles from the studio Joe & I shared last year. I felt like they became my cookie last year, the fragile almond shells cracking in my hands coming to represent every hard day, every holiday, every special moment of that year. My totem of sorts.
When I saw recipes for Earl Grey macarons, I was immediately interested. One of my favorite teas, both Lady & Earl Grey have bits of bergamot, the bitter citrus that was the main ingredient of Nancy’s most famous candy. If there is a pastry truly representative of this humble former capital of Lorraine, it would be an Earl Grey macaron.
Much like Proust & his madeleines dipped in tea, this tiny cookie brought back a rush of memories. Joe & I have been missing France a lot lately, so we’ve been grabbing at bits of it where we can. These cookies tasted of something so familiar and unattainable that it almost brought tears to my eyes.
It was fitting that I mixed these together on Beaujolias Nouveau day, the third Thursday of November that marks the release of the young French wine made with the odd Gamay grape. The wine can’t be stored–even months after its release, the wine is too far gone. Thus, the world celebrates like Brigadoon on its release, consuming as much of the wine as possible before it disappears again.
I remember the first day we saw it at the market, so many labels & vineyards & stories for such a small wine. We couldn’t find any this year, since the odds of it going off shelves before it goes bad doesn’t merit much of an import market outside of New York, but we did get the usual Beaujolais-Villages, a cousin of nouveau that lets you celebrate year round. Grab a bottle. Grab some cookies. Make a night of it.
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 1 stick butter, softened
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Instructions for honey glaze
- In a small bowl, mash your stick of butter until it is lighter in color and looks a bit like mayonnaise.
- Whisk yolks & sugar until a smooth texture & light yellow form. Put into a small sauce pan & whisk in milk. Heat on low; stir continuously until a thick, even custard forms. Be sure not to let it heat too much. You’ll get a layer of scrambled egg.
- When you have your custard, pour it back into the original bowl. Whisk slowly until it returns to room temperature. Add the butter & incorporate well.
- Add the honey & stir until well incorporated. Place in the fridge until just before use.
- When you’re ready to ice your macarons, make sure the frosting hasn’t gotten too hard. (If it has, give it time to warm a bit.) Add the powdered sugar gradually. Make sure it’s a rather stiff consistency. (Mine was too thin but worked more as a glaze.)
- PARCHMENT PAPER–THIS IS ESSENTIAL
- 4 ounces blanched (white, skinless) almonds–get them already ground into a powder if you can
- 3 egg whites
- 1/2 cup granulated, white sugar
- 2 tablespoons loose-leaf tea (or cut open tea bags)–I suggest Earl Grey
- 2 cups powdered sugar
Instructions for macarons
- Grind your tea leaves in a coffee grinder or small food processor.
- Beat your egg whites until a light meringue forms–you don’t want your peaks too stiff.
- Gradually add in the granulated sugar until a glossy, smooth meringue forms. Again, don’t over-beat the eggs or the meringue will be too stiff.
- Mix your dry ingredients together in another bowl. Gradually add the dry ingredients, folding them into the meringue. Make sure everything is evenly mixed, but remember: fold. Do not toss around. You’ll take all the air out of the meringue & have a runny, gooey mess. Every recipe for these that I’ve read says you want a mixture that “flows like lava.”
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
- This is where piping bags are helpful. Plop your dough into a piping bag with a wide tip or get a tablespoon ready.
- Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper. Fill them with one-inch circles of your dough, either piped out or scooped on with your tablespoon. If you’re using the tablespoon, flatten them a bit to get a nice, even top.
- Bake for 10 minutes–until the top and bottoms are set. It’s okay if there seems to be a bit of jiggle inside; they’ll continue to bake enough when they’re removed from the oven.
- Allow the macarons to cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes, then carefully lift them from the parchment. The middles may stick. They’ll all crack in your hands. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Don’t get mad. Even the best pastry shops will serve you cracked macarons.
- Match up the macarons by size, so that you have all your little pairs ready. Pipe or spread a bit of glaze in the middle of a cookie & sandwich it to its naked partner.
- Store in the fridge until you want to eat them. 20 minutes before dessert, bring them out & let them rest. If they sit out all day, they’ll be a sad, squishy disaster.
Enjoy. These are truly my favorite dessert. They’re a commitment, but the gorgeous end result is so worth it.