Week 6 - Recipe 1: French Macarons

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French macarons have been on my baking bucket list for ages. I’ve read oodles of recipes, even bought a bag of almond flour once, but never gathered up enough courage to actually give them a try. They just seem waaaay too fussy. So when Lori and Krista announced that they were going to give a 17th century recipe for French macarons a whirl in the Colony's kitchen, my first thought was “Are you nuts?” (as if last week’s pudding in scoured guts insanity didn’t already answer that question!)

Then again, the Great Colonial Cook Off is all about trial and error and discovery.  Regardless of whether the end result is a culinary masterpiece or epic fail, in our our books, everyone who attempts the recipe gets an “A” for effort. So, French macarons it is. The recipe comes courtesy of John Murrell’s Daily Exercises for Gentlewomen published in 1617:

Wash a pound of the newest and the best Iordane Almonds in three or foure waters, to take away the rednesse from their out-side, lay them in a Bason of warme water all night, the next day blanch them, and dry them with a faire cloath, beat them in a stone morter, untill they be reasonably fine, put to them halfe a pound of fine beaten Sugar, and so beat it to a perfect Paste, then put in halfe a dozen spoonefuls of good Damaske Rose-water, three graines of Amber-greece, when you haue beaten all this together, dry it on a chafingdish of coales vntill it grow white and stiffe, then take it off the fire, and put the whites of two new laid Egs first beaten into froath, and so stirre it well together, then lay them on wafers in fashion of little long rowles, and so bake them in an Oven as hot as for Manchet, but you must first let the heat of the Oven passe over before you put them in, when they rise white and light, take them out of the Oven, and put them in a warme platter, and set them againe into the warme Oven, & so let them remain foure or five houres, and then they wil be throughly dry, but if you like them better being moist, then dry them not after the first baking.

 A couple of tips before you dig in:

These are NOT modern French macarons a la Ladurée .... you know, a layer of buttercream sandwiched between two pastel puffs of perfection. Murrell’s macaron is a single sweet almond wafer, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, with an intense almond flavour similar to marzipan.

My first inclination was to simplify the process (and skip the soaking, peeling and pounding of the almonds) by buying ready-ground almond flour. HOWEVER, further research suggests that freshly pounded almonds produce a wet paste, rather than a dry flour which improves the texture of the baked macaron. SIGH! No rest for the wicked!

Ready to join us in another week of culinary experimentation? Remember, post a pic of your macarons on the Colony of Avalon's Facebook page and you’re automatically entered into a draw for both this week’s prize and our end of season grand prize. Up for grabs this week? Your very own hardcover copy of Pierre Herme’s Macarons .... of course!