Thursday, December 30, 2010

Buttery, Pretty Macaroons More Popular Than Ever in the Coming New Year

Whip Up My Lemon Coconut Macaroons in Minutes

According to over a thousand chefs surveyed about food trends setting the world on fire/flambĂ© this coming New Year, 2011 is all about farmers markets, eating less gluten, hormone and pesticide-free fruits and veggies (and lots of ‘em), humanely raised poultry and beef, sustainable seafood, and carefully mixed cocktails that include fresh fruit, herbs or savory add-ins. These same chefs also mentioned macaroons by name. I agree whole-heartedly—with my entire palate—that macaroons deserve top billing this coming year. Chefs and food reviewers say they’re putting pies and cakes on the back burner—with new cookbooks, like I Love Macarons, gracing cookbook aisles everywhere.

Let’s Go Macaroon Shopping!

I’m sure just about everyone has tasted a macaroon—or macarons as they’re known abroad—at some point in their lives. They’re a pastry phenomenon (in that they’re so simple) and have been around since the 1500’s when Italian monks brought them to France. Funny story: a pair of nuns traveling with the monks were the only folks in the group who knew how to make them, and earned their room and board by becoming, as they were known by their brethren, “The Macaroon Sisters”!

Ever since, macaroons have been on a world tour. Every country touts its own particular version. My recipe is more faithful to the U.K. and American way of preparing them, which is to say I don’t go the meringue route. But that isn’t to say that I shouldn’t: Wolfgang Puck happens to like the meringue version of macaroons so much that, in addition to claiming they’re his all-time favorite dessert, he also makes a habit of visiting the Payard Bakery every time he’s in New York. I have to agree that this pastry chef’s “coffee macaroons” do look amazing (you can also get them in Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas). If you’re pastry shopping, look to Sucre in New Orleans; they also make a mean macaroon.

When You’re Making My Macaroons
Because my Lemon Coconut Macaroons calls for a ground lemon peel, may I suggest the zester on my Nana’s Favorite Things page. Keep in mind, this recipe produces 3-dozen individual, happy little pastries, so it’s a good idea to serve half to your guests and freeze the rest for later. If you’d rather have them more readily accessible, just remember to keep them in an air-tight container, in a dry cool place—where they should remain tasty for up to 2 weeks—with a wink and a nudge, I challenge you to see if they’ll last that long!

A Last Note to Thank Home Cooks Everywhere and Wish Them a Happy New Year
I have to tell you that this recipe is stand-out in that it appeared in my very first cookbook. I asked a friend who likes to make them whenever she has an Asian inspired dinner (don’t ask her why; she just thinks macaroons belong on a Chinese menu), if there’s anything she’d like to pass on to someone contemplating them as their next dessert. She said to make sure you measure out the coconut to my exact specifications; otherwise they’ll come out “sandy, a little too “coconutty”…but still pretty good.” She added that the next time she’s feeling artful in the kitchen, she’s going to try putting the macaroon batter into a pastry bag and squirting it through a confectioner’s tube to make her macaroons “especially beautiful.” I would like to reach out and personally say thank you to this wonderful recipe tester and wish her, along with all my other fellow home cooks, a marvelous 2011!

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