I always hated French macarons. Or, well, I thought I did. You see, I really detest almond extract. It doesn’t matter what it’s hidden in, if it’s there, I will taste it. It’s kind of on par with cilantro or arugula for me (best left on store shelves). I guess the macarons I had had in the past always contained almond extract, making me associate the flavor with the taste of these “treats.”
Earlier this year, a very sweet friend of mine signed me and my husband up for a macaron making class at Sur La Table. I love to bake, and a date night, er, date morning, sounded fun! But macarons? Those tiny, almond-extract-tasting frustrations disguised as delicate, fancy baked goods? Ugh.
We went to the class and it was a blast! We made lemon macarons with lemon buttercream and lemon curd and pistachio macarons with chocolate ganache. I feel like I’ve learned a skill that not many people I know have mastered yet. Honestly, I haven’t mastered it yet either (see picture of pink macarons – this is why you don’t make them when it’s particularly humid outside!), but I’m so happy we had the opportunity to try something new together.
Endless Macaron Flavor Possibilities
I love baking new flavors of macarons now. I’ve made standard lemon with lemon buttercream (including some with lemon curd and some with freeze-dried raspberry dust), berry blue macarons (special ingredient: Kool-Aid!), strawberry/pink lemonade (also with Kool-Aid), Oreo macarons with Oreo buttercream, and Oreo mint.
Homemade Oreo buttercream is amazing. I used this recipe from LivforCake.com and I highly recommend it. I didn’t use their meringue recipe, though. My favorite base macaron shell recipe comes from FamilyTableTreasures.com, which I adapt based on what the filling will be. My Oreo macaron shells didn’t come out perfect (there was some cracking, probably from too many crushed cookies), but they dried incredibly quickly, developed feet (yay!), and what they lacked in beauty they made up for in flavor. I could have eaten the entire batch!
Give Macarons a Chance
If you’re like I used to be (anti-macaron), I would encourage you to give these naturally gluten-free desserts another chance. The right flavor combination (sans almond extract) can be life changing and delicious. I think these are my favorite treats to make for friends and coworkers now (even though they don’t always look as pretty as I hope they will).