The good people of Uncommon Goods reached out to me to see if I would be interested in reviewing one of their products, and so I visited their site to see what they had to offer. I hadn't ever heard of the company before, but was really impressed when I learned that they are an online retailer that offers products that feature unique designs and handcrafted gifts. They run all our operations out of the historic Brooklyn Army Terminal, including where the even the lowest-paid seasonal worker starts at 50% above the minimum wage. They also make it their mission to support and provide a platform for artists and designers.
I selected a macaron making kit, and was thrilled when my box arrived from Brooklyn a couple days later....
Uncommon Goods donates $1 for every shipment to one of their non profits of your choice, like American Forests the oldest American conservation organization. This non profit has planted 45 million trees since 1990. As the mother of a forestry major, I think this is great! Now it was time to get cooking....
I had heard macarons were hard to make, but some places in this town charge $2 each for them and my thrifty soul was crying out to give it a try, The kit had a silicone mat and something they call a "Decomax" which is a silicone container with decorating tips, similar to a pastry bag. This looked interesting as it appeared to be easy to fill. It has a big opening on the side and it can sit on it's own on the counter. I looked at the recipe booklet that came with my kit; it has recipes in 6 languages, unfortunately English clearly isn't their forte so I had to translate it a little....i.e. "icing sugar" is confectioners sugar..etc. I tried to find some ground almonds at Buschs and Meijer, but no luck. I think Bob's Red Mill makes it, but it wasn't that hard to make my own. I bought a 6 oz bag of slivered almonds and processed them on high in my food processor until they were ground fine, about a minute. Here's how I translated their recipe into something better suited for American cooks:
Vanilla Macarons Filled with Dark chocolate Cream
1 1/4 c. powdered sugar
3/4 c. ground almonds
3 egg whites
1 pinch salt
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 c. Ghirardelli 60% cocoa chips
3 T. half and half
Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the powdered sugar into a bowl to remove lumps. Add almonds and mix well. Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites, while adding the salt and the granulated sugar until obtaining a thick meringue. Add half of the powdered sugar/almonds and fold in....then add the vanilla sugar and the sugar/almonds and fold in gently until well combined,
Put the silicone mat on a cookie sheet. Fill the Decomax fitted with the large round tip and make circles in the size indicated by the inner circles on the mat. (I learned this the hard way because the instructions didn't indicate which circle I should use. When macarons rest before making, they expand....
I had to clean them up a bit before I put them in the oven with a spoon. Note to self: use inner circle next time! I'd also suggest tapping the sheet on the counter to remove any air bubbles, When the batter expands, it won't spill over and each macaroon will be the perfect size and shape. Allow to rest between 30-35 minutes at room temperature. Bake in a preheated oven at 300 F for 20-25 minutes until firm to touch. Repeat the process with the rest of the batter. I noticed some of mine stuck to the mat, I think next time I will spray it with a little non stick spray just to insure easy removal.
To make the filling, put the chips and the half and half in a microwave safe plastic bowl (plastic doesn't hold heat like glass....I learned this in my candymaking class with Tammy's Tastings) and heat in 10 second increments on high in the microwave until the chips are melted. Add more cream to make it spreadable if needed, Allow to rest at room temperature . Fill the macaroons with the chocolate cream. I used an offset icing knife to fill them.
It really wasn't difficult at all. I found the Decomax a little tough to use compared to a pastry bag....you press it with your thumbs and it is hard to get it fully empty, but the convenience of filling it and it can be washed in the dishwasher make up for it. It has other large tips that could be used for cake decorating or filling deviled eggs. I think it might come in handy for other recipes in my future....anything that doesn't require fine detail. I did a quick tally of my cost to make these macarons:
The tray makes 24 cookies...there was some excess meringue that yielded about 30 total, but for my estimate lets assume I made 24. Also, the bag of almonds made more than 3/4 c. but I'll assume I used it all:
3 Eggs $1.00
Powdered sugar $.20
Granulated sugar $.20
Chocolate chips $2.50
Half and half $.20
Total is $11.09 or 46 cents per cookie
Guess I'll be making these at home from now on! Also, I am glad I found out about Uncommon Goods just in time for Christmas shopping. I really like their selection and their mission. Great items for the kitchen, too!