It seems you can’t peruse a food magazine or website without seeing them.
What are those little cookies that look like puffed up Oreos dipped in a rainbow of electric colors?
They’re macarons (a sandwich cookie pronounced mak-AH-ron).
Not to be confused with the double-O’ed coconut cookie pronounced mak-ah-ROON, macarons are flaky, airy, crispy and chewy all at the same time, and they pack a lot of flavor in their little package.
“I first had macarons in the best place to have them, Paris,” area designer Betsy Blodgett said. “I bought them at the famous Laduree bakery, and I still remember what flavors I had: lavender and chocolate. They were beautiful and delicious.”
Blodgett and her sister Emily Blodgett-Panos own the hip home decor and clothing store Bon Bon Atelier in Westport, so they know a thing or two about style.
“One thing I know,” Blodgett said, “people love small and cute, and that’s why macarons are becoming so popular.”
With their brilliant colors and cute shape, macarons would fit right in with the buttons and baubles and other eye candy at Bon Bon Atelier.
“We’d sell them if we could,” Blodgett said. “Unfortunately, we’re not a bakery. The closest we get is bath fizzies that look like macarons.”
Edible macarons are indeed elusive in Kansas City. One area bakery that makes them is Natasha’s Mulberry and Mott, 10573 Mission Road in Leawood.
“We started selling them in our shop in February, and now we regularly sell out,” said Natasha Goellner, the owner. “We also supply them to Dean & DeLuca, where they do quite well. I think they’re selling because they’re so pretty. And they taste great, too.”
Another place they can be had is Bloom Baking in the River Market. Janet O’Toole, who opened the bakery four months ago, said she has been selling macarons for two months, and “they’re flying right out of the case. We make ours totally from scratch in a wide variety of flavors from fresh peach to cherry limeade. They reach out to so many people because they’re appealing to the eye and, therefore, to the taste.”
The macaron is very different from the ever-popular coconut macaroon. There is no coconut in this delicate French cookie made from almond meal, sugar and meringue. The brightly colored, crispy shell sandwiches a buttercream or ganache filling bursting with every possible flavor, from passion fruit to olive oil.
Macarons have been a long-time favorite in Paris, where even local McDonalds have started to sell them, but they’ve only recently made it to the U.S. Here, they’re going head-to-head with the cupcake.
“Cupcakes are gauche,” said Carter Holton, pastry chef at Le Fou Frog and pastry instructor at the Art Institutes International at Kansas City. “There’s all that frosting on a little dry cake. Macarons are much more posh. Anybody can make a cupcake, but macarons have a ‘je ne sais quoi.’ ”
“The cupcake has had its moment, I think,” said Blodgett-Panos, a jewelry designer, who feels the macaron has more aesthetic possibilities. “You can package them so nicely for gifts and weddings. Just look at the Laduree box design. You can create a lot of magic with some macarons and a box and some ribbons.”
Although they require more skill to make than a cupcake, Holton thinks the home baker is up to the challenge of making macarons: “I think they’re well within the reach of the average home baker. You just have to be careful of a few things.”
For starters, Holton encourages bakers to use the best ingredients.
“You want the finest, most powdery almond flour you can find. I also suggest using powdered food coloring, because you want to reduce the moisture you use.” For almond flour, colors and flavorings, Holton suggests the Chocolate Store in Overland Park.
“Macarons take skill and you may not get it perfect the first time,” says Holton who caters on the side.
Still, they’re worth the effort.
Carter Holton is the pastry chef at Le Fou Frog, a French bistro east of the City Market. He also teaches pastry classes at the Art Institute International of Kansas City.
Makes 48 halves, or 24 sandwiches
8 egg whites (195 grams)
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon almond flour (240 grams)
3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar (390 grams)
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 tablespoons powdered egg white (22 grams)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (73 grams)
Food coloring (as desired)
10 ounces white chocolate couverture (a glossy, professional-quality coating chocolate, usually only available in specialty shops, see resources)
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon condensed milk
For the macarons: Four days before making the macarons, separate the egg whites and store in a glass bowl in the refrigerator.
On the day you are making the macarons, take the egg whites out of the fridge and allow them to come to room temperature. Place the almond flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor and process for about 2 minutes. Pass the mixture through a sieve into a large bowl.
Place the whites and the granulated sugar mixed with the powdered egg white in a mixer fitted with a whip attachment and mix on low speed for two minutes, until the mixture looks foamy. Increase the speed of the mixture to medium high speed, and whip the whites until they form soft peaks; add your color now. Continue to whip until they form stiff peaks. Add more color than you think — they will fade once baked.
Once they have reached stiff peaks, dump them on top of the confectioners’ sugar mixture and press the ‘meringue’ into the dry ingredients. It is important to deflate the meringue at this step in order to get a nice smooth top on your finished macarons. Once mixed, fold the mixture until it falls back into the bowl by the count of 10 when a spatula is held above the mixing bowl.
Pipe them onto a piece of parchment or a silicone mat. Allow them to dry for 30 to 40 minutes. Bake in a 400 degree preheated oven, reducing the temperature to 350 degrees once the macarons are placed in the oven. Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes.
Spritz underneath parchment with a bit of hot water, allow the macarons to sit with the moisture underneath for about 30 seconds and then remove from the parchment.
Place the macarons in an air-tight container for up to one day unfilled, or four days filled, at room temperature, or freeze them for up to one month unfilled in an air-tight container lined with parchment between layers of macarons.
For the filling: Chop up the chocolate. Bring the cream and salt to a boil and pour over the chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute, stir in the butter and condensed milk . Let stand overnight.
Pipe filling on the flat side of one of the macarons. Then sandwich with another half.
The amount of heavy cream can be replaced by puree, juice or other flavorings. If using nut pastes, eliminate the butter and replace it with 1/4 cup nut paste. You can use milk or dark chocolate in place of white chocolate. To flavor with vanilla, coffee or any citrus, steep the cream with the bean, grounds or zest for 30 minutes, and then proceed with the recipe as above.
RESOURCES •For almond flour, colors, flavorings and supplies, visit the Chocolate Store, 11500 W. 90th St., Overland Park, 913-541-2021.
•Bloom Bakery, 15 E. Third St. in the River Market, 816-283-8437.
•Natasha’s Mulberry and Mott, 10573 Mission Road, Leawood, 913-341-0300.
•Carter Holton, holtonpastry@
FOR A TASTE You can sample Carter Holton’s macarons from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at Bon Bon Atelier, 314 Westport Road.
“It’s our fourth anniversary, and we’re going to celebrate by giving away macarons from Holton Pastry all day,” says Emily Blodgett-Panos. “We think macarons are the next big dessert, and we want Kansas City to discover them.”
Patrick Neas is a freelance writer who lives in Kansas City. He’s especially fond of strawberry macarons.