Bonjour & Howdy,
Today I tried something outside of my comfort zone! Come to think of it, a number of things are out of my comfort zone since I am still a novice in the kitchen. However in this case, I am in outer space! Much like math, for which I seem to have a mental block, I never thought I’d be able to make anything resembling a fine pastry. I often don’t have the patience, the careful artist’s hand and frankly, I’m a little messy. Well as you can see, I guess I managed.
When I went to Paris last year for my honeymoon I saw countless pastry shops, with their windows filled with beautiful confections including, of course, colorful “Macarons”(French). They come in a wide range of vibrant colors and flavours. I just had to pop in and try one before leaving the city. So I picked a few of my favorite flavours such as chocolate, pistachio and so on. Well, sadly I didn’t enjoy any of them. They tasted like sugary, chewy styrofoam. (See my post “Holy Macaroni Bar, Batman!”, to see how much I loathe sugary “styrofoamy” desserts! or check out “Starved in Paris” to learn about well….how we starved in Paris..lol)
So now, almost a year later, (how fitting, since its almost my 1st anniversary) I was flipping through my latest issue of Food Network magazine and found a whole section on Peanut Butter and Jelly concoctions. There are streusels, there are pies and there are the oh so deceiving Macaroons! I kinda stayed stuck on them though . “Hm….” I was always curious on how they made the cookie and thought it to be difficult.
After reading I thought that I’d attempt it…just to be able to make that maringue-like cookie and after all, the whole peanut butter and jelly thing couldn’t be bad.
Ingredients were simple to find, directions weren’t complicated at all. I thought that there had to be a catch.
So why did I call it Macarons à l’américaine?
Macaroons…In short, I couldn’t find anything that stated that they originated in France. They have their version which became quite popular which is why I think they are forever associated with France first. Other Macaroon eating countries include Japan and Australia…and they all have their own variation of the spelling of Macaroon too. Example: Makaron, Macaron, Macaroon and so on…
Peanut butter and jelly although popularized in the US, this combo may have its roots elsewhere like the UK – we can’t be sure. Peanut butter became a staple in America during the great depression, providing a low cost, high protein substitute for much pricier meat. It was also the first thing to be marketed as “health food”! YAY! The addition of jelly was said to have been “invented” by soldiers during the war, to sweeten up the pasty peanut butter. I’m assuming it wasn’t like Skippy, hu? Soldiers were provided with peanut butter , once again as a cheaper protein subsitute. They found that peanut butter would stick to the roof of their mounths…therefore the jelly must have helped in that area too. In later years it was one of , if not THE most popular lunch sandwiches in Canada and the US.
So basically I called this post Macarons a l’americaine because Macaroons make me think of France and Peanut butter and jelly makes me think of America! There!
Side note: Many people,including those who wrote this recipe, refer to Peanut butter and jelly as PB&J…which I can’t stand! Its like the dreaded EVOO (Extra virgin olive oil). Curse-you, Rachel Ray!!!!!! You’ve started this acronym fiasco! (You and the new texting generation, that is….) There is even a brand of olive oil called EVOO) I cringe every time I see it..
In conclusion, this recipe was surprisingly easy to make – no fuss….and the taste? I can say with confidence that these are the best I’ve tasted. They are flavorful & comforting. The roasted peanut flavour really comes through in the cookie. The Jam on the inside was a combination of unsweetened blueberry jam and sweet strawberry jelly. Its just what I had in the fridge. The blueberry jam wasn’t sweet enough and was very dense and the strawberry jelly was too runny so it made for a great combo. Also, the cookie was not chewy. They are wonderfully crispy and light. Perhaps they’ll become chewier with time but I think that because they have a peanut butter taste, it will be acceptable…if that makes any sense.
Here goes! I learned a few lessons along the way so keep your eyes peeled for tips!
Makes 15 Macaroons
1/4 cup unsalted roasted peanuts (you can roast them yourself on 350 on a baking sheet until they become slightly golden and fragrant)
1/4 cup of almond flour or finely ground almonds.
1 cup of confectioners’ sugar (icing sugar)
2 large egg whites at room temp
3 tbsp of granulated sugar
1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
1/4 cup of raspberry, strawberry or grape jam (it has to be jam because jelly is too runny)
1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Use a small cookie cutter or small drinking glass to trace thirty, 1+1/2 inch circles in rows on the paper , about 1+1/2 inches apart. Flip the paper over and place in the baking sheet (you’ll still be able to see the traced circles through the paper)
2. Finely grind the peanuts in a food processor , add the almond flour and confectioners’ sugar and pulse to make a fine powder. Sift through a fine sieve and crush or discard any chunks.
Note: I did not have the appropriate sieve for this. The mixture was getting kind of stuck in my fine sieve so I simply used a colander and removed any hardened parts that didn’t make it through. It worked out fine for me.
3. Beat the egg whites in a bowl with a mixer on high speed until foamy. Gradually add the granulated sugar and beat until you can form soft peaks. Fold in half of the peanut mixture with a rubber spatula and repeat with remaining mixture.
4. Transfer the batter to a pastry bag with about a 1/4 inch round tip. (funny thing….I didn’t even use a nozzle…worked out fine..lol) Holding the bag perpendicular to the baking sheet, pipe mounds of batter into the traced circles on the parchment paper. Tap the baking sheets on the counter to help the batter settle. Let them sit at room temperature until a sort of crust forms on top (about 15 min). Meanwhile, preaheat your oven at 375. Use the middle rack.
5. Bake macaroons until slightly crisp, 13 to 15 mins. Slide the parchment paper onto a rack to cool.
6. Carefully remove the cookies from the paper. Spread a little less than a teaspoon into the center of the flat side of the cookie then, top with another. repeat with remaining macaroons and jam. (These are best enjoyed when eaten within 1 day)
I know you’ll love them 🙂 xo