Truth be told, I've never been a huge fan of French macarons. They're gorgeous to look at - petite sandwich cookies in a range of vibrant colors - but, to me, lacking in much flavor other than incredible sweetness. I've enjoyed the likes of Bouchon Bakery and Laduree; they're good, but I'm much more in love with their other amazing sweets like Bouchon's amazing TKO cookie. I feel this way because I grew up eating almond macaroons at The Greenbrier where my grandmother took us every Spring. Served during tea, The Greenbrier macaroons are chewy and almondy and oh so Southern. Or so I thought...
It turns out, after trying the recipe, The Greenbrier macaroons are, in reality, absolutely inspired by the French cookie. In fact, I think they're the lazy gal's macaron, the big differences being a lack of additional flavorings to the cookie and there's no filling. I realized this because I decided against using additional flavorings like green tea or raspberry and ended up with a cookie that, like The Greenbrier macaroon, was chewy and almondy. I ground the almonds myself, which added an extra almond punch. Plus, I definitely did something wrong because I didn't get the 'feet' that the classic macarons get. But The Greenbrier doesn't either so I'm good with making the lazy version.
Fleming's recipe was so divine that I had to get my hands on a copy of her now out of print cookbook, The Last Course: The Desserts from the Gramercy Tavern. While you can buy it second hand on Amazon, the prices are 50% more than the list price. However, as I was placing calls to second hand shops around the city, I stumbled on a little piece of information: Claudia Fleming is selling new copies at list price herself!! And, perhaps even better, she co-owns an lovely little inn out in the Hamptons called The Northfork Table & Inn. The hubby and I desperately need a couple nights away and I just figured out where we'll be going.
Back to the macarons... While the challenge required us to follow the cookie recipe, we were liberated when it came to cookie flavorings and fillings. I didn't mess around with the cookie, but I did become inspired by the jars of fragrant cardamom pods and vanilla beans in my cupboard. I decided to make a simple syrup and then mix that into some softened butter. What came out was less a buttercream than a flavored butter, but it was quite tasty. My suggestion for you would be to try Claudia Fleming's amazing recipe, see what my peers did as they are a very talented and creative crew, and then give my cardamom vanilla syrup a whirl. I'm still finding uses for it, but I'm pretty sure it's going to be center stage in a drink for our upcoming holiday open house. Cheers!
Click Here: To try Claudia Fleming's Macarons, visit Ami's blog, Baking Without Fear, for the recipe.
Click Here: To see what all my baking pals came up with! They are truly inspiring people!
Click Here: To get your own copy of Claudia Fleming's, The Last Course: The Desserts from the Gramercy Tavern.
Cardamom and Vanilla Syrup
(Yeah, this is really good in drinks whether it's mixed into seltzer or warm milk or something a bit more fun like vodka. I'm still discovering uses for it!)
What You'll Need:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
4 cardamom pods
1 vanilla beans cut down the middle with the seeds scraped out
In a pot combine all of the ingredients, including the vanilla seeds. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the syrup thickens.