Sunday, January 9, 2011

French Macarons vs. Whoopie Pies

***Featured in Bon Appetit's "What People Are Cooking" on January 21st 2011***

The January issue of Bon Appetit staged a challenge between the French Macaron and the up and coming Whoopie Pie. I had decided I wanted to make the macaron and then thought why not stage my own challenge to determine the true winner?


Before telling which one we found to be the winner, after making them both I honestly don't know why they are trying to even compare them. They are both such different types of cookie, I struggle to even find similar scales to weigh them against each other.

The whoopie pie is a cake like cookie with a wonderful light peppermint filing and rich chocolate ganache. They were quite rich but I loved them and it was a fun combination to create.

The French macaron is a meringue based cookie, not to be confused with the macaroon, a coconut based cookie. They are light and crispy on the top where the meringue has expanded and then the lower portion is a rich and chewy texture that is to die for. Take two of those and spread a raspberry-rose buttercream between them and you have a creation that I can hardly even describe.

If you can't tell by now, the French Macarons won our contest by a landslide. Although the kids loved the whoopie pies, even they claimed to like the macarons better. Again, I really don't feel like the two should even be compared though as they each are great in their own right.

I've made the macarons twice now and I think they may be one of my new favorite desserts. The recipe calls for almond flour which I was dismayed to see cost about $14 for a small bag. I ended up buying sliced blanched almond slices without the peel and then ground and sifted them myself. It turned out great and was much cheaper as well.  I've never used rose water before either but it added such a light delicate flavor to the buttercream and I'll definitely search out some more opportunities to use it. Make sure you don't make them bigger than called for in the recipe as they are much better when smaller. The second batch I made, I used a triple berry blend instead of just raspberries and it was great as well. Lastly, do not overbeat the egg whites for the cookie batter or you'll get cracked tops in your cookies

French Macarons with Raspberry-Rose Buttercream

Ingredients

Cookies

2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup (lightly packed) sifted almond flour, or 3/4 cup sifted almond flour and 1/4 cup sifted hazelnut flour (sifted, then measured; any coarse particles reserved for another use)
1/2 cup (scant) egg whites (from about 3 large eggs)
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon sugar

Filling

4 cups frozen raspberries (about 15 ounces; do not thaw)
1 cup plus 6 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/4 cup egg whites (from about 2 large eggs), room temperature
10 tablespoons (11/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon (generous) rose water

Ingredient info 
Almond flour (sometimes labeled "ground almonds") and hazelnut flour can be found at specialty foods stores and natural foods stores. Look for rose water at supermarkets, specialty foods stores, and Middle Eastern markets.

Preparation


Cookies

Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment. Sift powdered sugar, almond flour, and hazelnut flour (if using) into large bowl. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites, sugar, and pinch of salt in medium bowl until medium peaks form. Add egg white mixture to almond mixture; fold to incorporate. Working in 2 batches, fill pastry bag fitted with 1/4-inch-diameter plain pastry tip with batter (batter will be thin and will drip from bag). Pipe batter in 11/4-inch rounds on baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart (cookies will spread slightly). Let rest on sheets at room temperature 20 minutes.

Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 375°F. Bake cookies 5 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Continue to bake cookies until puffed and golden on top, about 10 minutes, reversing sheets after 5 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets on rack. Carefully peel cookies from parchment. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.

Filling

Bring raspberries and 1 cup sugar to boil in large saucepan over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook until berries are soft, juices thicken, and mixture measures about 11/2 cups, stirring frequently, 7 to 9 minutes. Measure 1/2 cup mixture; strain into small bowl. Cool strained jam and jam with seeds separately. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover jams separately and chill.

Combine egg whites, 6 tablespoons sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in bowl of heavy-duty stand mixer. Set bowl over large saucepan of simmering water. Heat until candy thermometer inserted into mixture registers 140°F, stirring often, 3 to 4 minutes. Using whisk attachment, beat egg white mixture at high speed until stiff meringue forms and mixture is at room temperature, 5 to 6 minutes. With mixer running, add butter, 1 piece at a time, beating until each piece is incorporated before adding next. Beat in rose water. Add 3 tablespoons seedless jam, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating to blend well after each addition. (If buttercream looks broken or curdled, place bowl over medium heat and whisk 5 to 10 seconds to warm slightly, then remove from heat and beat again on medium speed. Repeat warming and beating as many times as needed until buttercream is smooth.)

Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Using 1/2 teaspoon jam with seeds for each, spread jam over flat side of half of macaroons. Spoon buttercream into pastry bag fitted with 1/4-inch plain tip. Starting at outer edge of flat sides of remaining macaroons, pipe buttercream over in spiral. Gently press macaroons, jam-filled side down, onto buttercream-coated macaroons. Place on sheet. Cover; chill overnight. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 to 3 days ahead. Store in airtight container in refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving.
Whoopie Pies with Mint Filling and Chocolate Ganache 

Ingredients

Cookies

2 cups all purpose flour
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/8 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup nonhydrogenated solid vegetable shortening or unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk
 

Mint filling

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons nonhydrogenated solid vegetable shortening or unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups plus 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 cup egg whites (from about 2 large eggs)
3 to 4 drops green food coloring
 

Chocolate Ganache

3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips

Preparation

Cookies

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and baking soda into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat shortening, sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla in large bowl until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with milk in 2 additions, beating until blended after each addition.

Drop dough by very rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets, spacing 3 inches apart. Bake 1 sheet at a time until cookies are slightly puffed and spread but are still soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool on sheets 10 minutes. Carefully transfer cookies to racks and cool completely. Repeat with remaining cookie dough. DO AHEAD Cookies can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight in single layer at room temperature.

Mint filling
Using electric mixer, beat shortening, peppermint extract, and vanilla in large metal bowl until blended. Add powdered sugar, egg whites, and pinch of salt; beat until light and fluffy. Add food coloring drop by drop for desired shade of green; beat until well blended. If mixture looks curdled, place bowl over low heat several seconds and beat until smooth. Repeat as necessary until smooth.

Ganache

Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Bring cream to simmer in heavy small saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; whisk until smooth. Cool until lukewarm but spreadable, about 15 minutes.

Spoon 1 teaspoon ganache onto bottom (flat side) of half of cookies. Place cookies, ganache side up, on prepared baking sheet.

Spoon mint filling into pastry bag fitted with medium star tip (or spoon filling into resealable plastic bag, squeezing filling into 1 corner of bag, then cut off 1/4 inch of plastic bag corner to allow for piping). Starting at outer edge of bottom (flat side) of remaining cookies and working toward center, pipe mint filling in spiral. Place 1 mint-filled cookie, mint side down, atop each ganache-topped cookie, pressing slightly to adhere. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 hours ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

3 comments:

  1. I'm not much of a cookie maker, but both of these sound so good, I might have to give them a try.

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  2. I've always wanted to make french macaroons as well as meringues. I finally attempted meringues (FAIL!) but not macaroons. Yours look great. But, I am still confused why they would comare them to a whoopie pie?!

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  3. In my world, the macarons win. If I was ten - maybe the whoopie pies - but I've found them too rich and too cloying. I love your recipes though and they both entice.

    And yes - I always ground my own almonds!

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