Thursday, March 28, 2013

Pistachio Macarons

Two weeks ago was my boyfriend Chris' 26th birthday. With this being our first birthday celebrated together, the pressure was on to make sure Chris felt extra special on his day...especially when I had been dropping sneaky hints about what I was arranging for his day for weeks (talk about digging yourself into a hole!). As I've mentioned before in my post on how to make French macarons, Chris was the number-one supporter of my macaron making, signing me up for a Parisian macaron making class at Le Dolci for Christmas, and sending so much positive feedback my way after trying my hand at making macarons all on my own. Chris and I share so many things in common, and yet another one of our many similarities is that both of our favourite flavours of macarons is pistachio. That was it. I knew that in order to get the biggest smile on that bearded face of his on his birthday, was to present him with a box of homemade pistachio macarons. The only problem? Getting my hands on pistachio paste, a silky-smooth paste made from ground pistachios, that is incredibly hard to find in Toronto. 

Chris had mentioned to me (that sneaky devil) that apparently the Cheese Boutique in Etobicoke is one of the only places in the city that sells the rare paste. With time running out, and a crazy busy schedule, trekking out to the Cheese Boutique wasn't a viable option. I was ready to throw in the towel and attempt to make a buttercream filling sans the paste. Happy I was not. Knowing that all the top patisseries in the city use pistachio paste in their macarons, I was pretty bummed by the thought of my macarons not resembling our favourites that we had come to know so well. It's at this moment that my superhero once again came through for me. didn't know that I had my very own superhero? I've talked about her before, but you probably know her by the title "mom". My mom is my very own superhero, saving my ass time and time again, there to step in right as I begin to raise my white flag. Despite telling her that there wasn't a chance she would be able to find the paste in such short time, in a matter of five-minutes that clever mother of mine had tracked down the paste! Literally right across the street from where I work, is a specialty food shop that carries the paste. Ararat International Fine Foods is my idea of heaven on earth, filled with unusual gourmet foods from Europe, the Middle East, and Canada, with jars of pistachio paste right at the front counter! With everything I needed to make patisserie-shop-quality pistachio macarons, I was ready to once again take a chance at making those damn difficult, finicky French cookies.
It felt great to have so much confidence making macarons this time around, now having the experience to really get the feel for the right texture for each step, as well as perfecting my folding, piping, and french meringue-making techniques. I felt relaxed and composed, as opposed to stressed and frantic, which is how I felt the last time...much of which, had to do with using way too small piping bags, resulting in the sticky almond flour batter getting ALL over me. Like ALL over me. On my clothes, up my forearms, in my hair, on my face....EVERYWHERE! So note: use large piping bags!! I also learned this time around that you can't be impatient with letting your macarons rest once you've piped them. You want them to me matte, and have formed a shell on top from drying. Not allowing them that drying time will result in your macarons cracking or bursting once placed in the oven. Lastly, I learned that although you don't want your macarons to wiggle around too much before removing from the oven, they can do so just a bit. To test whether your macarons are ready to be removed from the oven, I lightly tap the top of one to see if it wiggles. This time I waited for the macarons to be firm before removing them, which I quickly discovered results in a very dry, crisp, and crumbly macaron. The texture you are aiming for is crisp on the outside, and chewy on the inside, which means waiting for your macarons to be fairly firm, but still have a very slight wiggle to them when tapped. Although the flavour was there with the delicious buttercream filling made from pistachio paste, I wasn't too pleased with that dry, crisp, and crumbly texture. 
Unable to make them all over again, and knowing that Chris would appreciate them no matter what, I wrapped up 26 dry, yet tasty macarons in a personalized birthday box for Chris. The hunt for the paste and the labour to make those tricky French cookies was all worth it as soon as I saw Chris' face light up at the sight of them (they did look pretty damn perfect!)! He tasted one right away, and despite the less than perfect texture, he absolutely loved it! I was so happy to discover that leaving the macarons out at room temperature for a night, rehydrated them and made them the perfect patisserie-shop-like texture! Success! I feel like a macaron-making pro! 

Big thanks to Madalina from Duhlicious for supplying me with a fantastic recipe for Pistachio Buttercream Filling! I turned to Duhlicious for the recipe once again, after having so much success with  her recipe for macarons and Lemon Cream Cheese filling. If you're interested in learning to make perfect Parisian macarons, I highly suggest signing up for a macaron making class at Le Dolci with the talented Madalina as your teacher!  

Click here for a recipe and guide on making macarons!
Click here for the recipe for delicious Pistachio Buttercream Filling!

Listening To:
Noah and the Whale - Five Years Time

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Mark Neil Marago said...

NEW WEBSITE: Film your restaurant food experience and post it for all to see at Here's an example shot on a cell phone of someone not happy with their food...

Emily Clark said...

I bought my pistachio paste from King Arthur Flour (on-line). They carry the best ingredients! Good luck and thank you for posting on one of my favorite macarons!