I decided to order Colonna's book which was recently released in the US and Canada. I called Jerry at my local book shop, Monkey See Monkey Read, to see if he could get the book for me. He said "yes" and ordered it right away.
I couldn't wait to really delve into the book so after dinner I brewed a pot of tea in my Paris tea pot (it has a picture of the Eiffel tower on it), sat down on the couch with my tea and a couple of chocolate orange macarons and read Mad About Macarons! cover to cover. The book is wonderful! There are 37 macaron recipes (including a nut-free recipe for those with nut allergies) with such fun flavor combinations as "Whiskey MacCoffee" and "Thai Green Curry" in addition to the more standard Vanilla, Almond and Chocolate. In addition, Colonna suggests tea and wine pairings for each recipe, comments on presentation and packaging and has a few recipes for your leftover egg yolks.
In the meantime I had some work to do to prepare for my first Mad About Macarons! recipe.
Since the recipes in the book are all in grams (precise measurements are a must) I headed to The Measuring Cup, my local cooking store, and bought a digital scale. I also headed to Penzey's Spices in hopes of finding Bitter Almond Extract, one of the ingredients for the almond macaron recipe I wanted to try. I couldn't find bitter almond so I decided that I would try the recipe with regular almond extract.
There are a few other things in the Mad About Macarons! cookbook that are a challenge to find here. Custard powder is one, though I happened to have some Bird's Custard tucked away in my cupboard. My local grocery store and co-op don't carry custard powder but Byerly's does. I have yet to find Vanilla powder though the people at Penzey's suggested I might find it at a craft store that sells cake decorating supplies. (note added 12/12/11 - I discovered that The Measuring Cup and Byerly's both carry Vanilla Powder - expensive stuff but worth it!) Jill suggests using "a flexible plastic patisserie scraper" for preparing the macarons - I didn't find one at The Measuring Cup so will keep looking.
Also there are several things that I had to double check to make sure I knew what they were. The basic macaron recipe calls for eggs, ground almonds, caster sugar and icing sugar - here caster sugar is granulated sugar and icing sugar is powdered sugar. Some recipes call for "full milk" which is the same as whole milk yet another recipe calls for whole milk and not full milk. Not sure what to make of that. One recipe calls for "single cream" and I still have to figure out what that is. There are other little things that puzzle me in the cookbook but I'm sure I'll figure them out as I go along.
Finally, on Sunday night with my ingredients figured out, my scale ready and my eggs aged (or almost - I couldn't wait and only aged them for three days!) I started making Almond Macarons (Macarons aux Amandes - Colonna includes the French names for each recipe. I love it!).
I decided to make the shells turquoise blue simply because I've been wanting to make blue macarons.
Guess what? My shells baked up perfectly! I was so excited. Then I made the custard-based almond filling.
In the end, I was a little worried about the custard filling tasting too custardy. I almost gave up and made a buttercream instead. But I filled all of my beautiful blue shells with the almond custard and tucked them away in the fridge. Then I waited - according to Colonna macarons need to sit for 24 hours before eating "as this lets the filling infuse into the shell."
Once again I struggled to wait for the entire length of time I was supposed to but I got close! I tried my first Blue Almond French Macaron on Monday afternoon and all I can say is WOW! It was better than good - it was wonderful. So I tried another. And another. And shared a bunch with a couple of friends. I was hooked on French Macarons before but now I really am!
I'm thinking I will make Dark Chocolate Macarons (Macarons au Chocolat Noir) next. Or Chocolate and Lapsang Souchong Macarons (though I think I will substitute Earl Grey tea for the Lapsang Souchong). Or maybe Tutti-Frutti Macarons (Macarons aux Fruits Rouges).
Ah - so many macaron recipes to try and so many little bites of heaven to share with my family and friends. Life is good indeed!