The next recipe I made for the Modern Baker Challenge combined something I love (pine nuts) with something I’m not so crazy about (macaroons). In my book, macaroons rank right up there with meringues. They have the same lighter-than-air quality that makes me wonder why I bother with them. And like meringues, they don’t keep well, so you have to plan on eating them the day you make them.
Given my lack of enthusiasm and the must-eat nature of these cookies, I decided to make a half batch. I didn’t have any almond paste, so the first order of business was to mix up a batch of homemade almond paste. I measured out 4 ounces of the almond paste, mixed it with granulated and confectioner’s sugars, and beat them together in the stand mixer while I gathered the rest of my ingredients. I added vanilla and an egg white to the dough and stirred it just until everything was mixed together.
I spooned the dough into a pastry bag and began piping the cookies onto the baking sheet. I could tell right away that the dough (which was more like a batter) was too loose, probably due to the egg white. I buy my eggs from a local farm, and they aren’t sized or graded. The recipe calls for large eggs, but mine were probably closer to jumbo. The dough/batter started to spread on the cookie sheet, so I piped the macaroons as far apart as I could.
The final step before baking is to flatten and moisten the cookies (unnecessary in my case), then to sprinkle them with pine nuts. I pressed the pine nuts into the dough a bit, then baked the cookies in a 375°F oven. The recipe said to bake them for about 20 minutes, but mine were starting to smell quite done by 15 minutes, so I took them out.
They weren’t pretty (hence the reason I didn’t take any pictures). They baked together into one big, flat, brittle-like mass. But they smelled good; and they had that macaroon shine to them.
I let them cool on a rack, then broke off and sampled a piece. And another. And another. Then the girls appeared and started breaking off pieces, too. And before long most of the pan was gone. They had a great nutty flavor from both the almond paste and pine nuts. And the shattering crispness of the macaroons was balanced by the slight bite of the pine nuts.
So even though these weren’t a rousing success, I’d like to try them again to see if I can achieve results closer to what Sara accomplished when she made them. Based on flavor alone, they are worth a second go-round.