Friday, September 10, 2010

Orange Curacau Macaroons

I did a LOT of cooking over the 3 day weekend and now I have SO many recipes I want to write about! So many that I've put it off for days because I simply did not know where to start. Finally I thought, start with the most delicious! And so I give you Orange Curacau Macaroons.
But before the recipe, a bit of backstory. This was actually the third baked good I produced over the Labor Day weekend. The first was a blueberry cake that piqued my interest due to its use of molasses instead of conventional sweeteners like sugar or honey. Now, in the notes of the blog post she (Heidi) mentions that if you don't like molasses you likely won't enjoy this cake. But I had never really cooked with molasses before and my love of trying new ingredients plus a gallon sized bag of frozen blueberries in my freezer overruled any downside to this recipe. So the recipe shot up to the top of my to-make list. It turned out beautiful! But alas, I do not love molasses. (sad face) At least...I do not love molasses that much. I tried really hard to. All weekend I kept cutting little sliver-slices of the cake, taking a bit and then (over the trash can) exclaiming, "I do not like this cake!"

*Sigh* Silver lining: it gave me an idea for another cake using this same concept but with peaches and honey. Hmmmm, I have both right now...we'll see...
Next up was actually a research cake for work. As a diabetes educator and dietitian, it's part of my job to know the inter-workings of Splenda. So when a colleague of mine came to me with a one-step pineapple upside down cake recipe with some nutritional highlights (nuts, fruit and low in saturated fat) and she wanted to know if it would taste just as good to replace the sugar with splenda. Enter Kristy. This was actually great experience for me as I've never baked with splenda before. I'm all for upping the nutritional ante in recipes, but I've never really tried to fake-out sugar. I think it's the lingering Julia Child in me. Anyway, the cake tasted great - diabetics rejoice! But I screwed up this tiny little insignificant ingredient called baking powder.
This is why baking and I haven't gotten along in the past. It's too much of a science vs. an art. You miss an ingredient and your cake will taunt you for it. I imagine the Pillsbury doughboy turning his nose up in disgust, cock his chef's hat back and march out of my kitchen on his nubby, doughy legs only to stop, turn his head back to look at me with the slightest tinge of pity/disdain and then walk out of my life forever. Whatever. Go knead yourself dough boy. Did you SEE my recent lattice work? Not that I completely missed the baking powder. I just didn't have the recipe on me and figured I could do it from memory. If I were cooking, this thought process would have worked I tell you! It would have worked!!!!

Sooooo anyway. I needed a baking boost. A reminder that I knew what the heck I was doing. And these macaroons saved me from the brink, because they are gooooooooooooooooooood. And by good I mean GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD! They are a bright, sweet orange flavor, which I keep getting a wiff of every time I open up the container I'm keeping them in. Four out of four taste testers agreed, these cookies are frickin' delectable. They melt in your mouth like pillows of wonderfulness. Mmm! The sweet taste of success!

OK, so the recipe. I got the idea from Heidi's Limoncello Macaroons which she riffed off of Patrick Lemble's Pinched Orange Macaroons. Since I already had a bottle of curacao from a trip to Curacao two years ago sitting in my pantry my batch turned out to be an orange version somewhere between the two of theirs. I had been waiting for a good reason to use the curacao, but since I'm not a huge fan of fruity, umbrella drinks that occasion never seemed to arrive. This, however, seemed like the perfect reason. Side note: did you know that true curacao only can be purchased in Curacao? They don't export the stuff. Everything we buy here in the US is a knock off. Kind of like buying "champagne" made in California. And one final note, if you've never used almond paste before, you can make it from scratch, or find it in the baking aisle of your grocery store.
Orange Curacao Macaroons

14 oz (or two 8 oz cans if that's what you can find) almond paste
1 large egg white
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 + ~1/4 cup powdered sugar + LOTS more for counter and coating
1 Tbsp curacao
Zest of 1 orange (~ 1 heaping Tbsp)
1/2 tsp fine grain salt (i.e. not kosher)

Preheat oven to 350F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In large bowl use mixer to beat together almond paste, egg, almond extract and 1/2 cup sugar until creamy. Next add in liquor, zest and salt and beat until well combined. Now gauge your dough. You want it to be sticky, but not the completely unworkable sort of sticky. If it's too much of the latter, add a couple of tablespoons of the reserve powdered sugar at a time until the dough is still quite sticky, but not oozing.

Heavily "flour" your counter with some of the reserve powdered sugar and get out a flat, clean knife. You'll use this to cut the rolled dough into 3/4-1" pieces. I used a metal icing spatula, but a bread spatula or even a non-serrated butter knife would work well.

Break your dough into fourths and, one at a time, roll it out on your sugared countertop until the rolls are approximately 1" in diameter. You can do half the dough at once, but considering the tackiness of the dough I feel it's MUCH more manageable in smaller chunks. Keep dusting the countertop with extra powdered sugar as needed. I found I needed much more powdered sugar than I would have expected due to keep the dough from sticking to counter.

Once you have a section of dough rolled out, use your knife to cut it into 3/4-1" pieces with a quick sweeping motion. If your knife starts to stick into your dough, coat it with a bit of sugar as you go, which will help. Transfer all your macaroons to your baking sheets and let rest for 30 minutes.

You'll likely use this time to reclaim your countertop.

After 30 minutes, you can either bake the macaroons as is, or use a light 3-finger pinch to shape the cookies into a rounded pyramid. Let bake for 15 minutes or until a light golden-brown color. Remove from oven and let cool completely before storing in an air-tight container.

Makes approximately 4 dozen macaroons.

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