When Jessica Stampley took over as pastry chef at Black Rooster Cafe one year ago, macarons, the delicate pastel-hued French cookie, were only a special order item. They’d already tried selling them along with the freshly baked oatmeal raisin cookies and cinnamon cream cheese buns each day, but there simply wasn’t enough interest.
“Now we’re selling a couple hundred a week,” Stampley says.
What changed? Why did people of the Fort suddenly start to crave French macarons instead of monster chocolate chip cookies?
No one I spoke to could put their finger on a single game-changing event, but I suspect all signs point to Ladurée, the Paris tea shop with a keen sense of branding. When Sofia Coppola’s movie came out in 2006, Marie Antoinette was eating macarons, even though the timing of such cookie was off historically by several decades. “Gossip Girl” star Blair Waldorf famously ate Ladurée macarons, and in 2014, its first American outlet opened in Manhattan, bringing the French cookie plus other classic treats – éclairs, madeleines and millefeuilles – along with it.
Yet the cookie itself isn’t really French. Like so many iconic French boulangerie staples – the croissant is originally from Vienna, and the quiche, from Germany – the macaron was first a foreigner, which later acclimated to its new home. It came from Italy – in particular, from the chef of Catherine de Medicis for her wedding in the mid-16th century to the Duc d’Orleans, who became Henry II, the king of France. Back then, the macaron was a single cookie affair; Carmelite nuns in Nancy made and sold macarons during the Revolution, but none of these macarons were anything like the light-colored ones we have today. Ladurée gets credit for turning the single macaron into a prettier, sandwich-style cookie.
“Personally, I think they’re trendy because they’re cute,” says Stampley. “Part of the trendiness is that locals aren’t accustomed to it. Most of my macaron customers are millennials, but it has started to transcend beyond that, to an older group. “
Black Rooster offers six flavors of macarons at a time and switches some out seasonally. Right now, she’s launching a pumpkin pie macaron with pumpkin pie filling that will debut along with regulars salty caramel, dark chocolate and blueberry muffin, which comes with a filling of a toasted blueberry muffin that’s emulsified into a ganache along with a blueberry jam.
Black Rooster Café Pumpkin Butter Filling for Macarons
Makes about 1 1/2cups of filling for about 50 maracons
- 15 ounces (or 425 grams) pumpkin purée
- 2/3 cup light brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 ounces (or 60 grams) fresh orange juice
- 2 teaspoons (or 10 grams) fresh lemon juice
- 2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 big pinch sea salt
- Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan with a rubber spatula.
- Bring to a light boil over medium heat while stirring consistently to avoid scorching. Continue to simmer over low-medium heat, while continuing to stir until nicely thickened and a bit darker in color. Could take 10-15 minutes. Voila!
Central Market macarons
Sarah Hooton, a cooking school manager who was also a contestant on TLC’s “Chocolate Wars” and Food Network’s “Sugar Dome,” has been teaching macaron-making classes at Central Market in Fort Worth for the past five or six years. Now they’re filling up faster than ever.
“Lately I’ve definitely seen an uptick,” she says. “I think people are drawn to the colors. They look like fun.”
Making them is another story. Slice-and-bakes these are not.
While macarons are simply meringues amped up with almond flour, then filled with buttercream, ganache or jam, there’s nothing simple about making them. “It’s all about technique,” Hooton says. “That’s why I can devote an entire 2 1/2-hour class on them. Meringue and piping are huge techniques to learn. Everybody who makes them really does well the first time, but by the second time, they’re that much better.”
If you’ve never tasted one, the shells – the two cookies – are almost always the same, no matter what flavor or color you buy. The filling is what sets one macaron apart from another.
“I’ve seen shell recipes where you’re trading out almonds for ground hazelnuts, but for the most part, you color it whatever color you’re going for flavor-wise, such as pink for raspberry,” says Hooton. “The filling can be something as simple as jam, but since the shell is made with so much sugar, I see more flavored buttercreams or things like lemon curd or Nutella.”
In her classes, Hooton’s students learn how to make a strawberry cheesecake macaron with a filling of cream cheese icing, strawberry jam and graham cracker crumbs. They also learn to make a raspberry-pistachio and a lemon-blackberry filling, too — “just to get the feel for the different flavors,” she says.
Mike Micallef, owner of Reata in Fort Worth and Alpine, took her class recently because he likes baking cookies for his friends and this was something new. “I didn’t know how tricky they were to make,” he says.
“I didn’t know what I was getting into. I had never made a meringue before.”
Nevertheless, within weeks of his introduction to Swiss meringue technique, which requires whisking the egg whites with sugar in a bain marie, he was ready to try it at home on his own. He ordered some pastry bags and purple food coloring and made a double-batch of TCU-themed cookies with the cheesecake filling he learned to make at Central Market’s class. He then boxed up and delivered them to his friends.
“They tasted really good, but I was baking two sheets at a time and the ones on the top cracked but the bottom ones were just fine. I need to spend more time figuring out my oven and doing some testing,” Micallef confesses.
Hooton says it’s too early to tell whether today’s macaron is yesterday’s cronut. “They’ve been around Europe forever. Cupcakes are dying and cake balls are dying, thank goodness. I feel like they’ll stick around. I hope so,” Hooton says.
The almond mixture:
- 8 ounces (or 225 grams) almond meal
- 8 ounces (or 225 grams) powdered sugar
- 3 ounces (or 85 grams) egg whites
- 4-6 drops food coloring
For the meringue:
- 8 ounces (or 225 grams) granulated sugar
- 3 ounces (or 85 grams) egg whites
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- In a food processor, mix the powdered sugar and almond meal together and blend for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the FIRST 3 ounces (85 grams) egg whites and food coloring.
- Fill a medium saucepan about halfway with water and turn on high heat to boil. While that is heating, put the granulated sugar and SECOND amount of egg whites in a bowl of a stand mixer. Once the water boils, turn the heat down to a low-medium heat. Place the metal bowl on the saucepan careful not to touch the water. Whisk the egg whites and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Look to heat up the egg whites until they are warm, but not hot. Also look to dissolve the sugar – but be very careful not to overcook the whites.
- Whip the egg whites and sugar until medium peaks form and until cooled off to room temperature.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the powdered almond mixture.
- Using a pastry bag with a plain tip, pipe rounds onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Once piped, let the rounds sit for 20-30 minutes to develop a crust.
- Bake the macarons for 8-12 minutes, careful not to let them get color.
- Remove from oven and let cool. Once cool, remove from baking sheet. Use a small offset spatula to remove ones in the middle that might be sticking. Clean the spatula each time to remove anything sticky. Match up sizes, then fill.
Makes about 3-4 cups
- 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1 cup butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract*
- 1-2 tablespoons whipping cream
- In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.
- Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.
*You can change or add other extracts to change the flavoring of the buttercream.
–Sarah Hooton with Central Market/Fort Worth
Le Macaron, Denton
Fabien Daure and his wife, Bibiana, opened Le Macaron, a franchise of a national chain out of Sarasota, Florida, in Denton’s Golden Triangle Mall in June because he wanted to start his own business — plus he grew up eating macarons in his native France.
“As a kid, I ate a lot of macarons – chocolate, vanilla, lemon crème were my favorites,” he says.
His Le Macaron store sells more than 16 flavors, including lavender-white chocolate, rose, green tea and gingerbread. “Kids love the bubble gum,” Daure says.
Daure, who most recently was living in his hometown of Nice, France where he was playing professional basketball, attended Grayson College in Denison.
“I was 31 and at the end of my career,” Daure explains. “I wanted to return to Texas and start a business.”
Daure does a lot of catering and sells a lot of croquembouche — the macaron towers traditionally served at French weddings— in addition to more than 1,000 macarons, on average, each week. He expects to sell close to 5,000 per week during the holiday season.
“You have Americans who’ve been to Europe and they have had macarons and like them, so when they come to the shop they already know them,” Daure says. “Others come who haven’t tried them before and they want to discover something new. And there are some who have tried them and don’t like them, and they’re the ones you have to convince.”
“People were like, ‘$2.60 apiece?’ ”
Apparently he’s converting the doubters. Daure says he’s already looking for a second location in Denton. “I think macarons will really catch on in the next five to 10 years.”
Want to make macarons at home? Here are some tips from our experts.
- Don’t make macarons on a dry day. You have to make sure you have humidity when you make a macaron.
- Older is better when it comes to egg whites. Week-old ones are great.
- The ideal macaron is crisp on the outside, soft in the middle.
- Be sure to let your macarons rest on the baking sheets for a half-hour to one hour before you bake them.
- Macarons, filled or not, freeze well. In fact, freezing supposedly improves their flavor and texture.
- Macaron is pronounced mack-ah-RHON. (Not mack-ah-ROON.)
Ellise Pierce is a freelance writer who splits her time between Santa Fe, North Texas and Paris.