Handpainted Raw Cashew Macarons

When I have to be away from home, either work or play, it never fails that I yearn for time in the kitchen. Even though I didn't start cooking until I was married...and didn't start cooking well until after I had children, the kitchen feels more familiar to me than most any other place on Earth.

So this week, after I had been away for a handful of days, I asked Canaan, "did you miss me while I was gone?". His response was this: "Well I really missed your cooking. And the way you keep everything nice around the house. You're really good at that mommy stuff." I smiled. Partially because that's such a guy response from my nearly teenager. But more than anything, in that moment I felt deeply content with my role in these boys lives. Both the tangible and intangible pieces and parts of bellies fed and the comforts of home.

But lets talk about macarons. They aren't my most favorite dessert to eat...but they might be one of my favorites to make. The headlines you read about macarons being a tricky beast to tame are true. I've had more than my fair share of flat-as-a-pancake macarons emerge from the oven. Still good enough to eat, but definitely not Parisian worthy.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a handpainted macaron and it paralyzed me with some major surges of creative impulse. Despite my love of both art and cooking, I've never had a hankering to sink my teeth into cake decorating or sugar sculptures. But this. This! I could do this...maybe. If I could get my macarons to rise.

So yesterday, girded with gumption and a bit of time, I dove in.

I wanted very 'clean' looking macarons. No flecks of brown skin from almonds. And as a major risk taker in life who often will bet everything on an instinct and belief, I passed over the traditional almonds and went for more visually pure, raw cashews.

The two most time consuming parts of macarons are this: 1. making nut flour  2. giving the macaron batter time to form a crust before baking.

Otherwise, macarons are easy peasy to make. Don't be intimidated!!! Set aside time to do it right and you'll get it right. Promise.

Below, the recipe. Please consider buying a kitchen scale. I know you've read that before and passed right over the advice. But its time. A kitchen scale will cost you about $10 at the grocery store and is not a wasted purchase. The more I bake, the more I have relied on accurate measurements of ingredients to get me the result I desire. And what's the point in buying ingredients and putting in the effort to get a substandard result? Incomprehensible!

The handpainting is totally by choice. It was my therapy after a few tiring days. If you do want to paint your macarons, obviously use food coloring- not art-grade paints. I used a small watercolor brush and only three colors (red, blue and green). They are easy to paint. No real trick to it. But I would suggest you paint it with the macaron on a flat surface, as opposed to holding it between your thumb and index finger. Holding the macaron lends to squeezing the macaron which results in potential cracking. Serious disappointment.

So without further adieu....Raw Cashew Macarons....

Raw Cashew Macarons  adapted from Gloverly Cupcakes Makes 60 – 80
240g ground cashew nuts
400g powdered sugar
200g egg whites
100g granulated sugar
Sift the powdered sugar and ground cashew nuts together into a bowl.
Put the egg whites and granulated sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment (or in a bowl and use a hand whisk) and whisk on slow-medium (4 on a KitchenAid) for 3 minutes – it won’t look like much has happened to them. Increase the speed to medium-high (7 on a KitchenAid) for another 3 minutes. Finally, increase the speed one notch (up to 8) for another 4 minutes.
Incorporate the cashew flour/powdered sugar blend into the egg white mixture and stir in by hand – there’s no need to be gentle to start with. After it looks combined, start folding the mixture one stroke at a time.
Put the mixture into a piping bag with a small plain nozzle attached. Pipe small circles of the mixture onto baking sheets covered with a sheet of parchment paper, about 1 inch apart. Leave the macarons to form a film for about 45 mins – 1 hour (essential step!). When you touch them they shouldn’t stick to your finger. Heat the oven to 265 F. Once the oven has reached the right temperature place the macarons in the oven for 15 minutes. Turn them around and bake for another 5 minutes. When they are baked, they should come off the baking sheet cleanly. If they do not, then continue baking in 5 minute increments until they are baked through.
Once done, take them out the oven, and leave to cool for a few minutes before taking them off the baking sheets and leave them to cool completely on a wire rack. While they’re cooling, make a filling of your choice.
Once the macarons are completely cool, you can now paint them. If you opt out of this step, then proceed to filing them. I chose to do a lemon curd for these. But the sky's the limit. Buttercreams are the most traditional and vanilla and chocolate rank highest.

Bon Appetit!