I remember the first time I met my inlaws. They weren’t yet my inlaws, of course, at the time they were just the parents of the guy I had been seeing for the last couple of months. I didn’t think much of it back then, but Mr. had decided that the best time for me to meet them was over a Passover Seder. Looking back on that now, I realize the pressure of that situation. Not being Jewish myself, I had never attended a Seder before. (A Seder is a ceremonial Passover meal that is full of symbolism, significance, and Hebrew prayer, and a minefield of potential faux pas for the uninitiated.) But overall I came through the experience with flying colors and a few extra brownie points for arriving on the scene with a perfect, Passover-friendly, post-Seder nibble.
When my Mr. informed his mother that I would be bringing something to add to the dessert table, she was nervous and doubtful, and rightly so. There are so many restrictions on what can be eaten at Passover, and dessert can be particularly tricky. She was pleasantly surprised, and I won her approval, by doing my research and offering the Italian equivalent of a macaron, which has no flour or leavening, and contains only egg whites, sugar, and almonds.
For this recipe, I’ve chosen to step it up even more by using flavors inspired by the Jewish homeland of Israel. Oy veyismir, your inlaws will be so impressed they’ll plotz!
Sesame Macarons with Pomegranate Lime Buttercream
for the shells:
2 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup superfine sugar
3/4 cup almond meal
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds, plus a little extra for garnish
1 cup powdered sugar
for the buttercream filling:
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons pomegranate juice
1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
10 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons)
zest of one lime
drop of red or pink food coloring (optional)
First you want to put the almonds and the powdered sugar into the blender with the toasted sesame seeds (don’t forget to reserve some for garnish!). To toast them, just shake them around in a dry pan until they get a little browned.
They smell really yummy and nutty…
Then just sift everything really well.
Put the egg white and the cream of tartar in the mixer on high. When it gets really foamy-looking, sprinkle in the superfine sugar. Continue to whip until you have firm peaks. By firm I mean not soft, but not stiff either. They should look glossy, not dry. I recently had an experience with no-feet-ed macarons. I was almost glad it happened, because I get a lot of questions from readers about that. It had never happened to me before, so I didn’t know how to help those poor footless bakers… Well, now I think I know, it’s because of whipping the egg whites too stiff and dry.
Now dump the almond-sesame-powdered-sugar mixture into the egg whites…
…and fold them all together. You don’t want to lose all the air you’ve whipped in, but you do want the mixture to be a little gloopy.
Pipe the batter onto a lined baking sheet, into half-inch rounds. It should look shiny and slump a little bit, into a soft, but not runny, puddle-mound.
Sprinkle the tops with the reserved sesame seeds. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Leave your piped macaron shells out for 30 minutes to dry. You can tell when they’re done drying by touching them with a fingertip. You’ll be able to feel a very thin, dry membrane, and they will be more dull-looking.
Drop the oven temp down to 325 and bake the shells for 15 minutes.
While the shells are busy drying/baking, you can get going on the buttercream. You can really use any kind of buttercream recipe, but I chose this one because it uses up the egg yolks that you didn’t need for the shells.
Step one is to beat the yolks until they are pale and thick.
You can add in the pomegranate juice now too, very gradually, a drop at a time.
Then get the sugar and corn syrup in a small pot and stir constantly over a medium-high heat. Once it gets a good boil going…
…put it into a glass measuring cup and beat a third of it to the yolks. Then another glug. Beat. Then the last of it. Beat until cooled.
Then whip the softened butter in, a tablespoon at a time.
Finally, fold in the lime zest and the color, if using.
After the macaron shells are nice and cool, fill them with a little of that gorgeous buttercream.
It’s like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a French pastry had a little middle-eastern baby…
For more on French macarons, check out my other posts:
Chai-Spiced Buttercream Macarons
Red Velvet Macarons
Green Tea Macarons with Orange White Chocolate Buttercream
For more on winning over your Jewish in-laws, check out my:
Shikse’s Guide to Hannukah