Continuing my effort to utilize more of the cookbooks that have been sitting dormant on the shelf for a while, I picked up How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson a few days ago and starting thumbing through it. When I first get a cookbook, I usually page through the entire thing and use Post-It flags to mark recipes of interest. Even though I hadn't picked up this cookbook in quite a while, all of the Post-Its were still there. I was quickly drawn to a recipe I had flagged years ago (but never made before) for pistachio macaroons. Having made my first attempt at chocolate macaroons only a few months ago (you can read about it here), I thought it was be great to branch out into a new variety. (And it doesn't hurt that I happen to love pistachios.)
The recipe was also wonderfully simple. The macaroons and filling only require a total of five ingredients: pistachios, powdered sugar, egg whites, granulated sugar, and butter. To make the macaroons, you grind pistachios and powdered sugar together in the food processor until the mixture is "as fine as dust." You then beat the egg whites until they are stiff, add some granulated sugar and beat them some more, and fold the egg whites into the pistachio dust. That's it for the batter. I used a #50 scoop to parcel out scoops of batter instead of using a pastry bag as the recipe suggested.
I was slightly panicked as I watched the macaroons baking in the oven; they did not flatten out and crack as I had expected. Instead, they stayed puffed and round, resembling the caps of white mushrooms. I was imagining that these puffy macaroons would form unsightly roly poly spheres when sandwiched together. Instead, the cookies deflated upon cooling and took on an odd wrinkly appearance. While I was very disappointed that they did not have the distinctive cracked appearance typical of macaroons (the photo accompanying the recipe in the cookbook showed traditional-looking macaroons, with pronounced surface cracks), at least they ended up with a flatter shape that could form decent looking sandwiches. The pistachio buttercream filling is nothing more than creamed butter combined with more pistachios and powdered sugar that has been pulverized in the food processor.
While I was not entirely satisfied with the macaroons themselves -- both their unusual appearance and their slightly damp texture left something to be desired -- the flavor combination of the macaroons and buttercream together was outstanding. Very rich and pistachio-ey! In the introductory text to the recipe, Nigella Lawson writes, "Of all the recipes in this book, this is the one of which I think I'm most proud: cookie bliss." I don't have it quite perfected yet, but I think that Nigella was really onto something there!
Recipe: "Pistachio Macaroons" from How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson.
Previous Post: "Baking Up A French Beauty," November 18, 2008.