I remember the first time I had a macaron. I was at Fauchon, the upscale food market in Paris, with my family. The gem-colored cookies were beautiful yet strange, unlike the rustic drop or sprinkle-covered cookies I was used to at home. The flavor of my first bite—a raspberry macaron which I remember vividly—was revelatory, and I did my best to nibble at my precious snack (since unlike cookie snacks at home, it was clear I was only getting one.)
By now this story is old hat, practically common currency among Americans who have either traveled abroad or tried the cookies at home. It makes me a little sad, not in the least because so many macarons available these day are just plain bad. Cracked shells with air bubbles. Fillings that taste like nothing. And still carrying two or three dollar a cookie price tags. The solution, in my mind, is simple: only buy really great macarons when out, and satisfy my craving at home.
These are actually not hard to make at home, particularly if you've ever made meringues. If not, check out our guide to making macarons, which comes with a handy set of photos to show you what's what. There are some differences between my recipe and the one in the slideshow. First, I used hazelnut four instead of almond flour. It's less traditional, but I like how hazelnut flour provides a more aggressively flavored shell (which is a good thing if you like hazelnuts). Do note that it requires some sifting to get out any chunks in the flour. And because the whole point of making macarons at home is to satisfy a craving, which usually implies haste, I took the shortcut version and filled the shells with jam instead of buttercream. I think that apricot provides the right sweet, peachy balance to the earthy hazelnuts, but you can easily swap in other flavors.
A note on filling the shells: the jam will make these soggy after about an hour, so if you're not eating them right away, keep the shells in an airtight container and spread with jam just before serving.