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The Taste of Meringue

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Grapefruit and Pastis Macarons, courtesy of www.helenedujardin.com

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Jennifer asks via Twitter:

Anti-macs had that strange egg-white flavor you get in meringue – is there anything I can do about that? Adaptation of this cookie recipe.  http://www.applepiepatispate.com/filipino/pasencia-meringue-cookies/
Jennifer Fisher

Hi, Jennifer,
I know I’ve gone down a couple of wrong roads with this, but it’s interesting to explore in any case. For those who were not part of the conversation, Jennifer is trying to make what she’s calling “Anti-Macarons.” Macarons, also known as French Macaroons (though they have little in common with the coconut concoction that we tend to think of as macaroons) are a clever pastry that takes essentially a meringue mixed with almond flour for texture. You take two of those cookies, add a flavored cream filling, and make a wee sandwich, and it is essentially a blank canvas for flavors. They are very popular in the food and blogging world right now, displacing last year’s trend of cupcakes.
Unfortunately, I’m not much of a meringue person, and a lot of that is because of the flavor that Jennifer mentioned. However, I do love macarons, so I asked my friend Helen of Tartelette her thoughts, because I cannot think of macarons without thinking of Helen, and really, neither should you. The key to the lack of meringue flavor in the macarons is the almond flour. It acts as kind of a filler/buffer for flavor, but there are a couple of problems with the almond flour.
The first problem is that it’s nutty. And, while many people with food allergies apparently don’t really have food allergies, nut allergies are still a concern. The option I really like is from Baking Obsession, who suggests that you use a combination of coconut and black sesame to do the work of the almond flour. Very useful, and definitely worth knowing.
The second problem is that macarons are a bit finicky when you’re baking them, and though I didn’t know it at the time, I think that is what Jennifer was going for: something that would be a light pastry made from egg foam, but that wasn’t quite so difficult to work with. A trick that may help is to use older eggs. The super-fresh egg whites may hold more flavor, but you kind of have a balance to deal with if you let the eggs age. You’ll get more of a sulfuric taste as the eggs get older, though there may be a balance to be had.
The flavor profile Jennifer was going for was a citrusy, grapefruity, blood orangey sort of meringue cookie. And, though it is a good portion of the work of a regular macaron, I asked Helen to make a recipe for me that would have the grapefruit and citrus notes, but just be a cookie shell. Now, because Helen is unstoppable, she’s made a full macaron with a pastis/anise flavored buttercream to complement the flavor of the grapefruit. Here’s a picture of the pastry, but you’ll definitely want to check out her full post on the subject, and learn how to make your own Grapefruit and Anise Macarons. If you just want the shell portion, skip the buttercream creation set and the assembly, and you will be just fine.
At this point, I seem to have missed the goal of providing a cookie that is meringue-based, not finicky, and without the meringue flavor. I would have imagined that the citrus notes could have overwhelmed the eggy notes, but clearly that is not correct. So, I ask my meringue-loving readership: do you know of any tricks to reduce the meringue flavor from a meringue, without bulking it up with filler?
Update: I was doing some research on the follow-up question that Helen asks in her recipe post, and apparently citrus fruits contain a small amount of hydrogen sulfide, which probably exacerbates the eggy flavor of the meringue.

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  • User avater
    TheFoodGeek | 02/02/2011

    You don't need it for meringue, but you do need it for macarons. You can get it through Amazon.com easily enough if you can't find it locally.

  • lroh | 02/02/2011

    Please tell me--do you HAVE to have almond flour for meringue? I can't find it anywhere.

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