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The hunt for the best French macarons

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French macarons are delicious little devils of almond cookies that sandwich a filling. These cookie gems can be frustrating to make without a convection oven so you may opt to buy them at a local bakery in Raleigh or from surrounding North Carolina cities.

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The almond cookies, or shells of macarons, are baked such that they are hard and crisp once they are completely cooled. The fillings for the macarons can vary from a soft jam or cream cheese filling to a firm nut paste or ganache.

The ultimate French macaron cookie has a somewhat crisp or crackly exposed surface with a soft and chewy layer of cookie dough on the inside -- and of course, a creamy and soft filling. The shells should not shatter into a million pieces when you bite into the cookie. Instead, the shell should crack then give way to the soft cookie underneath. This perfect texture is achieved by sandwiching two shells together with a filling then keeping, or aging, the cookies in the fridge until they are soft and chewy. The almond shells absorb the moisture from the filling as they sit in the fridge. The length of time it takes for the cookies to age, or mature, properly depends on the type of filling. Soft fillings like jam may take just 6 hours while firm fillings like nut pastes can take 24 to 48 hours.

A Southern Season in Chapel Hill sometimes carries the French macarons. However, the taste and texture of the cookies vary depending on where the store orders the macarons from. La Farm Bakery in Cary, NC, makes macarons seasonally, but the shells were big, dry and too hard; there is not enough ganache filling and the filling does not have sufficient moisture for the cookies to soften.

And so the hunt begins for the best French macaron. If you are interested in making your own macaron cookies, Google "ultimate French macaron recipe."

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