I had my first French macaron back in 2008 when visiting Croatian scientists brought them to our lab meeting. I think they were talking about P13kinase activity and detecting lipid phosphorylation by HPLC, but I vividly remember thinking how to sneak more of these delicious cookies onto my plate without looking like a glutton.
Being informed that they were purchased from Le Panier, I made a weekend excursion down to Pike Place Market. “$1.50 per macaron?!?! For a cookie a size of a half-dollar?” I still purchased 6 of them, which I proceeded to eat in rapid succession. Yes, I ate $9 of cookies in an hour and I still wanted more. That’s when I decided to learn how to make macarons. Because I was going to destroy my budget with French cookies.
The internet yielded a lot of good information about macarons, but it was difficult to decide which aspects were important. Age the egg whites for 2 days? Measure by weight? Dessicate the almond powder in the oven? In the end, I found that these recipes were the most helpful:
Tartelette’s Blue Swirl macarons ~ (Tartelette’s Cherry blossom macarons are works of art!)
Not So Humble Pie’s Macaron 101
Bakerette’s Pistachio macarons (“Things I learned for successful macarons”)
Allison Eats Peppermint Macarons~ A good recent post.
Jo the Tart Queen’s “Fleur de Sel” macarons. My macarons are always rapidly devoured when I use her salted caramel filling.
Over the years, I’ve come up with my own macaron protocol…that’s kind of stripped to bare bones. It doesn’t produce colorful patisserie-quality macarons, but they are not difficult to make. Everyone I’ve shared macarons with always thought they were delicious* and I’m requested to make them whenever there’s a potluck event. So I think they’re dandy. (*Except for my sisters, who told me they were too sweet. =/)
Oh, and my thought process kind of goes like this: “Hm, French chefs have been making macarons for centuries. I think what worked for them would work for me.” So I measure out the ingredients with measuring cups, don’t sweat precise measurements, spoon the batter instead of piping by pastry bag, have found that aging the egg whites doesn’t make a noticeable difference for me, and I beat the meringue by hand, though the last is mostly because our kitchen is tiny and there is no room for our KitchenAid mixer yet. Definitely use a mixer if you have one!
So without further ado, here is my macaron protocol. I’ve included some of my notes and pictures of the process at the bottom.
Ingredients: 1 batch = approximately 40 macarons
5 large egg whites (note: not jumbo eggs)
2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups almond flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1.) Separate out the egg whites into a mixing bowl. Add the pinch of salt. Let the egg whites warm to room temp while you prepare the other ingredients.
2.) Measure out the powdered sugar and the almond flour and sift them together. Also, line your cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking sheets.
3.) Start whipping the egg whites into a meringue. When the eggs first start to get frothy, add the granulated sugar gradually in stages. Beat the meringue until you see stiff, glossy peaks that hold their shape for at least 30 seconds.
4.) Pour the vanilla extract onto the meringue.
5.) With a rubber spatula, gradually fold in the powdered sugar/almond flour mixture. I usually add a quarter of the mixture in at a time. Watch out that you don’t overdeflate the meringue! You’ll want a batter that “flows like magma” and that slowly flattens out to a smooth surface This is the trickiest part for me..
6.) Spoon or pipe the batter into 1-2 inch dollops onto the lined cookie sheets.
7.) Preheat the oven to 325*C. I preheat the oven at this time to let the meringue tops dry to create the macaron “shell.”
8.) While you’re waiting for the oven to preheat, I make the macaron filling. I usually make dark chocolate ganache:
A.) Heat 6 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream over medium heat until you can see some steam rising.
B.) Remove the cream from the heat and add 1/4 cup of bittersweet or semisweet chocolate.
c.) Let the chocolate melt for a minute and then stir to incorporate the chocolate into the cream. It will look like chocolate pudding while it’s warm. Add more chocolate if the ganache is looking thin.
9.) When the oven reaches temperature, bake each sheet of macaron for 10-11 minutes or until the shells start to look golden.
10.) Remove sheet from oven. Let the macarons cool for a little and then transfer the shells to a baking rack. You can also transfer the whole parchment to the baking rack to cool.
11.) When the macarons are cool, spoon 1 teaspoon of filling onto one shell and top with another shell.
12.) Refrigerate overnight. This lets the macaron soften and meld with the filling.
13.) Warm macarons back to room temperature and enjoy!
…coming soon. Need to sleep.
~ Oh, when beating the meringue, err of the side of too fluffy (ie. beat a little longer). If it’s too stiff when you add the almond flour, you can always deflate it more by stirring, whereas you are stuck if it’s too flat.
~ As for how much to deflate the batter, I check by spooning out a blob of macaron batter. I want the batter just to the point that the ridges settle, but do so slowly. Um, like in this picture. The bottom ones are the more recently plopped and have topography, whereas the ones at the top have had about a minute to settle.
~ DO NOT USE AIRBAKE COOKIE SHEETS. I tried: the bottoms of the macarons will be undercooked and stick to the parchment paper.
~ I scale up or scale down my recipe by keeping the ratios approximately the same (eg. 20 macarons = 2 egg whites + 1 cup powdered sugar + 1 cup almond flour + 1/4 cup sugar + 1 tsp vanilla)
~ When in doubt, bake a little longer. Baking longer will harden the “feet/skirts” since they have a tendency to shrink if underbaked. And even if the cookies are a little crisp, the macaron cookie will absorb some moisture from the filling and soften.