It's a plane...no, it's a star...no, it's a MIRACLE! After more than a year of failed attempts and discouraging oven battles, I have successfully baked a batch of french macarons. For some of you, this may seem trivial. But for those of you who know me well, it's a pretty big deal. Mostly because they've been first-hand witness to the near crazy I've become over perfecting these cookies. I'm not sure what has me so hooked about them. The variety of pastel colors, perhaps? Or the amount of patience required to bake them? Possibly, but not likely. It's probably all driven by my inner, wannabe member of the "Gossip Girl" clique and eat famous Laduree macarons delivered fresh from Paris to my New York estate. Yup, I'm pretty sure that's it. But, I digress.
After so many trials, I've been able to learn a thing or two about these tiny treats. Naturally, I'd love to share them with you all so you don't drive yourselves near crazy like I did. So instead of a flavored macaron recipe, these are just called "happy macarons" because I'm just so darn happy they finally turned out okay. Keep reading after the jump for my tips and tricks to making your own perfect batch of macarons!
HAPPY MACARONS RECIPE
PREP TIME: 20 minutes | BAKING: 1 hour | DIFFICULTY: Medium
Recipe adapted from Liv for Cake, who has some great macaron flavored recipes! If you're looking for a recipe that doesn't require a food scale, this one from Jordan's Winery worked alright for me (but I recommend the scale!!)
60 grams of egg whites
65 grams of granulated sugar (I prefer to use superfine baker's sugar, but that's not necessary)
75 grams of almond flour
55 grams of powdered sugar
Coloring Gel (I used "Rose Petal")
Instructions (extra detailed to help you!):
1. Prepare your baking sheet by lining them with parchment paper (not waxed paper and definitely not butter/flour/cooking sprays. You need the surface to be as dry and non-oily as possible so the macarons can rise well)
2. Sift together your almond flour and powdered sugar into a medium size bowl. Discard any clumps that don't sift through.
3.Place your egg whites into a stainless steel bowl and begin to whip (using a hand mixer or stand mixer) on low speed.
4. When eggs start to foam, begin to very slowly add your granulated sugar continuously over the next 5-8 minutes while the eggs continue to whip. I find this trick yields a much smoother meringue rather than adding the sugar in big drops at a time.
5. Every 2-3 minutes while whipping your eggs, increase the speed of your mixer. Stop when you've reached stiff peaks. If you lift up the beater, the egg whites should have peaks at the tip that stand straight up and don't curl back down. You can also try tilting the bowl. If the eggs slide, they are not done yet. If they hold steady, they're good. The egg whites should appear silky and glossy, but not clumpy or rigid.
6. The next step some people differ on. I prefer to add the eggs to the flour/sugar bowl a few scoops at a time. Others prefer the opposite. Either way, do this 1/3 at a time and add your coloring gel or flavoring. Carefully mix the batter together with a swooping motion using a rubber tipped spatula.
7. Once fully incorporated, you need to go through the process of "macarronage." This is simply the process of purposefully deflating the egg whites to get a smooth enough batter. Gently scrape the batter against the sides of the bowl and flip the batter with the spatula to repeat. This video was a helpful resource for me to learn this.
8. When the batter flows like lava (not too fast but not too slow), you're done.
9. Place batter into piping bag with round piping tip.
10. Pipe out 1/2" inch circles onto the parchment paper with at least 1-2 inches in between cookies. Beginners should pipe at a 90 degree angle straight from above and just lift up the piping bag vertically when done with one cookie. More experienced bakers can pipe from an angle and use a side sweeping motion to finish off the cookie and leave no tip.
11. Important: once macarons are piped out, you must bang the cookie sheet on a flat countertop to pop the remaining air bubbles. Don't try to be gentle; this pushes the trapped air up and out, and helps the "feet" at the bottom of the macarons develop.
12. Lightly add sprinkles to the tops and leave your macarons out to dry to develop a "skin" for 30-45 minutes. They should not stick to your fingertip when you lightly touch them after this time. While macarons are drying, preheat your oven to 300 degrees.
13. Bake macarons one cookie sheet at a time for 10-15 minutes. Watch carefully as they should not brown. You should be able to touch them and they don't "wiggle."
14. Remove tray from oven and let macarons cool. They should easily lift off the parchment paper.
15. Prepare whatever filling you please (jam, buttercream, frosting, etc.) and sandwich a dollop of it in between two cookies. Proceed to do a happy dance because you've made a macaron!
MARJORIE'S MACARON TIPS & TRICKS
Learned the hard way!
1. Buy a food scale. Macarons only use a basic set of ingredients: egg whites, almonds, and sugar. That's it. But the proportional relationship between these three is what differentiates a perfect macaron from a squashed thing that looks like a pancake. A good mark of a macaron recipe gives ingredients in weight measurements, since items such as egg size can differ widely across brands and especially across countries.
2. Sift your almond flour and powdered sugar combo together at least 2 times to ensure the smoothest cookie.
3. Always use dry and/or gel add-ins for your flavoring or coloring. So that means vanilla bean seeds instead of vanilla extract and pink coloring gel instead of liquid food coloring.
4. Use the 2A or similar size piping tip. The eggs in the macaron mixture can deflate quickly once you put it in the pastry bag and continually squeeze with your hands as you pipe them out. Using too small of a tip will cause you to put more pressure on the batter over a longer period of time since it comes out less. I've ended up with one tray of great macarons and a second try of complete disasters all because the second tray batter was the last to come out of the bag and took most of the manipulation from piping. The 2A tip is perfect for piping out small to medium size macarons quickly.
5. You MUST leave your macarons out to dry before placing them in the oven. I know it's tempting, but the top coat that develops is crucial to trapping in the air as the cookie bakes and causes the "feet" to develop on the bottom. They should be left out for at least 30-45 minutes; if at that time you lightly touch the surface with your fingertip, there should be no batter sticking to it. If anything, it should make a slight dent in the macaron. That's a sign you've done the recipe proportions well.
For dedicated macaron bakers:
1. Buy an oven thermometer. You might be surprised to see how much your oven may or may not be at the temperature you set it! Baking you macrons at too hot of a temperature can cause them to not rise well or to crack at the tops.
2. Make the almond flour yourself instead of buying it pre-made. Simply buy whole or sliced almonds and grind them in a food processor with your powdered sugar until well incorporated. Be sure to sift 2-3 times to make sure no clumps remain in your mixture.
3. Try the Italian method. It's a bit more labor intensive, but not necessarily more difficult. I get the best results when I make my macarons via the Italian method, but that's only when I have the extra time required to do it. This recipe originally from the Bouchon Bakery book, also found here on Hint of Vanilla, is the best I've found so far. It does yield a large amount of macarons so you may want to cut the recipe in half if you want to test it out in a smaller batch.
4. Experiment with different flavors, such as pistachio and chocolate.
Alrighty, I hope this helps! It's a lot of information, but I hope you'll feel like you can reference to it from time to time as you go through your own macaron adventures! If you have any tips or advice, leave a comment below and I'll continually update this post. And if you successfully make a batch, let me know! We can (virtually) do a happy dance together.