Took a soufflé class at Sur la Table last Friday and the easiness of soufflés has given me the bluster to try my hand at other pastries involving separated eggs. I’ve always admired how beautiful macarons are and also had no idea how they were made so, naturally, decided that macarons were my next step into the exact science that is baking. Thanks to some helpful tips that I picked up in the soufflé class, the macarons turned out pretty good! I didn’t have a piping thing so I used the old ziplock bag with the corner cut off trick and therefore the macarons came out in ovals and lumpy circles. However, they still tasted great!
Miscellaneous thoughts/tips on macarons:
- Macarons vs. MacarOOns: I made macarons (also known as French macaroons) which are the little airy sandwich cookies with a frosting-type filling. Macarons have an almond meal and egg white base. Macaroons, on the other hand, have a coconut flake and egg white base and are often paired with chocolate and also eaten during Passover. One extra “o” makes for two very different cookies!
- You are supposed to use powder or gel food coloring and not the liquid drop kind because the first two color better against the almond meal and the liquid kind might dilute the batter too much (or something like that). I didn’t have any powder/gel coloring on hand so I didn’t color the macarons because I was worried that if they turned out funky it would be as a result of the food coloring and not a misstep taken on my part. Since they turned out just fine I’d feel comfortable adding liquid coloring next time to see what impact that actually has (besides the coloring).
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 16 minutes
- 2/3 cup almond meal or ground almonds
- 1.5 cups powdered sugar
- 3 large egg whites, room temperature and preferably aged up to 3 days (put in airtight container in fridge for 3 days and then taken out and brought to room temperature before using – if you don’t have 3 days to plan ahead then you can also microwave the egg whites for 10 seconds).
- 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- food coloring of some sort (preferably powder/gel)
Vanilla Buttercream Filling:
- 1.5 sticks butter, room temperature
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
- 5 large pasteurized egg yolks
- 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- food coloring (I used liquid drops)
- Preheat the oven to 280ºF, and position 2 racks in the lower section of the oven. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Grind almond meal with the powdered sugar in a food processor until fine.
- Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a hand mixer), and begin to beat on medium-high. When the eggs are frothy, gradually add granulated sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until fully incorporated. Continue to beat the egg white mixture until glossy and stiff peaks form when you lift the beaters (this means the little peak – like an ocean wave – won’t fold over when you lift the whip attachment).
- Gently fold in the vanilla extract. Be careful to not overbeat the meringue (e.g., the meringue takes on a clumpy texture).
- Add half of the sifted almond mixture, and gently fold it into the meringue using a flexible silicone spatula. Lift from the bottom, up around the sides, and toward the middle, being careful to not overagitate the meringue and lose too much air.
- Once the almond mixture is predominantly incorporated, add the second half and repeat the folding motion.
- When the almond mixture is just incorporated, you will need to transform the batter into the appropriate texture. Using the flat of the spatula, “punch” down into the center of the batter, then scrape more batter from the sides to the center, and punch again. You will need to repeat this 10-15 times (or more, depending on your arm strength and the beginning texture of your batter) until the batter slowly and continuously drips back into the bowl when you scoop it up with the spatula. Think of the consistency of molten lava. For the best results, punch the batter a few times, check the consistency, then punch a few more times, etc. Do not make the batter too runny or the macarons won’t rise as they should, and you could end up with oil stains on the surface.
- Pour batter into a pastry bag fitted with a 0.4-inch tip. In a pinch, you can also use a gallon-size Ziploc bag: just snip a teeny bit from one of the bottom corners. Twist and clip the top of the bag to avoid overflow. On your prepared baking sheets, pipe out 1-inch rounds.
- Holding the baking sheet in both hands, rap each baking sheet firmly on the counter two or three times. This smooths out the tops and helps form the “pied” or frilly foot on the bottoms of the macarons. Allow the piped macarons to dry, uncovered, for at least 15 minutes. The macarons should form a very thin, smooth crust where, if you tap it lightly with your finger, the batter will not stick to your finger. If after 15 minutes, the batter is still sticky, let it dry longer. This may take up to an hour on humid days.
- Place both baking sheets in the oven and bake for 16 or so minutes.
- After the first 2 minutes, open the oven to allow any excess humidity to escape.
- Halfway through, swap oven racks and rotate the sheets for even baking.
- The macarons are done when they are baked all the way through and the shells are just hard. Take care to not underbake (insides will still be mushy) or overbake (tops will begin to brown). Remove them from the oven, and cool on baking sheet placed on a wire rack.
- When fully cooled, assemble the macarons with your choice of filling. The assembled macarons can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Recipe adapted from Pop Sugar.
Vanilla Buttercream Filling:
- Slice butter into tablespoons and set aside.
- Whisk sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Clip on a candy thermometer. Syrup is ready at 238 degrees.
- As syrup heats, add egg yolks and salt to a stand mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment (or use hand mixer) and beat until pale and thick.
- When syrup is ready, pour in slowly down the inside of the bowl to avoid splattering, while mixing on medium speed. When syrup is incorporated, beat on high until everything is completely cool, about 10 minutes.
- Add one chunk of butter at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla.
- Buttercream should be smooth and slightly stiff.
Recipe adapted from the Journal Sentinal.