A few years ago, these little tiny cookies became the it thing. I thought, why does something so small cost so much? I also wondered why they were so popular. They looked hard and crunchy and not really all that appetizing. However, I was never really presented with an opportunity to try one.
Until my honeymoon. We had the most amazing dinner of our lives at the Michelin Starred restaurant Helene Darroze. We didn’t sit down to eat until 9:30pm and chose the 9 course tasting menu for dinner. Needless to say, we were the last ones in the restaurant. The servers found out it was our honeymoon and treated us to some extra special goodies.
After 9 courses (+extra things like bread, charcuterie, etc.) we were presented with the petit four cart. The server was so excited to share his treats with us and had prepared a special plate with one of each. We were so stuffed, but I could not pass up the opportunity to try a a macaron. I had been completely wrong. The macaron was chewy and soft with just the right amount of sweetness. I was hooked.
When Lindsay started her challenge last month, I was really hoping she would chose macarons soon. Luckily I didn’t have to wait long! For the second month of the Kitchen Challenge, we made macarons (not macaroons-the coconutty ones).
Macarons can seem extremely daunting, but after making 2 batches I really think they aren’t too difficult. Once you learn what you need to do, macarons can be made pretty quickly. Here are some things I learned through the process.
1. You may or may not need to age your egg whites (Leaving them out on the counter for an extended period of time). I did. I also did more than I knew I was going to need for the one recipe. I had read a lot about how difficult these can be to make, so I thought if I completely mess up one batch, I will already have some aged egg whites to make a second batch. Since part of my first batch worked out, I thought I had figured it out and used the second part of the aged egg whites. Turns out I wasn’t entirely right about what was making my macarons crack.
2. The cookie sheet and under parts are crucial. When I made my second batch, I was so excited because as they were resting they already looked better than the first batch. When I pulled them out of the oven, I had different thoughts.
Here are the ones baked on the commercial cookie sheet with a silpat:
Here are the ones baked on an everyday, run of the mill cookie sheet with parchment paper:
The exact same thing happened with both sheets. There were a lot of variables between the first batch and the second batch, but this was consistent amongst them both. The commercial type baking sheet with a silpat was much more effective for cooking macarons.
3. Read, read, read. Read Brave Tart’s 10 commandments for macarons and her 10 myths for macarons. Also check out Eat. Live. Travels. Write.’s photo tutorial. The more I read, the more I felt confident that I could tackle this challenge.
4. Keep it plain and simple your first go around. There are sooooo many different macaron flavors, but I didn’t want to take any chances with anything wild, so I just stuck with plain and simple chocolate and vanilla.
5. Get yourself a kitchen scale! You can’t do this without it. I found mine at Home Goods for super cheap.
6. The bad-looking ones still taste good. No one is really going to care. You can still eat them!
7. Practice makes perfect.
Go ahead. Challenge yourself and you will find yourself rewarded.
Below is my recipe for my Basic Vanilla Macarons. Used the basic recipe from Brave Tart plus this chocolate ganache from Annie’s Eats. The second batch, Chocolate and Peanut Butter Macarons, was Annie’s Chocolate Macarons with Peanut Butter filling from these brownies. I didn’t make any changes to those recipes, so I’ll send you directly to the source!
How To Make Macarons Recipe (Two Ways)
- 4 ounces (115g) blanched almonds or almond flour, or whatever nut you like
- 8 ounces (230g) powdered sugar
- 5 ounces egg whites (144g)
- 2 1/2 ounces (72g) sugar
- the scrapings of 1 vanilla bean
- 1/2 tsp (2g) kosher salt
- Preheat the oven to 300° and have ready a large (18”) pastry bag, fitted with a plain tip, and your baking sheets lined with a silpat or parchment paper.
- If you use almond flour, simply sift it with the powdered sugar and set aside. If a significant portion won’t go through your sifter, however, you’ll need to grind them up until they do.
- If you are using whole almonds, process the almonds and powdered sugar for about a minute in a food processor. Take out the mixture and sift it, reserving whatever bits don’t pass through the sieve. Add these bits back to the food processor and run the machine for another minute. Sift again. You should have about 2 Tbsp of slightly chunkier almond bits. Just add those into the dry mix.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg whites, sugar, vanilla bean, and salt and turn the mixer to medium (4 on a Kitchen Aid). Whip for 3 minutes.
- Increase the speed to medium-high (7 on a Kitchen Aid) and whip another 3 minutes, then turn the speed to 10 for go another 3 minutes.
- You should have a very stiff, dry meringue. If the meringue has not become stiff enough to clump inside the whisk, continue beating for another minute, or until it does so.
- Now dump in the dry ingredients all at once and fold them in with a rubber spatula. Use both a folding motion (to incorporate the dry ingredients) and a rubbing/smearing motion, to deflate the meringue against the side of the bowl.
- Essentially, the macaron batter needs enough thickness that it will mound up on itself, but enough fluidity that after 20 seconds, it will melt back down (“lava consistency”).
- Transfer about half the batter to a piping bag.
- Pipe the batter into the baking sheet.
- After piping your macarons, take hold of the sheet pan and hit it hard against your counter 3 times. Rotate the pan ninety degrees and rap two more times. This will dislodge any large air bubbles that might cause your macarons to crack
- Bake for about 18 minutes, or until you can cleanly peel the parchment paper away from a macaron. If, when you try to pick up a macaron, the top comes off in your hand, it’s not done.
- Once the macarons have baked, cool thoroughly on the pans, before peeling the cooled macarons from the pan. Use a metal spatula if necessary.
- Fill a pastry bag fitted with the filling of your choice and pipe a quarter sized mound of filling into half of the shells, then sandwich them with their naked halves.
Below, see some step by step pictures and a video tutorial on macaronage!
The materials waiting to be used!