I LOVE/HATE MACARONS!
My love/hate relationship with macarons all started a while back when we were making fresh egg yolk pasta almost everyday, and since I’m big on deserts, I had to get creative with all of the leftover egg whites and decided to give macarons a try. Little did I know, these little bastards were a pain in the ass to perfect…but my unwillingness to accept failure has led me to these little labors of love. It took patience, determination, pounds of almonds, and weeks of practice until I made a batch that was finally up to par. I’m still not claiming that each batch I do turns out perfectly but dammit I try! (And in my opinion they’re as good as the macarons I’ve tried at any fancy French bakery)
There are far too many tips and tricks to making the perfect macaron to mention here but I will try my best to explain each step I take thoroughly. The shells of the macarons are made from two basic recipes for meringue: French and Italian style. I use the Italian style because I find the end result to be more consistent and superior. (It is best to avoid baking these when the weather is especially damp or humid.)
MACARONS: (Makes about 50 macarons)
3 2/3 cups (450 grams) Confectioners’ sugar
4 cups (400 grams) almond flour or finely ground blanched almonds
9 large egg whites, at room temp.
2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
½ cup (125 grams) water
First and foremost: MISE EN PLACE! It is very important to measure and to have every ingredient and utensil all ready to go before starting. (This includes grinding the almonds if using whole almonds, separating the eggs, fitting the piping bag with a #8 tip, lining trays with Silpats, and preheating the oven to 300*F convect….etc.) I normally grind my own almonds (or pistachios) and measure everything in grams to ensure precision and consistency.
MAKE THE MACARONS (Strawberry)
Preheat the oven to 300*F Convection. (325*F for a non-convection oven)
Sift together the almond flour and the confectioner’s sugar over a large bowl. Stir in 4 of the egg whites, until the mixture is smooth and lump-free. (You can add 7 tablespoons (44 grams) of Dutch processed coco powder in this step to make chocolate macarons, and pair them with ganache)
With a candy thermometer handy, combine the granulated sugar and ½ cup (125 grams) water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. (Do not stir)
While sugar is cooking, put the remaining 5 egg whites and a pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. (Make sure the bowl of the mixer is clean and free of any oils)
Once the sugar reaches 220*F on the candy thermometer, start beating the eggs on high speed. When the sugar reaches 240*F Pour it into the eggs in a slow and steady stream, with the mixer running on high speed, down the side of the bowl. Once the sugar mixture is incorporated, lower the speed to med-high and continue beating until the meringue is thick and shiny and the bottom of the bowl is no longer hot to the touch (About 4-6 minutes) If adding any food coloring, this is the time to do so.
THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP: THE MACARONNER!
With a Silicone spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture in 2 increments. Move your spatula from the bottom of the bowl to the edges with one hand, using your other hand to rotate the bowl. But do not incorporate too much air into the batter and DO NOT OVER-MIX! AND DO NOT UNDER-MIX either, however it’s better to under mix because you could always mix it a bit more but once it’s over mixed, there’s no turning back. got it? lol) . The mixture should flow like a ribbon when you hold up the spatula. Its best to test a dollop of the batter on the silpat…if it slowly flattens then you’re good to go. If it’s too stiff and stays in place, continue to mix a few more times. If it flattens quickly and spreads way too much, then you’re SOL! This is the most crucial step of the entire process and requires a lot of practice.
Spoon the batter into the piping bag with a #8 tip. Pipe the batter into quarter-size circles on prepared baking sheets, making sure to leave 1 inch of space between macarons so they will not touch each other while baking.
It is important to tap the baking sheet on the counter a few times to eliminate any air bubbles and to smooth out the peaks that form on top. If tapping does not get rid of the peaks, this just means the batter should have been mixed a little more, however they will still taste just as good!
It is also very important to let the piped macarons sit out at room temp. for 15 minutes before baking, until a skin forms. This will transform into a beautiful crust on the finished macarons so DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP!
Bake the macarons for 6 min, then rotate and continue baking for another 7 minutes (bake for a total of 13 min.) Let the macarons cool completely before taking them off the trays. The oven temp. and time is the also one of the most important steps for achieving the perfect macaron. (+-1min. or 25 degrees can make a dramatic difference) This is the step that made me fail time and time again! Infact, just when I thought I had them down, I decided to press the “self clean” button on the oven…biggest mistake EVER! The next batch I made was completely unrecognizable and exploded on the top. I had to start from scratch figuring out the new temp. and time necessary for macaron perfection. Thus it is always best to test a couple of macarons at different temps and times until they are perfect texture and refrain from cleaning your oven for as long as you can. Ultimately the perfect macaron should not stick on the bottom of the silpat once cooled, and they should have a slightly firm crust on top but should still maintain their “melt in your mouth” texture.
The filling is also a very important component of making the perfect macaron. Here I’ve just made a basic buttercream and added a jar of strawberry preserves at the end. This buttercream is adaptable too; you could add any flavor of jam or even lemon curd or chocolate ganache in the end for different flavors. Some of my other favorite fillings for macarons are just pure Lemon Curd…(great for using the left over egg yolks), Chocolate ganache, Caramel filling, Nutella, Raspberry jam, almond filling, and my all time favorite…Pistachio filling!
SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM (makes 4 cups)
4 large egg whites
1 ¼ cups sugar
3 sticks (1 ½ cups) unsalted butter, room temp, cut into tablespoons
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
MAKING THE FILING:
In a heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine the egg whites and sugar. Cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm to the touch. (about 160*)
Attach the bowl to the mixer with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg white mixture on high speed until it holds stiff (but not dry) peaks. Continue beating until mixture is fluffy and cooled, about 6 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on med-low speed, add the butter several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. (if the frosting appears to separate after all the butter has been added, beat on med-high speed until smooth again, 3-5 min more.) Beat in vanilla. Beat on lowest speed to eliminate any air bubbles, about 2 min. Stir in 1 cup of your favorite jam, lemon curd or chocolate ganache.
ASSEMBLE THE MACARONS:
Turn half of the macarons over so that the flat side is facing up.
Place a nickel-size amount filling in the center of the macarons that are facing up. Gently press the remaining macarons over the filling, to make small sandwiches. Try to match the size of the two halves as closely as possible.
Store the macarons in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week or in the freezer for up to 2 months. (They are best eaten the day after they are made (this allows for the texture and flavor to set) but they also freeze really well without compromising too much of their flavor and texture. Plus they take no time to defrost.
My torrid love affair with these macarons definitely gave me grief in the beginning but all that time and frustration was well worth it in the end! I cannot imagine my morning coffee without my little clouds of love! I would recommend that everyone give these a try, however if you don’t have the time or patience, they will be available to savor and enjoy at Ariccia Italian market opening in La Jolla very soon!