Summer Sweets: The Making of a Macaron

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If there’s one sweet treat that my husband and I both adore, it’s French macarons. We got engaged in Paris, and as a gift we decided to bring a box of sixteen of the colorful sandwich cookies back for his family. Who were we kidding? There was no way we’d be in their presence and resist scarfing them down. Those babies didn’t make it five minutes on the plane. We ate all sixteen in a matter of minutes.

I’ve made macarons once before, probably six years ago. They were decently successful, but not very memorable. I didn’t color or flavor the batter, and they were likely a little dry. I hadn’t attempted them again, probably due to the tediousness of the process. They’ve been back on my to-do list for a while now, so I finally devoted a Saturday to potentially losing my mind.

I certainly did not come up with an original recipe for these macarons, but I’m here to share my tips and experience so more of you can give it a try. Here’s my insight:

I started with lots of research. Throughout the process I referenced this blog and this blog. I like referring to blogs for complicated, finicky projects because there’s usually a discussion about potential mishaps.

I ate beforehand. Seriously. Actually, my husband recognized my hanger and made me pancakes. Just keep in mind that it’s a fairly long, hands-on process, and you might actually hurt someone if you add hunger into the mix.

I followed the recipe exactly as listed and I will add it at the bottom of this post.

I also made sure I had all the equipment I needed:

  • Mixer with whisk attachment + large mixing bowls (3)
  • Digital food scale
  • Sieve
  • Rubber spatulas
  • Metal baking sheets + parchment paper + a pen/pencil
  • Gel food coloring + extract/flavoring
  • Piping bag (I didn’t use a tip but it is recommended)
  • Oven thermometer
  • Air-tight storage containers

I weighed my ingredients to the exact specified amounts.

I sifted my dry ingredients. Though I don’t often do this for my recipes, it is absolutely necessary here. Some of the almond skins did not go through the sieve, so I weighed what was left over and added (and sifted) more almond flour of that same amount to make sure I ended up with exactly 138 grams post-sifting. You can avoid this completely by using ground blanched almonds.

I watched my egg whites carefully while whipping since they can go from soft peaks to stiff peaks in seconds. When they were stiff enough to not fall out of the bowl when turned upside-down, but still soft enough to not quite hold a stiff peak, they were done. Very professional explanation, I know. Love and Macarons described it quite well.

I added my coloring and flavoring right before adding my dry ingredients, but I didn’t start stirring them in until I added a third of my dry ingredients. I was afraid these tiny amounts of liquid would totally ruin the recipe, but they did not. I added about a half teaspoon each of gel color and liquid flavoring.

I paid attention to the consistency of the batter as I was folding it. I added the dry ingredients in thirds, as stated by the recipes. As soon as the dry ingredients seemed to be incorporated I added the next third of the dry mixture.

I determined I was done folding the batter when it held some of its shape when dropping it from the spatula, but would settle and almost melt into the rest of the batter after a few seconds. Again, very professional explanation. My batter seemed to be a little too stiff and three turns of the spatula later it was perfect. Every little stir counts. 

I drew circles about 1.5″ in diameter on my parchment paper, then flipped it over as a guide for piping the macarons. I actually did this before I started making my batter.

I piped, slammed, and set. After piping each macaron (I used a swirling method starting from the center and working my way out. I’m not sure if this is how professionals usually do it), I dropped the tray from a few inches above my counter to startle my cats remove air bubbles. Then I let the piped shells sit out for 20-30 minutes with the ceiling fan on to help the exterior of the batter dry a bit. This helps prevent cracking.

Once the first tray was in the oven, I started piping the next tray. I read that you should only put one tray in the oven at a time, so that’s what I did. I suggest you do, too.

I assessed the first batch after they came out of the oven. The sunk slightly in the middle and a few were cracked, so I let them sit out a little longer before baking (I originally let them sit for 15 minutes beforehand) and I tacked an extra minute onto the baking time. This will vary from oven to oven, so your baking time might be different from mine. These slight changes made all the difference.

I let each tray cool for at least 15 minutes before attempting to take them off the parchment. You get into the rhythm of piping, setting, baking, and cooling pretty quickly.

The shells were clinging to the parchment quite a bit after baking, so I cut the paper into individual squares around each shell to make it easier to peel off. The recipes I reviewed didn’t say to do this, but if I hadn’t the cookies probably would’ve fallen apart. Use your best judgment with all steps. I think a Silpat would have made removal easier, but then I wouldn’t have had the circles to trace when piping.

I reduced some jam and let it cool since it needed to be thicker than usual for a macaron filling. Jam is our favorite filling, but you can use buttercream or ganache as well.

I matched shells of similar sizes to make the finished macarons, though using the circles as a guide when piping means many of them come out the same size anyway.

Et voilà! You have some fab macarons to share with your loved ones. They’re a labor of love, that’s for sure. Mastering them takes patience and precision, but the outcome is well worth it. If you have any questions, please post them below!

Here’s the recipe I used. It’s Ladurée’s recipe adapted by Not So Humble Pie and Love and Macarons, then adapted by me:

Ingredients:

  • 138g almond flour
  • 125g powdered sugar
  • 105g egg whites, at room temperature (not from a carton)
  • 105g granulated sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp food coloring
  • 1/2 tsp flavor extract (I used black cherry)
  • Buttercream, reduced/thickened jam, or ganache for filling
  1. Trace 1.5″ diameter circles on the back of parchment paper, leaving a half inch between circles.
  2. Weigh and sift your dry ingredients: almond flour, salt, and powdered sugar together into a large bowl.
  3. Start whipping egg whites in a separate bowl. Gradually add the granulated sugar while whipping at a medium speed when they start to become frothy.
  4. Whip egg whites until the mixture is glossy and thickened (see previous tips in the post on this).
  5. Fold in a third of your dry ingredient mixture until combined. Add in another third, folding until just combined, then the final third. Fold until the mixture is not too thick that it completely holds its shape, but not too long that most of the air is removed (see previous tips in the post on this).
  6. Preheat your oven to 300 F (150 C). Make sure you check your oven thermometer to ensure the oven is the right temperature before baking. Adjust accordingly.
  7. Fill your piping bag and pipe the shells on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper using traced circles as a guide (you can also use a Silpat). Pipe the next tray once the first tray goes into the oven.
  8. Hold trays 2-3 inches over the counter and drop to get rid of air bubbles.
  9. Let the shells dry for about 20-30 minutes. They may need more or less time depending on the humidity and other factors.
  10. Bake in the middle rack of your oven for 15 minutes (mine needed 16-18 minutes).
  11. Let shells cool for about 10-15 minutes.
  12. Remove from parchment. Fill and sandwich the cookies.
  13. Repeat steps 6-11 until batter is finished.
  14. Place macarons in an air-tight container and keep in the fridge overnight to help set the texture and develop the flavors. Serve at room temperature.

bonappetit

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4 thoughts on “Summer Sweets: The Making of a Macaron

    1. No need to be afraid! I prepared myself for disaster, but after reading up on the process it turned out to not be difficult at all. I hope you give it a try!!

      Like

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