Monday, August 6, 2012

Mastering the Macaron

Macarons should bring to mind fancy French patisseries and double espressos served in small cups with a curl of lemon zest.

However, when I hear the word macaron I think of the music video for the song Chacarron Mocaron by El Chombo. I blame college and 4 Loko. For good reason, I will not post a link to the video, but if you are curious it is available on youtube. I don't think he is talking about French macarons, but it is hard to understand him so I guess he could be...

Macarons are filled meringue cookies... not the coconut and meringue cookies macaroons. They have five ingredients, they should be easy right? Not so much. Macarons are all about technique.

Because I have to make them for work, I decided to do a trial run at home. It was not effortless and it was not (initially) beautiful. Over the course of two days I made five batches of macarons. I got frustrated. I cleaned my Kitchen Aid more times than I would care to ever do in a two-day span. I went through a carton of eggs and almost an entire bag of almond meal.
Eventually I got my technique down and these appeared out of my oven. They even have feet (the puffy looking bottoms of the cookies.)

I filled mine with leftover orange ganache (courtesy of my truffle recipe from the other day.) Crazydelicious.

Because I struggled with this recipe I will be sharing a very detailed photo account of the (successful) macaron making process. Many of the videos and websites I looked at for guidance didn't show each individual step. Because there are so many little things that can go wrong in this recipe (too much or little mixing, adding sugar at the wrong time, sifting issues) I thought it would be cool to show pictures of each step so that fellow bakers would have visual clues (sometimes more helpful than the words in a recipe.)

This method worked for me and I hope it does for you too!

1. Assemble your ingredients: 

1 c confectioners sugar
1/2 c almond meal (or flour... it is the same thing)
5 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large egg whites
dash vanilla extract (if desired)

2. Sift together the powdered sugar and almond meal into a large bowl... this is important and will ensure you have smooth macarons. After the sift, there will be some bigger pieces of residual almond meal, just add them to the sifted mixture

3. Begin making your meringue in a stand mixer

4. On medium speed, whisk egg whites until they look like this:

5. Add your granulated sugar and a dash of vanilla extract.

6. Mix on high for five to seven minutes until stiff, glossy peaks form.

7. Drink a beer while your meringuing... you have seven minutes afterall, you should do something.

8. After about 6 minutes, my meringue looked like this.

9. Santa hat perfection. At this point, carefully fold in half of the almond-sugar mixture. 

10. Fold (making sure to get at the bottom of the bowl) until your mixture looks like this

11. Add the rest of the almond mixture and mix until it is just incorporated.

12. At this point you will begin what is called macaronage... you will be using a spatula to mash the meringue mixture up the sides of your bowl, scoop it together again, mash it up/along the side of your bowl... you get the idea.


Do this maneuver fifteen to twenty times (it depends on your individual technique.) It took me about twenty times until I got the right consistency. The batter should look smooth (a little grainy from the almond flour) and flow from the spatula into a ribbon that disappears on the surface of the meringue in the bowl after about half a minute.

13. Pipe one-inch circles of your batter onto a prepared baking sheet, don't worry if the tops of your macarons aren't smooth initially- they will settle as they rest as long as you mixed them enough

14. Next, tap the baking sheet on the counter (with a good amount of force) twice, this will bring any air bubbles to the surface of your cookies. Bubbles can cause your cookies to crack so you want to bring them to the surface before baking.

15. Allow macarons to rest on the counter for at least fifteen minutes. You want to be able to touch the surface of the batter without it being tacky. The rest time really depends on the environment in which you are baking. The more humid, the longer the macarons will need. Here in North Carolina, I waited thirty-five minutes before they were set enough to touch.

16. While your cookies are resting, pre-heat the oven to 285 degrees Fahrenheit (I actually baked them at 275 but my oven runs about 10 degrees hot... again it depends on your individual conditions.)

17. Bake cookies for 16-18 minutes (if your batter was on the runnier side, bake for the full 18)

18. When cooled, assemble cookies with your favorite buttercream or ganache.

Et voilà.

Macarons are best enjoyed after they are filled and allowed to sit overnight, so make them when you aren't craving sweets. Otherwise you will wind up eating three as soon as they are filled. And a spoonful of ganache, for good measure.

from David Lebovitz
(makes 20 small macarons)
1 c confectioners sugar
1/2 c almond meal (or flour... it is the same thing)
5 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large egg whites
dash vanilla, if desired
ganache or buttercream, for filling
- - -
Follow the numbered steps above... you can also flavor and dye macarons. Sift dry spices with the sugar and almond meal and add liquid flavorings and dyes to the egg whites in step 5.

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