Sunday, April 25, 2010

Macarons

Macarons. Love 'em or hate 'em, they're a tricky devil of a cookie every baker has to confront at some point in their kitchen career. My time came a few weeks ago, with the Passover that just passed. I'd never made a classic macaron before, and with the gauntlet laid down at work, I decided to produce a practice batch at home before game time.
There are many excellent articles ~ even whole books ~ written on this topic, so I see no reason to reinvent the wheel here. If you want to experiment with making a few batches of macarons, you can do an online search for recipes or get your hands on a reputable pastry book. I've included a few links that I found helpful during my quest.
If you search and find 10 recipes from 10 different sources, you will notice that they all look pretty similar anyway. The macaron is not complicated when it comes to ingredients. It all comes down to technique, baby. And this cookie is way, way more than the sum of its few simple parts ~ egg whites, almond flour, sugar, and lemon juice, more or less.
I made a few batches using different recipes. I changed variables like stacking multiple pans, adjusting resting times and temps, switching oven types (convection versus conventional), and altering percentages of different ingredients. There are so many picky little details involved in making a successful (read: perfectly domed and footed) macaron. The mixing, the piping, the resting, the tapping, the oven temp, the cooling . . . These are not your throw-together Friday-night-sleepover chocolate chippers.
Do not be discouraged, or surprised, if your first batch fails. Consider it a lesson learned ~ a snack round, even. But do yourself a favor and pay close attention to the variables that will make a huge difference in the final outcome.
  • Age your egg whites. Do NOT attempt to cut corners here. Age them for at least 24 hours (48 or 72 is even better) in the refrigerator, and leave the top partially off the container. You want some of the moisture to evaporate.
  • Weigh your egg whites if you are taking them from a container holding multiple whites. (Do not use the "glug" method.) Each egg white will weigh about 30 grams.
  • Let your baking trays of piped macarons rest for a good long time. I rested mine for about 4 hours, until the surface felt almost dry to the touch, before baking.
  • Let the baked macarons sit on the cookie sheets for a good long time. The longer they sit on there, the drier and therefore the easier they will be to remove from the parchment. Mine rested for nearly 8 hours and came off without a hitch.
  • Do NOT overmix at the macaronage stage ~ use a bowl scraper if you have one.
  • Again, do NOT be discouraged or surprised if your first batch doesn't come out perfect. Consider this a bonus round and eat it while you are working on your next batch.
All things considered, the macarons weren't nearly as difficult as I thought they'd be. Nor, actually, were they as transportingly, rapturously exceptional as I expected them to be. With all the fanfare and froufrou, I thought they'd be the most delicious cookie ever to drop crumbs in my lap. But, you know, not so much. I mean, they're very good and they certainly have a lot of curb appeal, but a cookie that takes an entire day to plan around better be worth its weight in edible gold leaf or something, and these were tasty and chic but not thelastthingIwantinmymouthbeforeIdie good.
One more thing . . . you can fill your macarons with any sort of cream, curd, or frosting that tickles your fancy. I filled mine (variously) with fresh raspberry buttercream (pictured here), bittersweet chocolate ganache, Nutella, and lemon curd. Mmm. Come to think of it, adding the filling made for a pretty good upgrade. Maybe even a little bit of rapture.

12 comments:

Future Grown-Up said...

My one and only attempt at Macaroons was a..ahem...disaster. Thanks for the tips on when to rest with the stages..that helps a lot.

ap269 said...

YUM! These look great. I've never made macarons, but always felt intrigued to do so...

Sandy Smith said...

Thanks! I learned (the hard way, of course) that macarons are truly one of those things where following the instructions is paramount. If you do that, they're not too tough at all. Try them!

symphonious sweets said...

I tried macarons for a while last fall. I was never transpoted to that state of rapture either. For as finicky as they are I expected something more than a sandwhich cookie. My favorite ended up being the basic mac filled with a passion fruit butter cream.

Jamieanne said...

You did awesome for your first go at macarons! I finally made a batch earlier this month and it was much easier than I thought, but like you say, it's the technique. Mine wasn't perfect, but I was proud of my first try! Now I've made 3 different batches of macarons in 3 weeks! My main problem is that the tops keep wrinkling while baking.

M. said...

I'm dreaming about making my own french macarons as I'm heavily addicted to them.... to the point of paying outrages $1.75 a pop....ouch!!!
After reading your post, I think I will finally try it. They look so delicious!

TeaLady said...

I have tried ONCE and they were horrible looking. Yours are beautiful. Guess I need to try them again, and again, and.... well, until I get them right.

Sandy Smith said...

Thanks for your kind words, everyone! Tea Lady, don't give up! If you want macarons, keep trying. (Thankfully, they're relatively inexpensive to make.)

Once you get a few stubborn ducks (aging, mixing, drying) in a row, you'll be all set! Good luck and let me know when you nail them. (You will!!)

Best,
Sandy

The Duo Dishes said...

We both need to work our way up to having enough courage to do this. Yours dang near perfect! Thanks for the tips.

Sandy Smith said...

Thank you! Just go for it . . . you'll be glad you did it. It's really not hard once you get those elements down! Good luck and let me know how they turn out!!

Sherry G said...

I actually made these! Chocolate with raspberry buttercream! I also made two others at the same time, but I did enjoy these a lot.

Page said...

macarons are so in right now!!
and these look amazing! :)
page

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