French Macarons

Finally! I’ve wanted to make these for so long, but every time I delved into the world of making French Macarons (One “o” (!!), MacarOOns are those coconut things), I got so overwhelmed by the foodie fuss over how finicky these are and how you are doomed to fail over and over.

I thought, who has time for that? Turns out, this sweet spot between the end of medical school and the beginning of residency means that I DO!

Boy, was it worth it! Yes, it took me several hours to make a few batches but once I got the hang of it, man I got the hang of it. Good news, I only failed once.

Exhibit A: Failure. These guys don’t have the “feet” or frilly bottom of proper macarons, not to mention that the color wasn’t distributed evenly…fear not though, they tasted fantastic.

Exhibit B: Successful “feet!!!”. See how they rose up above a little skirt of frills? Now that is a proper macaron and yes, I totally did a happy dance in the middle of their baking as soon as I saw them form!

I won’t bore you with all the ins and outs of these things. If you’re interested in making them, I included a “tips and tricks” section at the bottom. But trust me, if you’re interested in making them, I wasn’t kidding about foodie fuss over these. There are eons and eons of webpages dedicated to trouble shooting them and the various techniques involved. Bottom line: there is more than one way to make these, you just have to experiment with what works for you.

By the way, these are chocolate macarons with a dark chocolate ganache and the little pink guys have a strawberry buttercream inside.

Alright, ready for the recipe? Here we go!

French Macarons

Adapted from too many sources to count
Makes ~16 macaron cookies or 8 sandwiches

Note: the recipe below will fill about 1 baking sheet worth of macarons. I cut the recipe in half to help in the “you will fail!” process. Once you get the hang of it – you can double the recipe and go to town. Tips and tricks will be below

Tools:
1. Sifter: preferably one with a handle. Sifting makes a difference and if you are like me, you will NOT want to be painstakingly pushing almond meal pieces through a tiny sieve. Buy one with a handle.
2. Silicone baking mat
3. Food processor
4. Hand mixer
5. 2 baking sheets (one on top of the other)

For the macarons
1/4 cup + 3 teaspoons almond flour (for chocolate ones, replace the 3 teaspoons with cooca powder)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 egg white, at room temperature
pinch of cream of tartar
3 teaspoons superfine sugar
Food coloring, in paste form (optional)

In a food processor, grind the almond flour and powdered sugar (or + cocoa powder) until well incorporated. Sift this. Seriously, invest in a good sifter. My thumb still hurts from using a tiny sieve.

In a stainless steel bowl, whip your egg white with your hand mixer until just foamy. Then, add a pinch of your cream of tartar. Continue mixing while slowly adding in your superfine sugar. At this point if you want to add color, add it in while you’re beating furiously with your hand mixer. Continue beating for about 2 minutes or until stiff peaks form.

Fold in your almond flour/sugar sifted mixture with a rubber spatula. I literally counted 50 folds and found that it was the perfect consistency. Try it! You want it to be a thick ribbon when it falls off the spatula. See tips and tricks for consistency tips.

Using a piping bag or a ziploc bag with the end cut off, pipe 1 inch rounds about 1 inch apart on a silicone lined baking sheet (s). Drag the tip of your piping agent to the edge of the macaron as to avoid peaks. Slap your baking sheets onto the counter a few times to get rid of air bubbles. Let these guys sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375F. During the last 5 minutes of their rest, reduce your oven temperature to 325F.

Bake for 10 minutes and hope for feet!! Let cool before filling.

For the strawberry buttercream
1/4 cup butter, softened at room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon strawberry puree
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whip together and pipe into cookies! This will give you enough to pipe a lot if you like lots of buttercream. I unfortunately can’t cut down the recipe anymore without getting into awkward measurements.

 For the chocolate ganache
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter

Heat your heavy cream and butter over a double boiler until the butter is just melted and the cream is hot but not boiling. Pour over your bittersweet chocolate and let sit for a minute. After a minute, mix the mixture until you have an even chocolate ganache.

Let sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes until thicker, but not yet hard. Pipe into your chocolate macarons.

Storing: After you’ve piped the filling, let the macarons sit in the fridge in an air-tight container for at least 24 hours to let the flavors meld. Bring them to room temperature just before serving.

Okay, now:

Tips and Tricks!

Disclaimer: This is what worked for me. That is to say, I did not try to do some of these things wrong intentionally to see whether or not it would cause failure. At the very least though, they did create success!

1. Almond flour: Also marketed as Almond Meal. This appears to be very coarse. Unfortunately, it is. Mixing it in the food processor with sugar helps to make it finer and helps your sifting step. Do NOT try to make the almond flour more fine by simply running it like crazy in the food processor. Before you know it, you’ll be asking yourself ….”hey…isn’t this how almond butter is made?…”. It is.

2.  But do I have to use superfine things/sift: Yes. The superfine sugar is right next to the granulated sugar at the grocery store. Mine was domino’s brand and it came in a box. My fail batch was the product of being too impatient to sift. Also, sift before you start with the eggs otherwise they’ll sit there while you sift and sift and sift.

3. What about the egg whites?: So I didn’t do this, but the general consensus is that it is best to “age” your egg whites or separate them a few days ahead of time and let them sit in the fridge for a few days before bringing them to room temperature. The idea is that this process will help remove the moisture in the eggs and help them whip up nicely and ideally increase the probability of getting those feet. I also think that this is more necessary if you’re making these on a rainy day or live in a humid environment.

4. I don’t have cream of tartar: I made these without, and it was fine. Adding it in again makes the egg whites nicer and better for humid days. If you have it, add it!

5. Why two baking sheets?: It help insulates the baking sheet you are directly using and helps prevent your macaron bottoms from burning.

6. Dry everything!: Make sure all of your tools are clean and water-free. The less moisture you introduce into this environment, the better.

7. Piping tips: I found that the best way to pipe the filling was actually starting from the outside and working your way in. Aesthetically, you want a nice even filling layer peeking out in between the cookies and the best way to ensure this is to start from the outside. That way, you don’t have to use excessive force to squish the filling to the edges.

8. I didn’t get feet…: Blame any of these steps. I found that trying to pinpoint it to any one thing wasn’t very helpful. Try again! That’s why I posted a recipe that only makes a few. Also, they still taste delicious without those feet.

9. Where do I get food coloring paste?: Michael’s the craft store. A little paste goes a long way. Using liquid messes with the delicate proportions of things. They run a little more than $2.00 which is just about the cost of one macaron at any bakery. So really, you’re saving money.

10. How do I know I’ve folded enough?: 50 strokes but in general you want it a little runnier that you would think since we’re working with egg whites and all. There is less of that “careful! don’t deflate the whites!” attitude here than there is with meringues or angel cake. When you’re piping it, if you find ourself actively trying to push peaks down, you probably need to fold a little more. Trial and error…trial and error.

Alright, longest blog post ever but as always, enjoy!

 

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