Even the professionals struggle with macarons, says Meike Beck, chief home economist at the Good Housekeeping Institute. “Three seconds of overbeating and they’re ruined.” The institute spent a month making hundreds of batches of macarons, trying to perfect a recipe. In the end it gave up. “They’re best left to the professionals. Macaron recipes do work. But they are not consistent.” -- Times Online
Not exactly promising. A perfect cookie is not such a difficult task. But Macarons aren't just another cookie. Everything has to be just right. And what works in my kitchen, may not work in yours, with your equipment and your oven. But they are not impossible, with a little experimentation and practice, everyone can enjoy the deliciousness. Even I have failed 4 times at these before I got them right.
The first was just outright embarrassing, there were flat, unusually crunchy and definitely did not have feet. The second try I used a well known professional recipe, foolproof....nope, FAIL. These did have feet though! But they were sticking out nearly a half inch from the cookie and were also crunchy. So I went on trying again and again. Until I found a recipe that was tested and nearly foolproof....SWEET SUCCESS! And each batch is getting better than the previous one!
The macaron is made by beating egg whites until they form stiff peaks and then folding in the ground almonds and powdered sugar (which is the hardest part). This gives them a very light, meringue texture with a slight crunch. Heavenly...basically sums up the taste of these. They are most commonly filled with flavored buttercream or ganaches but jam and carmel are also popular.
And if any of you are feeling as adventurous as I am then here's the foolproof recipe I used along with some macaron newbie tips! Hint: for more tips, tricks and great cooking and baking recipes check out Foodgawker or Tastespotting! I'm addicted to both websites!
yields 50 (100 shells) macarons (feel free to divide it for fewer cookies)
120g almond meal
200g powdered sugar
100g aged egg whites (to age your eggs whites, crack and let sit loosely covered on your counter for 12-24hrs)
30-35g granulated sugar
food coloring gel (optional)
(I highly recommend using a kitchen scale for this recipe. Walmart sells some for $10 and these darn cookies are so fragile that every measurement should be accurate)
Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment. Prep a piping bag with a round tip or just cut a 1/2 inch opening. I place the bag into a tall drinking glass (or stout glass) and cuff the bag's opening over the top, this makes the bag easy to fill hands-free.
Weigh out almond meal and powdered sugar and blend them together with a blender or food processor. Store bought almond flour is not quite fine enough for this recipe so you will need to blend it to create a finer flour. Or you can buy blanched almonds and create your own flour, just don't blend too long or you'll end up with almond butter :) which is just as yummy. After blending, sift the ingredients.
Weigh out the egg whites into a large mixing bowl (stainless steel or copper), if you're using stainless feel free to add a pinch of salt, 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar or couple drops of lemon juice to help strengthen the whites. If you're using copper you need not and should not add any additional acid (the wonders of chemistry).
Weigh out the granulated sugar.
Begin beating the eggs on low speed. As I've found out in my research, it is best to start slow with a light touch because you are unraveling the egg white's proteins and it will capture the air bubbles you whisk in. Once the eggs whites are very foamy, sprinkle in sugar as you continue beating and increase the speed to medium and beat the meringue to stiff glossy peaks. If they start looking grainy, clumpy or dry you've gone too far :(
Add the food coloring (for the full recipe it usually takes 2-4 drops of gel, for a half batch 1-2 drops does the trick) and mix. And do not use liquid food coloring. Always use gel, Ameri Color gel is best but Wilton is also very good and can be found at Michael's or Hobby Lobby.
Add about 1/4 of the almond/sugar mixture and fold in until no streaks remain. Continue to add the almond mixture in quarters, folding until you reach the proper batter.
Pour the batter into your prepared piping bag and pipe rows of batter about 1 1/2 inches big onto the baking sheets, giving them space to spread.
Tap the pan on the counter to bring up any air bubbles and quickly pop them with a toothpick.
Let rest on the counter for 30-60 minutes then pop them in the oven preheated to 290 degrees. Bake for 16-20 minutes, depending on your oven.
When the cookie are finished, let cool for a minute or two on the pan and then remove them from the paper and let rest upside down while they cool. There is a less chance the insides will settle this way.
When all the way cooled, fill with buttercream, ganache or other filling of your choice and place in an airtight container.
Ideally, you should let them rest for 24 hrs with the filling so the flavors can mingle but they still taste delightful freshly filled.
And there you have it. French Macarons. Now go enjoy the deliciousness :)