By Cassandra VanCuren
What is it about these petite confections that we just can’t help but love? The colors, the size, the texture or abundance of flavors? Whatever the reason be, people everywhere are falling in love with these darling cookies.
Prior to making my first batch I read any and every article I could find relating to how to make these little cuties. I wanted to feel well educated before diving into this project . I found myself feeling very intimidated and nervous to try. Finally a friend asked me to make some for a Paris themed party she was hosting. This was just what I needed to motivate me to make my first attempt.
All in all I would consider my first attempt a success. I made templates of circles, read through my gathered information and recipes many times, and was careful to follow every step. However, in the end I found I was left with a few unanswered questions. Since then I have had many successful batches of French maracons. I have narrowed down my gathered information to a recipe that works best for me. I also realized a more relaxed approach without so many particulars works best for me.
I thought maybe I would share with you my thoughts and tips. Perhaps it might work well for you too. Before we begin though, I will say you can do this! There is no need to worry. With a few simple steps I promise you too can make lovely macaroons! Macarons are sensitive to humidity. So if at all possible pick a sunny day with low humidity. That being said, I live in Florida! Almost everyday is a humid day. I have yet to have a recipe flop due to humidity. I have not intentionally made them on a rainy day, but I have had it rain once during the baking process and they turned out fine.
(Based on Martha Stewart's recipe at Marthastewart.com)
1 cup of confectioners sugar
¾ cup almond flour (You can find this at some grocery stores, or at a health food store. You can make your own in a food processor, but I found purchasing it much easier)
2 large egg whites at room temperature (your egg whites can sit on the counter all day long and be fine.)
Pinch of cream of tarter
Pinch or two of Meringue Powder (optional depending on humidity. I use this every time.)
¼ cup super fine bakers sugar
Frosting or fruit preserves for filling
I would recommend a mixer such as a kitchen aid verses a hand mixer.
Pastry bag (I prefer disposable. Please do not try the sandwich bag trick, it’s worth it to use disposable pastry bag)
Food coloring (I prefer paste, but liquid will work fine)
Medium sized fine sifter
1. Sifting. Most all recipes will tell you to run the almond flour and the confectioners sugar through a food processor. I do not have one. With a fine sifter I sift the almond flour and confectioners sugar through twice. Each time tossing any little lumps left over. When measuring the confectioners sugar and almond powder I do not worry about being too exact. If you are over it will not ruin your recipe because you may end up tossing out a table spoon or two out anyways. Set the sifted mixture aside.
2. I like to have everything ready. Once I have sifted my confectioners sugar and almond flour, I line my baking sheets with parchment. You want your parchment to lay flat as possible. One batch uses about two baking sheets. Have your eggs, cream of tarter and meringue powder handy, and go ahead and measure out your baker’s sugar.
3. Your eggs should be at room temperature. Put the eggs in the mixer and turn it on med. Mix until the eggs look a little foamy with lots of bubbles.
4. Once the eggs are foamy add the pinch of cream of tarter. If you are using meringue powder add it now as well. Increase your mixing speed to high and mix until soft peeks form.
5. Once you have soft peeks slow your mixer down to add your baker’s sugar. Continue to beat until stiff peeks form. Add your coloring towards the end of this step. Steps 3-5 generally take about 4-8 minutes.
TIP: I have yet to find where anyone explains how to make multiple colors of macarons. I find the best answer to this is to do it in different batches. That is why I like this recipe. It is a smaller scale recipe compared to some of the others I have seen. Complete one batch at a time for each color. When I tried a larger batch, dividing the batter, and adding multiple colors it resulted in over mixing and flat macarons.
6. Next we will take the whites and mix it in with the flour mixture. Fold in your flour mixture until the batter is smooth and shiny. About 50 strokes. You do not want to under or over mix. When the batter is just right, you should be able to scoop it up with the spatula and it will gently and fluently flow off of the spatula like a ribbon. If it is under mixed it will fall off in globs, and if it is over mixed it will appear almost runny.
7. Next you will spoon your mixture into the pastry bag. Many sites recommend to use a tip eight. If you wish to you can. I however do not. I find for myself simply cutting the pastry bag once it is filled works fine. To fill the bag I take a disposable uncut pastry bag and fold the top 2 ½ inches of the bag down. Spoon the mixture into the bag. Unfold the top edge up. Cut about and ½ inch up from the bottom of the bag. This will give you a good sized hole. If the hole is too big it will spill out too much. Your mixture may run out of the bag a little once you cut the hole, and this is ok.
8. Now we will pipe the macarons. Your parchment should already be lined. Depending on what you are most comfortable with, you can make a pattern of circles to slip under the parchment to help with your circles. Once your macarons are piped you simply pull the temple out from underneath the parchment. For me, when I tried this I was too concerned about the pattern. I felt more accurate and comfortable without it. You can pipe your macarons whatever size you would like depending on your preference. Just be sure to space them out about 1 ½ inch apart. It is important to give them space, and not to put too many on a baking sheet. If you do it created too much humidity and your macarons will not develop the cute ruffles on the bottom called the “feet”. To pipe the macaroons hold your pastry bag straight up and down and about a ¼-½ inch off the surface. Slowly apply pressure and let the mixture gently expand out. Simply release pressure and pull up when you reach your desired size. Keep in mind that the mixture will expand out as it sits. I tab the pan fairly vigorously on the table a few times to smooth out any soft peeks and flatten them out.
9. And now we sit! For whatever reason the first batch I had I let sit 15 minutes and they did not seem to develop feet. So I found another recipe that says let them sit for 30-45 minutes at room temperature. This worked well for me. The shells to start to appear dull and will crust over a little on top. While they are sitting set the oven temp to 350.
10. Now it’s time to bake! I lower the temperature to 325 and put the macarons in. Let them bake for 5 minutes then open the oven and rotate the baking sheet. You should notice the feet already developed at this point. Bake for another 5-7 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
11. To fill the macarons I prefer the shells to be cold. This is just my preference and not necessary. The first batch I did, I filled them once they cooled at room temperature, and they seemed to be fragile and would crack every now and then. When you take so much care baking them, this was very frustrating to have them break in the last step! After that I would stick them in the fridge for a hour or so and then fill them. I felt much more comfortable with this and did not have any breakage.
12. You can fill your macarons with anything you would like. Buttercream, store bought frostings, jellies, Nutella, peanut butter and jelly, etc. Use your disposable pastry bags to fill your macarons. Pipe filling into the center and then twist the two shells together. You can serve your macarons right away, or refrigerate them. I personally like them a little chilled. They can also be frozen and thawed out later to be enjoyed.
Recipe featured in Creating Vintage Charm, Issue #7/Winter 2011
Charming Note: Cassandra VanCuren's artistic adventure started years ago as a mixed media artist and events coordinator. She is no doubt very artistically talented and creative, currently focusing on photography and portraits. Please stop by and visit her website at http://www.artfuladventuresphotography.com/