I often enjoy a baking project on a weekend afternoon. Last Saturday evening, I had a friend over and she baked cookies while I provided feedback and guidance (in January, she taught me some weightlifting, and the agreement was that in exchange I would teach her some baking tips). It was a fun evening and left me in a baking mood. So the next day I decided that after church, I would swing by the craft store to get the correct decorating tip for making French macarons. I’m not particularly enamored of them (although they are tasty, and beautiful) nor have I ever made them before…but they seemed like a challenging pastry to learn to make, and what better day to start my learning process than a sunny, warm, April Sunday?
After gathering the ingredients that I didn’t have lying around (almond flour and a #1A baking tip), I consulted about a dozen blogs for advice before beginning my macaron process. I used this recipe for the macarons but I have written out the steps I took, adding in the tips I learned from reading and from experience, below. This was only a first batch so mine were a bit uneven, but I am pretty excited to keep perfecting my skills and wanted to share!
Some initial tips : this recipe takes time, largely due to letting the egg whites come to room temperature and also letting the macarons “rest” before they go in the oven. Don’t start baking them after dinner unless you want to be up late. I also read that they don’t do well when there is a lot of moisture in the air, so don’t try them on a humid or rainy day (aka, where I live, don’t try them during summer at all). I read the recipe that I used, and the tips, about six times — and then I wrote my plan out by hand. I know that may sound like a lot of work, but it was worth it.
- Separate three eggs. Set the egg whites in a bowl under a dishtowel on the counter to come to room temperature. This took about two and a half hours in my case — I checked the temperature with an instant-read thermometer. (Room temperature should be around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.) While you wait, make the filling. I made this super-easy chocolate ganache.
- Meanwhile, sift together one cup of fine-ground almond flour with two cups of confectioner’s sugar. Discard any almond bits that don’t make it through the sifter.
- Once the egg whites are at room temperature, beat them in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment along with 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar and a pinch of salt, on high speed (I used level six) until foamy. (This happened quickly.)
- While the mixer is still running, slowly pour in 1/4 cup of granulated sugar. Stop a few times to carefully scrape the sides of the mixing bowl.
- When the mixture reaches soft peaks, add one teaspoon of vanilla and desired food coloring.*
- Continue whipping until the mixture forms stiff peaks, occasionally pausing mixer to scrape sides (remember, you are trying to trap air in the mixture, so scrape sides very gently).
- Gently pour confectioner’s sugar-almond flour mixture over the whipped whites. (I removed the bowl from the stand mixer first.) Fold in mixture. (There are lots of online guides to folding. What I did was, using a rubber spatula, basically a gentle scrape down one side of the bowl, carefully guiding the spatula across the bowl, and then lifting out and twisting my hand so that it rotated the spatula which then “folded” the batter down into itself. It took me about forty-one folds until it appeared to be well combined — I’ve read “no more than fifty” lest you over-fold it and deflate the batter.)
- Carefully transfer the batter to a confectioner bag. (I used a 16″ disposable bag with a #1A tip. I forgot that my fastener for tips wouldn’t fit a #1A so David taped it to the bag and that worked fine.)
- Pipe 1″ rounds onto parchment-paper** lined baking sheets, slightly more than 1″ apart.
- Tap the pans on the countertop, hard, four to five times to release air bubbles.
- Let the macarons sit 20 – 30 minutes at room temperature, until they form a skin and do not stick to your finger when gently touched.
- Bake 18 – 22 minutes in center of oven. Rotate midway through, and switch sheets if you have two in at once (I just did one sheet at a time). ***
- Cool completely on a rack before creating sandwiches with your filling!
* I have read that liquid food coloring (as opposed to gel) can harm the structure of the macaron by introducing too much liquid to the batter. To avoid this, I dropped four drops of food coloring into the teaspoon measure before adding the vanilla, and then filled the vanilla to the top. This way, I didn’t add any extra liquid (just a teeny bit less vanilla).
** PARCHMENT PAPER. Not silpat. I tried both. On silpat, my macarons needed to be removed via a metal spatula. On parchment paper, they skated around like happy children on a frozen pond.
*** How do you know when macarons are done? THE WOBBLE TEST. Place your finger gently atop a macaron in the oven and if it “wobbles” on its foot it is not yet done.