Macarons: Basic Recipe These ingredients will make the cookies. This is the base and what’s hardest to master. You should try to successfully bake a couple recipes of basic macarons before trying to mix in other flavors. 3 egg whites (from large eggs), separated at least 24 hours in advance and kept in the refrigerator 210 g powdered sugar 125 g almond meal 30 g regular granulated sugar What you need – equipment: It’s best to gather all the equipment you really need before starting. Yes, I did have to buy some of these tools before making my first macarons. The good thing is that none of the following tools are specific to making macarons so your new gadgets will help you make many other great desserts. Please, do take this excuse and go shopping. :) Kitchen scale (yes, you do have to measure in grams, it’s more precise) Food processor (really nice to have but not mandatory) Hand or stand mixer with whisk accessory (mandatory unless you’re very courageous and/or strong) Sifter or fine sieve Big stainless steel bowl (cul-de-poule) Another big mixing bowl Spatula Pastry bag and round tip (1/2 to 3/4 inch opening) Large baking sheets, preferably 2 to 4 of them Parchment paper Various food color (liquid, gel or powder are all good) A couple of days before you plan to make your macarons: Prepare your eggs. Separate them, putting the whites in a clean airtight container and reserving the yolks for another use. Now, your egg whites must “age”: they need to spend at least 24h (up to 5 days) in the refrigerator before you use them. The morning of the day you plan to make your macarons: Take your egg whites out of the refrigerator and leave them to temper at room temperature for several hours. Making the cookies: Measure the powdered sugar and almond meal and put them in the bowl of your food processor. Finely grind the two together for a minute or two. Stop the processor, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, and process again for a minute. Yes, you need to do this even though both ingredients are already powdered. This step blends the sugar and nuts perfectly together and gets rid of bigger bits that often remain in packaged almond meal. You can grind your own almonds, just make sure they are peeled. And that you very finely grind them (add the powdered sugar to the almonds when they are coarsely ground to make sure you don’t end up with a paste). If you don’t have a food processor, you can still make macarons, but make sure to really thoroughly blend the almonds and sugar together. The consequence is that the texture of your macarons won’t be as soft and smooth. After processing the powdered sugar and almond meal, you have to sieve the mixture. This is really important (especially if you don’t have a food processor) as it will get rid of the remaining bigger bits and ensure a smooth batter. You will see some of the almond refuses to pass though your sieve (see picture below). Don’t try to force it through; it’s ok to throw it away. The quantity shouldn’t be significant enough to unbalance your recipe. Here’s what I generally have left after I sieve half of my almonds-sugar mixture: Set this bowl aside and take your bigger stainless steel bowl out. This kind of bowl is called a cul-de-poule in French and they are so useful in a kitchen that, if you don’t have one already, you simply really should invest in a couple of them (different sizes). Stainless steel bowls helps egg whites get fluffy and firm. Make sure your bowl is cold. Stainless steel usually remains cold by itself, but if it’s not, rinse it under cold water (or stick it in the freezer for a couple of minutes) and dry it before continuing. A cold bowl also makes egg whites happy. Make sure your granulated sugar is measured and close to your working area. Put your egg whites in the bowl. Start beating them at medium/high speed with your mixer. Once they start to get bubbly and white and you see your whisk is lightly leaving marks, add a tablespoon of the granulated sugar. Continue beating and add the remaining sugar slowly over the next minute or two. Your eggs will now be white and fluff but not stiff enough. Continue beating at high speed until peaks form and remain up when you take out your whisk (stop your mixer before trying this!). When the egg whites are ready, you’ll notice that they seem dense and creamy and not as bubbly anymore. Here’s what they look like: Now is the time to put your electric appliances aside. Your egg whites are delicate and you must treat them gently. If you wish to add color, now is the time to do so. I made lemon macarons. I added 15 drops of yellow liquid food coloring and the very finely grated zest of one lemon. Gently fold in the color using a spatula: slide your spatula on the side of the bowl under the egg whites and bring the bottom up to the top. Repeat this until the color is evenly blended. Now is not the time to be in a hurry: DO NOT whisk at any cost as it will deflate your egg whites and your batter will be ruined. At this point, the color of your batter (if you added food coloring) should be at least as intense as you want the final macaron to be. It will intensify and brighten a bit when you add the almonds/sugar mixture. The batter is now matte, light and fluffy: Continuing your folding motion, start mixing in your dry ingredients a little at a time (you should add the whole thing in 4 or 5 additions). Carefully blend everything together, always sliding your spatula to the bottom of the bowl and back up to make sure no pockets of dry ingredients remain. When your batter is evenly blended, it will look shiny and creamy: Prepare your baking sheets. Double the baking sheets (helps macarons rise and cook more evenly) then cover each with a well-measured sheet of parchment paper. I have tried silicon mats before and I don’t think they work well with macarons. Their rubbery texture seems to cling to the delicate and somewhat sticky cookies so that you more often than not end up with empty shells (the tender insides remaining stuck to the silicon). Now is the time to fit your pastry bag with its tip. I like to use disposable pastry bags that I wash 3-4 times before getting rid of them. I find that plastic pastry bags are more flexible and easier to work with than textile bags. They are also really easy to clean just by letting hot water run through them and they don’t stain. To make the transfer from bowl to pastry bag easy, I stand my pastry bag in a measuring cup, folding or twisting the tip to make sure the batter doesn’t come out too quickly. If your pastry bags are long, fold it in half to make sure the batter gets to the bottom of the bag. Take your bag out of the cup, keeping the tip folded or twisted so that the batter doesn’t come out. Unfold the larger end of the bag and twist it shut close to the batter to push it down. As you lay your macarons on the cooking sheets, you will continue this motion (twisting the larger end of the bag with one hand) to put constant pressure on the batter and ease its way out on the sheets. Now is the time to work your magic: you have to hold the tip of your bag with one hand to guide it, and hold the larger end with your other hand to push the batter down. Place your tip close to the parchment paper and twist the end of the bag so as to push the batter down and out to form 1 to 1.5” disks. You can set your macarons pretty close together as they won’t expand while cooking. When enough batter is out, stop twisting the end of the bag and swiftly lift your tip up to stop the batter from coming out. This is tricky: you will need practice. Mastering this technique will ensure your macarons are uniform in size and round. Now, don’t panic. Your macarons have a pointy tip that makes them look like lazy Hershey’s Kisses. Not to worry: as they rest before cooking, they will smooth out. You can help them though: lift your baking sheet up a bit and firmly bang it on the table a couple of times. This will even the caps and take the air bubbles out of them. If you’re a perfectionist like I am, now is a good time to edit your macarons to make sure they will be perfectly round. I use a small silicon spatula to make oval caps round or smooth down tips that won’t come down. This step is absolutely not mandatory; imperfection can be very charming. The next step will once again test your patience: you have to let your macarons rest on the baking sheets at room temperature for at least 20 minutes (some say a couple hours is best but I’m not that patient). You just have to. This step will “dry” the caps and help them rise later when they cook. Halfway through the wait, preheat your oven between 275 and 300°F (135-150°C). Every oven behaves differently. I have a gas oven and 300°F (150°C) is generally good for me. In some ovens, this temperature can be too hot, especially for light-colored macarons (you don’t want them to brown). I prefer to play it safe, cook them at a lower temperature and leave them longer in the oven. You will have to test your own oven and stay close to it to watch over your macarons as they cook. I baked these lemon macarons at 300°F (150°C) for 14 minutes. Your cooking time could be anywhere between 13 and 18 minutes. From 12 minutes on, watch closely, and avoid opening your oven door before that. Your macarons are ready when they look dry and matte and seem firm on their crown when you lightly tap on them. Overcooking the macarons will make them too crunchy and feel like meringue. Undercooking them will make them separate when you try to lift them off the sheets. I know, it’s tricky! After a while, you will know your oven and get better at figuring when your macarons are done. In any case, please play it safe when setting your oven temperature. Excessive heat is the macaron’s worst enemy: they will cook too quickly, cracking like meringue and browning, hiding their beautiful color. When they are done, take the sheets out of the oven and let them cool on a rack. If you need to reuse your baking sheets for the next batch, let them cool 5-10 minutes in the baking sheet and then lift the parchment paper out of the sheet to set it directly on the cooling rack (this is why it’s good to have more than 2 sheets). Once cooled to room temperature, your macarons are ready to be assembled. When they are perfectly cooked, they should lift easily from the parchment paper, have a flat bottom and a beautiful puffy crown. If they stick a bit, help them up with a thin stainless steel spatula so that they don’t separate or break. If they’re a bit overcooked, they will be hollow under the cap. You can still use them, you’ll just have to put more cream to assemble them (yum!). Match the cap sizes that fit best together. For the filling, the possibilities are as great as your imagination is. For lemon macarons, you can fill them up with lemon curd as I did, or with a lemon-flavored buttercream. If you made pink cookies, fill them up with good-quality raspberry preserves or, if you feel decadent, with a mixture of mascarpone cheese and preserves. The only thing that’s important is to make sure the filling is firm enough to not drip out from the macarons. A great macaron should be able to stand on its side and not lose its filling. Using an icing spatula (or just a regular butter knife) spread your icing on one cookie. Place the other cookie on the icing and press gently to stick them together. Once all of your macarons are assembled, in an ideal world, you would put them in an airtight container, in the refrigerator and let them rest for another 24 hours. Yes, you need patience once again. They won’t be bad if you eat them right away. Letting them rest with their icing in really reveals the fine texture of the macaron. The humidity of the icing will get into the crispy caps and that’s what will make them crisp on the outside and so tender on the inside. Try to be patient, trust me, it’s really worth the wait. The good thing is that it’s a great dessert to make in advance and it will for sure impress your guests. They will be at their best if you eat them in the next 4-5 days. Yes, these French cookies are a really fancy delicacy. No, they’re not easy to make. Yes, they require time, patience and practice to master. But it’s worth it really, and less expensive than a plane ticket to Paris.
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