I must start this post with an apology for my recent lack of posting. While I don't really have a valid excuse, at least I am back with something delicious and impressive. Over the holidays I learned that some of my friends have never tried a french macaron and that Harrods sells them for a whopping £3 per cookie. There seems to be a general consensus that these are very hard to make and not something one does at home, but I figured it was worth a shot. After all, how hard can meringue cookies be?
My first batch of these turned out better than expected - they had the little feet and they tasted pretty good. They were by no means perfect: some were slightly overcooked, my white ones had browned a bit, some of the feet were uneven, etc. But I learned a big secret about homemade macarons - it turns out even the not perfect ones taste delicious... and with that I was hooked on making these. Not only are these super fun to watch in the oven, (with every batch I get excited watching them rise in the oven and grow their cute feet), but people seem very impressed when you bring in homemade macarons and the flavor and color combinations are limitless! I just can't stop making them. Plus its fun to perfect the recipe, changing and improving with each batch.
Below is my base chocolate recipe with a peanut butter buttercream filling (to make it slightly American themed). I've made it as detailed as possible - full of all the little hints and tips I've picked up with each batch that has resulted in a reliable recipe, at least for me. It turns out the internet is chock full of macaron tutorials, FAQs, recipe etc - and based on your kitchen, weather, whatever, there may be some little steps that you need to pick up to perfect this recipe for yourself. So to go along with my recipe, here are some resources to check out when your first batch doesn't turn out perfect:
While these are definitely a delicacy that can be made at home, this is a picky, finicky recipe! Don't try to take short cuts (like not weighing ingredients) and accept it may take a few tries till your macarons look and taste perfect! But once you get there - you'll feel pretty proud when you notice some in bakeries that don't look as shiny and even as your homemade ones :).
Variations on a macaron:
Coloring: use a gel food coloring and add it to your beaten stiff egg whites, before mixing in the dry ingredients. (Leave out the cocoa powder)
Flavor: So far I've added flavor to the macaron's by mixing in a powdered flavor in with the dry ingredients. I made a lovely strong coffee macaron by adding in 1/2 Tb espresso powder.
Fillings: I've found that buttercream and ganache's work the best for me as a filling. When I've experimented with simpler fillings (like pure Nutella), the macaron's don't soften as much, I'm guessing due to the moisture content of the filing? But the flavor varieties are endless! So far I've done white chocolate raspberry, caramel, peanut butter, chocolate, nutella, etc...
Note: I've read that once your almond meal is opened, it will begin to collect moisture and eventually affect your macaron's, so I buy the smaller bags at the grocery store. Also most of your filling recipes will make more than you need - but just save it in the fridge for your next batch! (Butter cream keeps a week in the fridge and a month in the freezer).
(adapted from David Lebovitz)
Makes about 30 small sandwiches
100 grams powdered sugar
50 grams almond meal/ground almonds
25 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
65 grams granulated sugar
56 grams (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
2 Tb milk
1 cup powdered sugar (sifted)
Make the macarons:
Preheat the oven to 150c/300f (get an oven thermometer if you don't have one!)
- Place the powdered sugar, almond and cocoa powder into a food processor and grind till there are no lumps.
- Weigh out your white sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they begin to get frothy and hold their shape. Gradually add in the white sugar and continue to beat until it forms very stiff peaks (about 2-3 minutes). Some say they are ready when you can hold the bowl upside down without them moving...
- Fold in the dry ingredients in two batches using a flexible rubber spatula. (This is the unintuitive stage where you throw out your previous knowledge of making meringues that involved being ever so gentle to keep the air in.) Fold in the dry ingredients until they are fully incorporated, and don't worry, they are supposed to deflate! Now here is the tricky step - to get a perfect smooth shape without a peak in the center, you must mix the batter to just the right point! After your dry ingredients are incorporated, lift the spatula and drag some batter over itself forming a raised ribbon. Now after 15 seconds you should see this ribbon has mostly melted back into the batter, if it is mixed enough. Some describe this as a lava consistency. If your ribbon holds its shape too much, give your batter a few firm folds/mixes, and try again. (If you do undermix at this stage, you can still get a nice macaron, just not as pretty looking!).
- Line a cookie tray with silpat (or parchment paper) and pipe out little one inch macarons about one inch apart on your tray. Lift up the cookie tray and give it a very firm rap on the counter a few times, rotate the tray 90 degrees, and do it again - this helps knock the air bubbles out. If you folded your macarons to the right consistency, they will pipe out looking like hershey kisses, but a minute later the tops will be totally smooth. (See photos above)
- Bake for 14-18 minutes, then let cool completely on the cookie tray. You can test for done-ness by sacrificing one and carefully sliding it off the tray with a metal spatula and looking at the bottom. It should have a smooth bottom a hollow cap means it has been baked too much, leaving some behind means it wasn't baked enough.
- Carefully remove macarons to a wire rack, pairing each one with a similar sized buddy as you go.
Make the peanut butter filling and assemble:
- Beat the butter and peanut butter together until smooth.
- Mix in the milk and sifted powdered sugar. If it is still too stiff, add another Tb of milk until it is the right consistency.
- Fill a zip lock bag with some of the filling. Cut off a little corner, and pipe onto half of the macarons, making sandwiches as you go (gently press down so the filling squeezes just to the edges, but not past that).
- Store these in an airtight container in the fridge for at least 24 hours (up to a week) before eating. This is the hardest step - but feel free to try one now, and another one the next day to convince yourself it is worth it. The filling and macaron will work together, softening up the cookie and blending nicely together.