Would you believe that my first encounter with a macaron took place in my THIRTIES?!? As absurd as that is, I am making up for all those macaron-less years now. I have learned (through trial and error) how to make them at home. Although I would never suggest that a single batch I have ever made are display case ready, I will say my recipe turns out delicate, soft and delicious macarons every time.
I tackle the macaron making process in 9 phases to stay both organized and sane. Ready go…
PHASE 1: Measurement and Prep.
It’s best to have everything prepared and ready to go as making these lovely little cookies is a multi-step process and at times you feel like you need to have more arms to successfully get everything done correctly… Stick with me, it’s worth it.
I have found that using a kitchen scale is really what makes my macrons consistently good. If you plan to make these often, I would invest in one. Not only does using one to measure your ingredients give you more consistent results, it also speeds up the process for you.
Once you have measured out 190 g. Almond flour, 205 g. powdered sugar, 190 g. sugar, 60 mL. water (not pictured) and a total of 144 g. of room temp egg whites in two equal bowls weighing 72g. each, you are ready for the next phase.
PHASE 2- Dry Ingredients.
Combine the almond flour and the powdered sugar in a food processor and pulse up to 30 times to create a fine powder. Transfer the flour mixture to a fine sieve and sift the powder through. In the end you will be left with about a tablespoon of larger pieces of almond which should not end up in your cookies so you can discard those. If you have more than a couple of tablespoons of corse almonds, put them back in the food processor and try again with those pieces. When you finish sifting you will have a fine powder which is important to make the tops of the cookies smooth and keeps the texture of the cookie airy and light.
PHASE 3- Paste
Now that you have your fine flour and powdered sugar mixture, you are ready for Phase 3 – The Paste Phase. You will be making a paste with your dry ingredients as the base for the cookie. For this step, add one of your bowls of measured out egg whites to the dry ingredient powder that you have just made. Stir until you have a uniform texture. Add a generous amount of *gel food coloring of your choice. I used about a 1/4 teaspoon of red. Stir again until all of the color and egg whites are evenly distributed. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
PHASE 4- Meringue
Now that you have the paste set aside you are ready for Phase 4- The Meringue Phase. You’ll start by combining you’re 190g. of sugar with 60 mL of water in a small pot on the stove. Make sure your candy thermometer is placed in the mixture and begin to bring it to a boil. As soon as your sugar water reaches 230 degrees F., put your remaining egg whites in the stand mixer with the whisk attachment and start whisking on high. As your egg whites whip up, watch the sugar water closely. As soon as the sugar water reaches 245 degrees F. remove it from the heat and immediately but slowly pour it into the whipping egg whites. You’ll notice the bowl will become very hot. You will want to whip the egg whites on high for 3-4 minutes until the bowl has come down in temperature and stiff, shiny peaks have formed.
PHASE 5 – Macaronage
Now that you have made your paste and meringue, you are ready for the next phase. Phase 5- The Macaronage Phase. Macaronage refers to the method used when folding the meringue into the paste to create the macaron dough. Take about 1/3 of your meringue and add it into the paste stirring to loosen up the paste a bit. Next add the rest of the meringue to the paste and begin the macaronage.
To macaronage, take your rubber spatula all the way around the outside of the bowl and then through the middle of the mixture. Do this 20-30 times and check if you have the right consistency. You will know if your dough is ready if you can scoop up some of the dough and the dough comes off the spatula in a consistent flow like a ribbon. If you have any plopping going on, it’s not ready, keep macaronaging.
PHASE 6 – Pipe, Tap, Rest
On to Phase 6 – The Pipe, Tap, Rest Phase. Fill your piping bag fitted with a large tip. (I use Wiltons 2A) On parchment lined baking sheets pipe 1 inch circles about one inch apart. I hold the piping bag just above the parchment, squeeze and release once I have about an inch of dough then make a quick little circle motion with the bag to break off the dough.
When you fill your sheet with cute little circles take your baking sheet and hit it against the counter to release any trapped air bubbles in the cookies and to flatten their tops. If you still see peaks after this process. wet your pinky finger and very gently press the peak down to create a flat surface. Tap on the counter a few more times.
When the cookies are piped and air bubbles are tapped out, let the cookies rest for at least 30 minutes. They will begin to dry out and form a skin on the surface of the cookie. This step is very important to the cookies shape and texture. Make sure you allow for this time.
PHASE 7- Bake
Phase 7- The Baking Phase. When a skin has formed on the outside of the macaron they are ready for the oven. Every oven is different but the temperature that works best for these cookies in my oven is 280 degrees F. on the center rack for 16 minutes. Your oven may run hotter or cooler so for at least the first tray, watch them closely. It’s kind of fun to see them rise and form their signature “feet”. Bake one tray at a time and let them cool completely on their baking sheet.
PHASE 8 – Filling
Phase 8- The filling phase. As you can tell, the cookie itself is not flavored with anything other than sugar and almond flour. What makes macarons flavored is the filling you chose for them. Your macarons can be filled with whatever you like. I really like using ganache, citrus curd and even marshmallow fluff. Be creative and have fun.
I chose to fill these ones with a strawberry butter cream which I flavored with a powder I made by pulsing freeze dried strawberries in a food processor and putting the powder through a fine sieve discarding large seeds and leaving a fine powder.
My butter cream consists of 1/2 cup softened, unsalted butter, 3 cups powdered sugar, 2-3 Tablespoons of heavy cream, one tsp. of lemon extract and 1/2 cup of strawberry powder. Start by creaming one cup of powdered sugar with 1/2 cup softened butter in a stand mixer until soft and pale in color. Add another cup of powdered sugar and cream together. Add last cup of powdered sugar with 2 Tbsp. of cream and 1 tsp. of lemon extract. Cream together on high, adding additional cream if necessary. Buttercream should be pale and shiny. Fold in strawberry powder until completely incorporated.
Fill piping bag with filling. Pipe a dot about 3/4 of the size of the macaron shell onto the flat side of the cookie. Place a second cookie on top. Carefully sandwich the cookies together, pressing until the filling comes to the outer edges of the cookie.
PHASE 9 – Wait
Phase 9 – the waiting phase is the final phase and the hardest one of all. I really should call this phase the torture phase because after all that work you have to package them up and refrigerate them for 24 hours before serving them. Macarons need time to rest before they are at their best to eat. I think sneaking one before the 24 hour waiting period is no big deal but you will get the perfect taste and texture if you serve them the next day. This has been a labor of love and serving them at their peak yumminess is my recommendation.
Enjoy these little babies. Your guests will be amazed that you made macarons at home. They are the perfect, delicate complement to any dessert table especially at an Easter party, Mother’s Day brunch or baby or wedding shower. Enjoy!