The Secrets Behind a Perfect Macaron

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In honor of Macaron Day NYC 2014, I decided to whip up a batch of these delicious little treats. This holiday of sorts began in 2010 by François Payard, chef and owner of François Payard Bakery and FP Patisserie in Manhattan, NY. The day was created in honor of the Jour du Macaron (Macaron Day) in France, and falls on the same day.

Macarons are incredibly finicky. Sometimes, they develop those cute little feet and are just perfect. Other times, the feet are all over the place! I’ve tested out a few different recipes, and while some tips do help, some of the common “rules” around making macarons can be disregarded. The ideal macaron should be a perfect circle, with “feet” along the edges, where it has risen in the oven. They should comfortably slip off your baking mat. They also should be slightly chewy, yet crunchy, and they should taste like heaven.

Here is what I believe is most important during the baking process:

  • Kitchen scales are very useful for making macarons, as proper measurement of the ingredients ensures the best results. They’re also relatively cheap. That being said, I usually make macarons with cup measurements, and have been successful , so it is not a necessity!
  • I highly recommend buying a silicone baking mat, they’re amazingly useful, easy to clean, and last forever.
  • Use almond meal (finely ground almonds)! It’s not worth grinding up your own almonds. This will save you quite a bit of time, and clearning. Random note, if you do chose to grind  your own nuts, you can use different types of nuts! Common replacements include pistachios and hazelnuts.
  • Most recipes tell you to add the granulated sugar into the egg white gradually, but it’s a LIE! I’ve gradually added, and dumped all the sugar in at once, with no difference in my end product.
  • Aged egg whites are not a must. I’ve made macarons with egg whites at room temperature for about an hour or two and they have turned out just fine
  • Double stack your baking sheets to ensure that the pans heat evenly.
  • Use a piping bag with a round tip. I already have these on hand because of the cakes I bake, but they are pretty cheap to buy if you don’t! Piping bags and tips allow better control when piping the circles onto the mat for baking. You can use plastic bags, as long as they are the sturdier, freezer-type bag. Just cut a hole in the corner about 1 inch wide.
  • If you are going to color your macarons, use gel food coloring instead of liquid. Liquids can mess with the consistency of the macarons, and ruin the texture. Also, make sure you add the coloring  to the egg mixture while beating in the sugar, to ensure even distribution of the color.
  • When you are beating the egg whites, most instructions tell you to beat until glossy/stiff. I’ve found you should take it one step further, and beat them until they literally don’t move when you turn your bowl over. You should be able to hold the bowl over your head, and have NOTHING move. That’s when you know the egg whites are ready!
  • When folding the egg whites with the almond meal and sugar, use a flexible spatula. Make sure you’re folding motion is gentle, and that you repeatedly scrape around the bowl and move batter towards the middle. DO NOT OVERMIX. You should make no more than 50 folds. Many recipes say the consistency should be of lava, but if your mixture resembles runny pancake batter, you’ve gone too far.
  • After piping the macarons, tap the tray against your countertop on the sides of the tray, to make sure any air bubbles are released.
  • After piping the macarons, let the tray sit out for at least 25 minutes, until the tops of the macarons look dried out and are no longer spreading. This is the skin that needs to form in order for the “feet” of the macaron to properly develop.
  • When the weather is humid or rainy, it can negatively affect the macaron shells. The extra moisture can interfere with the development of the skin that should form during the resting stage.
  • Halfway through baking, rotate the pans in the oven. In my experience, my oven heats a bit more on one side more than the other. Most ovens do not bake perfectly even, and this will help ensure consistency throughout your final product.

I  have tried out a lot of online recipes for macarons, and this one has worked the best for me. I have continued using this recipe as a base, altering it to test out different flavors.

Lavender Macaron Base:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 3/4 cups almond meal
  • 1  cup powdered sugar
  • purple gel food coloring, if desired

Honey Lavender Buttercream:

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp lavender milk (milk steeped with lavender)
Chocolate Macaron Base:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 3/4 cups almond meal
  • 1  cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa

Chocolate Cookie Dough Filling:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2   cup brown sugar
  • 1 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips (or finely chopped chocolate)
Begin by preheat the oven to 320 degrees Fahrenheit, and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, or a silicone mat.
The batters and baking process the exact same for both flavors. To make the macaron batter, place the sugar and water into a saucepan and heat until the sugar melts. Let this boil for about 4 minutes, and occasionally brush the sugar down from the sides with a wet brush (so the sugar doesn’t crystallize). In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with an hand mixer until they form peaks. Slowly add the hot sugar syrup while constantly whisking. Whisk until the mixture becomes glossy, and is very stiff.
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Sift the powdered sugar, cocoa, and almond meal into a bowl. Gently fold this mixture into the meringue mixture, until everything is just incorporated.Pour the batter into a piping bag with a 1cm opening (I used a plastic bag and cut off the corner) and pipe 1 inch rounds onto a lined baking tray. Pipe from one side, at a 45 degree angle. Tap the tray firmly against the table, to remove any large air bubbles. Set these aside until the the tops of the macarons have developed a skin (about  30 minutes). Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the bottom of the macarons are firm. Feet should have developed around the base of each cookie.
In a small sauce pan over medium add butter and brown sugar. Heat until it  has all melted and starts to boil. Remove from heat, and allow to cool to room temperature.Mix butter and sugar mixture, with salt and vanilla extract, until light and fluffy. Turn mixer to low, and mix in flour (1/2 cup at a time), until the dough comes together. The texture should be similar to frosting.  Slightly sticky, thick but soft enough that you could pipe it. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes, or until it stiffens up.
For the honey lavender buttercream, beat the butter with a hand mixer until it is light and fluffy. Slowly mix in the powdered sugar (1/2 cup at a time). Alternate the honey and lavender milk (use a tea bag or tied coffee filter, and let the dried lavendar steep in to the milk over a low heat for about 10 minutes) between powdered sugar installments.
Once the macaron shells and the ganache have cooled, combine the shells using the fillings. You can also use a buttercream, or jelly. The options of fillings, flavors, and colors are endless 😀

If I were to make the cookie dough macarons again, I would make the macaron with more cocoa (or add brown good coloring) to darken the shells, and add more visual contrast between the filling and the shells. The taste was on point though, I wouldn’t change a thing regarding the taste 😀

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5 thoughts on “The Secrets Behind a Perfect Macaron”

  1. I have been dreaming of making French macarons for Easter ever since I received my Martha Stewart Living covered with colorful stacks of them. They seem to scream SPRINGTIME! I will definitely use your tips too. They look GREAT! I’m sorry that I missed Macaron Day NYC 2014!! I didn’t hear about it out on Long Island 😦

  2. I left my macaroons over night until they got dried on the top…. I am still trying to make real Macaroons, my fifth attempt. Will not give up.

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