I’ve been converted. I love macarons. They’re pretty, delicate, tasty, and “very French.” I have Ladurée (I’m hoping for this cookbook for Christmas) to thank for the conversion and for piquing my interest in learning how to bake yet another culinary treat. If you don’t find yourself close to a good French patisserie, follow my lead and try making them at home. Your tastebuds will thank me.
So, what to do first? I started by watching this Martha Stewart video, which gave me some good tips (like to use gel food coloring, not standard food coloring). It’s also handy for the explanation regarding almond flour, if you have to make it yourself.
Third, I went Labo & Gato, our local specialty pastry/cake store. This place is fantastic and maybe one of my favorite stores in the city (and it’s barely two blocks away). There I bought “flavoring,” which is really aroma or what we call extracts, food coloring gel, as well as almond flour for macarons. Out of all these things, I think the best find is the almond flour. If you guys know of a specialty cake spot, see if they carry almond flour for macarons, as it’ll save you a ton of time (and I think cut down on the flour not being quite right).
Once we had all the special pantry ingredients and tools (we already have a kitchen scale, but if you don’t have one, I’d also HIGHLY recommend getting one. It’s AMAZING how much using a scale instead of measuring cups changes recipes involving flour and sugar), we made our first batch on Sunday.
You can see our first results above. I think we didn’t stir the batter enough and they kept little peaks from our piping and cracked a little after we baked them (though they still tasted great).
I made another batch last night, and I think I might’ve over stirred the batter that time (they didn’t puff up as much/have the crust as I thought they would). So, it’s a pretty delicate balance. I’m hoping the next time I do it, they’ll be spot on.
I didn’t realize there were so many parts involved with making macarons, but it doesn’t really surprise/shock me. I’m highlighting the instructions from the Mastrad recipe book.
1. Decide if you want to make a French meringue or Italian meringue
– almond powder (130g / 4.5 oz)
– icing sugar/powdered sugar (230g / 8 oz)
– egg whites (130g / 4.5 oz)
– granulated sugar (65g / 2 oz)
– almond powder (150g / 5 oz)
– icing sugar (150g / 5 oz)
– egg whites (4)
– granulated sugar (170g / 2.4 oz)
– water (50g / 1.7 oz)
We went with the Italian meringue, as we thought that’s (probably) what Ladurée does (confusing as that idea is). I’m also quite curious/interested about finding 130g of egg whites.
2. Macarooning aka “Mixing”
This is apparently the most important part in the whole macaron process. To quote the Mastrad recipe book, “The mixture must be mixed until smooth, shiny and slightly runny, but you must stop at the right moment (very French instructions)! If mixed too much it will become liquid and the macarons will not develop perfect edges during baking. If it’s not mixed enough the macarons will split during baking.”
This is also the stage where any flavor or coloring is added to the shells. On our first attempt, we didn’t use any coloring, but on my second attempt we did. I halved the mixture and added my flavor/coloring separately. I think this might’ve been where I over stirred some to get the colors in. So, if you’re going to half or quarter for various colors, I’d recommend making the split before it’s all mixed in…it also didn’t say how much of either to use. We’ve been going with a teaspoon of flavoring and I did a decent squirt of the coloring).
This is another important part, one I think I did incorrectly the first time. You place a small drop (about 2cm) in the center of each indented circle of the macaron baking sheet. Allow the mixture to spread into the indentations . Initially, I was filling the whole circle…and some of them came out goupy/not fully cooked in the end…just fill the little inside circle, they’ll fill up the whole thing…we tried that with our last batch of mint & they came out great.
Then lightly tap the sheet pan on the counter top to remove any air bubbles and leave to “crisp” until a wet finger no longer sticks before popping into the oven.
Then bake and cool.
We made a ganache. We’d recommend (maybe) making this, first, and leave it in a bowl so it has time to thicken and not be warm, hot chocolate. It is WAY easier to use if you do this step, first). And voilà!