Going Mad Over Macarons (Part 1)

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I intended for this to be a short post, but as I’ve learned, nothing involving macarons can be accomplished quickly.

I love macarons. I’ve had a bit of a fascination with them since I tried an orange creamsicle one at Disney (they also have Mickey-shaped ones at various candy shops throughout the parks). When I was in London, I even went so far as to track down a Laduree to experience the real deal.

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(They did not disappoint.)

After procrastinating over it for months,  I decided to try my hand at macarons. I used the macaron tutorial from Sally’s Baking Addiction, and watched countless YouTube videos before I settled on Beth Le Manach and Byron Talbott for inspiration. Byron has some amazing macaron recipes that I look forward to trying later (pistachio! thin mint!).

Through my research, I learned that the ingredients for basic macarons tend to be the same for many recipes:

  • 200 g powdered sugar
  • 100 g almond flour (I used the finely ground kind from Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 120 g room temperature egg whites (for me this was 4 eggs)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 40 g granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar (some recipes omit this, but since it helps you achieve the stiff peaks in the meringue, I wouldn’t skip it)

Other things you will need:

  • 1/2-inch round piping tip and bag
  • Food processor
  • Parchment paper (don’t use wax paper!)

My plan for the first batch was a pink macaron with strawberry basil buttercream inside. I followed Sally’s instructions to the letter, but after adding food coloring to my meringue, it seemed a little runny. Still, I pressed forward, let the batter sit for 45 minutes. They did firm up some, but as I quickly learned, not nearly enough. I popped them into the oven, hoping for the best.

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As you can see, the first batch didn’t turn out so great. They cracked on top, and while the signature macaron “feet” started to form, the cookie was way too flat and kind of raw in the middle. They stuck to the silicone baking mat I used. It was just a mess. Plus, they weren’t pink!

After that failure, I became obsessed. I ordered a bag of finely milled almond flour (I used regular old almond meal from Trader Joe’s beforehand) and more powdered sugar than anyone would ever need. I also ordered a large roll of parchment paper. I then proceeded to drink two Sam Adams Summer Ales, pondering where I could have gone wrong.

The next day, I gracefully awoke from my slumber (if you think zombies are graceful) and immediately put my egg whites in a container to “age.” Now, I’m not sure if this really makes a difference, but I was taking NO chances with the second batch. Here are the steps I took to make a successful batch of macarons:

  • I weighed ALL the ingredients, pinching teaspoons out until they were the perfect amount of grams.
  • In a food processor, I pulsed the almond meal and powdered sugar until very fine.
  • When making the meringue, I added the cream of tartar and salt to the egg whites, then one tablespoon of the sugar after the eggs became frothy (whisk on medium for about a minute).
  • Then, I whisked the eggs on high speed until they formed stiff peaks. Be patient — this can take a while! When you remove the whisk from your mixer, the meringue should stand up on its own.
  • After making the meringue, I gently folded in the leftover sugar, and slowly added the dry ingredients. I used a large rubber spatula to do this.
  • I then let the thoroughly mixed batter “rest” for a half hour. During that time, you can prepare your piping bag (use a 1/2-inch round tip).
  • I piped the batter onto parchment-lined cookie sheets, creating 1-inch rounds. Then, let the rounds sit for 45 minutes.
  • Bake in a 300 F oven for 20 minutes. Try not to open the oven to check on them. Meringue is temperamental.
  • Fill with your choice of buttercream, jam, lemon curd — the sky’s the limit! With these, I used a simple caramel buttercream frosting. I also added cinnamon to the top. If you do this, do it right after piping the shells.

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A couple notes:

In my opinion, the most important thing when it comes to making macarons is to LET THE BATTER SIT. Go about your business, go watch Netflix or walk the dog or something. Do some yoga. Give these cookies time. They should be very firm by the time they go into the oven.

For me, parchment paper worked correctly, but many people swear by silpat mats. Do some experimenting, and like my dear husband tries to tell me, don’t be afraid to fail. You can do this.

Lastly, I strongly recommend checking out some of the links mentioned in this post for more in-depth macaron instructions. I plan on doing a more in-depth tutorial soon, but I need to pick a flavor. What do you guys think? Pistachio? Lavender? Chocolate peanut butter? Let me know!