I’ve mentioned that I was never a huge fan of macarons. However I’ve been making a lot for my clients lately, and I’ve started to figure out what makes these delicate cookies so special – each bite is a perfect combination of texture and taste. Crispy, chewy and creamy. All come in one bite. Also I’ve come to realize some tricks on how to make perfect macarons.
So perfect macarons! I know only the sound of it might already be quite scary. I’ve heard stories about macarons failure that the whole batch came to a waste. The shells are cracked, have no “feet”, not smooth, dull colored… It seems like so much can go wrong. My experience in making a successful batch is nothing bible. In my opinion, making perfect macarons is not extremely intimidating, it’s about a bit of special care and attention. And I would like to share some of my tips.
Weather/Humidity – Try to pick a sunny day with low humidity to make your macarons. Otherwise, let your macrons to dry at least an hour longer before baking, especially on a rainy or very humid day.
Master Circle Template – I don’t enjoy drawing tons of circles each time when I make my macarons. So I traced circles on a parchment paper and use it as a master template, place it under each parchment paper that I am going to pipe the shells on, and pipe to the outline. Just bake your macarons with that master paper, you don’t have to take it away. It may ruin your still runny shells.
Silicon Mat V.S. Parchment Paper – I use parchment paper because personally I find that silicon mat seems to stick to the macaron shells more easily. Plus I can always re-use the same parchment paper.
Egg Whites – I don’t bring the egg whites to room temperature. Meaning they go straight from the refrigerator to the mixer, and the batter turns out fine.
Almond Flour – My almond flour is kept in the freezer. Same as the egg whites, it goes straight from the freezer to the food processor. As long as you grind your almond flour with enough powdered sugar, it will never turn into paste. It is important to sift the almond flour mixture after you grind it. And make sure the leftover in the sieve is no more than 2 tablespoons.
Granulated Sugar – You could use extra fine sugar to make the meringue, or grind the regular granulated sugar in a food processor to make it finer. However, I don’t find a huge difference compared to simply using regular granulated sugar. If you happen to have a jar of vanilla-scented sugar (put a used vanilla bean into the sugar), don’t use that. The oil from the vanilla bean will deflat the egg whites.
Flavor – I don’t normally flavor the shells. Unless the flavor of the shell matches the flavor of the filling, otherwise one flavor tends to overpower the other. I bake my basic macaron shells and go crazy with the endless choice of fillings. Buttercream, ganache, caramel, lemon curd, marmalade……Now because there is so much sugar in the cookies, and the sugar is necessary to create the right texture to macaron, I tend to lower the sweetness of the filling to balance the flavor. For buttercream, I normally put a little more salt too.
Colour – I use colouring paste to add colour to the shells. Only a drop or two will do the work, and it won’t loosen the batter. I add colour when everything is mixed, not at the meringue level. The advantage of this step is you can divide the batter into 2 or 3 batches and create different colours for each batch.
Pointy Shell – When piping the macarons, if they end up with a point, you can use a wet finger to smooth them down.
Resting – The shell must rest enough to a point where they are dry to touch before baking. The best way to test it is to touch the surface of the shell with your finger. If it’s not sticky, and you are able to glide your finger on it, it’s good to go.
Sandwich the Filling – Because the shells are very delicate and crispy, it’s easy to crush them while sandwiching the filling. I don’t press the two shells together. Instead I hold the edge of the shells and “mush” them closer.
Ingredients (around 30 sandwich cookies):
1 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup almond flour
2 egg whites
1/4 cup granulated sugar
a drop or two food colouring paste of your choice
1/2 cup filling of your choice
Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Put a master template under the parchment paper or draw about 12 1 1/2-inch circles in rows on the paper, about an inch apart.
Process powdered sugar and almond flour in a food processor until finely ground. Sift the mixture through a sieve. If there are more than 2 tablespoons of large chunks left in the sieve, grind them and sift again. Set the mixture aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat egg whites at medium speed until frothy. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Increase the speed to high and beat until very stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes.
Sift the almond flour mixture over the egg whites. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the almond flour mixture into the egg whites until the ingredients are just combined. Add a drop or two of food colouring to tint the batter. Continue to fold the mixture until it has loosened and falls in a ribbon from the spatula.
Fit a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch round tip and fill the bag with the batter. Using the template as a guide, pipe circles onto the parchment papers.
Tap the bottom of each sheet on the work surface to release trapped air bubbles. Let the cookies stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. This allows the cookies to develop their crusts.
Preheat oven to 325F. Bake the macarons for 10 to 12 minutes, until set but not browned.
Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let the macarons to cool completely on the pans. Once cooled, gently lift half of the cookies from the parchment paper and turn them upside down.
Spoon or pipe a teaspoon of filling onto each of the upside-down cookies. Top with the remaining cookies.