No, these are not your grandmother’s macaroons, the cloyingly sweet coconut cookies that many Americans may recall from growing up and now avoid. With those macaroons the egg whites, sugar, and coconut are often simply stirred together or possibly added to a meringue. Either way—not very exciting.
French macarons are based on egg whites whipped into a meringue with confectioners’ sugar; instead of coconut, ground almond or almond flour is stirred in, which results in a completely different product.
Like Forrest Gump’s lovely box of chocolates, you never know what you going to get until you bite into a macaron. Of course, it will likely be airy and crisp on the outside; on the inside, some sort of tender-chewy mélange. It’s the combination of these textures and fillings that can surely send us right over the top.
I’ve tried my hand at macaron making and I am certainly impressed with those that are well executed. It seems there are endless theories and techniques on ”the art of macarons” and much has to do with exacting weights of all ingredients, and of course, recognizing the proper stages of whisking egg whites into the meringue formation.
As it clings to the whisk, should the meringue be glossy and form peaks, or should it be clumpy and drier? If too dry, you may suffer from hollow macarons. Of course, if your oven is too hot or does not heat evenly, your macarons may display cracks or uneven surfaces.
And what about your macaron’s feet? Yes, when properly baked, the bottom of the macaron will have a distinct flat ‘crust’ and the remainder will puff and form an elegant, smooth dome on top.
Whatever. The point is, macarons are delicious, affordable, and a delight on any table. Unless you are planning to open a French bakery or compete in an international macaron baking competition, your macarons will still receive raves. As Julia Child counsels, the end result is your intended creation, so don’t apologize.
Here’s a basic macaron recipe that will yield 18-20 macaron ‘sandwiches’. Coloring the cookies is purely optional, they will still taste incredible.
You can even sprinkle them with colored sugar or other decoration before baking. For fillings, I made ahead a tangy Lemon Curd, Choco-Latte Buttercream, and a simple Dulce de Leche filling.
- 1-1/4 cup almond meal or almond flour (210 grams)
- 1-3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar (218 grams)
- 4 large egg whites (120 grams)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar (100 grams)
- pinch salt
- 2 tsp vanilla extract or other flavoring
- gel food coloring, optional
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Prepare piping bag fitted with 1/2” tip.
- In a food process, pulse the almond meal until fine; add the confectioner’s sugar and pulse to combine. Sift the sugar and meal into a bowl, re-process any residual meal in sifter and resift it into the bowl. Lightly toss the mixture to combine evenly. Discard any remaining meal left in sifter.
- In bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk, combine the egg whites, granulated sugar, and salt on medium speed and whip for about 2-3 minutes, it will become fluffy. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat an additional 2 minutes, the meringue will hold its shape. Increase speed again to high and continue beating for another 2 minutes until it is stiff and glossy and the whisk will begin to hold the meringue in globs when held upside down.
- Whip in the extract, or other flavoring a teaspoon at a time, and dabs of food coloring gel until it is all incorporated, about 1 minute.
- Turn the almond-sugar mixture into the meringue. With a spatula gently fold it in to thoroughly combine, pressing batter against the bowl and scraping the sides – to deflate it. After about 40 turns there should be no peaks and have a fluid consistency similar to lava; it should still hold its shape and not be runny.
- Fill the pastry bag about half full with batter. Pipe rounds, slight less than 1” onto parchment about 1 inch apart. Lightly smooth the tops with a moist finger if necessary. Wrap the pan on the counter a couple of times to release air bubbles. They can be sprinkled with decorative sugar or other elements at this time.
- Place pan in lower third of oven, reduce heat to 300 degrees, and bake for 18-20 minutes, until set and a foot has formed on bottom of cookie. They should not be sticky on bottom and should peel easily from the parchment. Allow macarons to cool in pan then remove from parchment to rack and match cookies together according to size and shape. You can bake one pan and prepare the second pan while it is baking. It will not damage them.
- Pipe the filling in rounds on the flat bottom of one of the pair—just short of edges. When topped with the second cookie the filling will spread to edge.
- Store in airtight container and refrigerate. Macarons actually ripen: they improve the second day and will hold up to a week. Yield: approximately 20 sandwiched macarons.
Choco-Latte Buttercream Prepare buttercream recipe and divide it in half; melt the bittersweet chocolate with 2 tablespoons strong hot coffee and add to the buttercream. Use the remainder of the buttercream for a second filling (see suggestions) or freeze it.
Dulce de Leche Filling Combine ½ cup prepared Dulce de Leche, 2 tablespoons soft butter, and a pinch salt; whip until smooth and light.