Have you ever had French macarons before? They will change your world. I have only had them one time and it was very special. I had flown to Calgary on a Friday night to drive up to the mountains for my cousins wedding the next morning and then was flying back home late Sunday night. I spent my 23rd birthday in Calgary with my Granny and my brother and they both made a point of giving me a special day. My granny and I went shopping in the morning and went around to a bunch of quilting stores, (yeah I’m an old lady at heart I’m alright with it) While we were out, my brother who is a huge, almost burly looking guy, went out and bought me a box of French macarons from the best place in Calgary, Ollia. Being the most delicate place that I could ever imagine, I couldn’t believe that my brother even knew about it. Picturing him pulling up in his motorcycle and going in to have a lady put on a pair of white gloves to carefully pick out the macarons that he selected, was the best gift ever. We hardly ever see each other anymore as we both moved 5 hours away from home in opposite directions, but he went out of his way to make me feel special.
When I got home I began looking up macaron recipes. They sounded so delicate and finicky to make that I procrastinated even trying for a long time. That was silly of me because it is seriously not that bad, after I made them I kicked myself for not trying them sooner.
I don’t have pictures of the process, in all honesty I didn’t think that my first crack at them would be a success. But I will share the recipe I used and tell you the troubles I had, what I would do differently and any tricks that I figured out.
This is the recipe that I followed.
Adapted from I Love Macarons by Hisako Ogita
Basic French Macarons
2/3 cup almond meal or ground almonds
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 large egg whites, room temperature and preferably aged up to 3 days
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 280ºF, and position 2 racks in the lower section of the oven. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. If you have time, draw 1-inch circles on the back of each sheet, spacing the circles at least 1/2-inch apart.
- Sift the almond meal-powdered sugar mixture twice through a mesh sieve.
- Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a hand mixer), and begin to beat on medium-high. When the eggs are frothy, gradually add granulated sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until fully incorporated. Continue to beat the egg white mixture until glossy and stiff peaks form when you lift the beaters. Gently stir in the vanilla extract. Be careful to not overbeat the meringue
- Add half of the sifted almond mixture, and gently fold it into the meringue using a flexible silicone spatula. Lift from the bottom, up around the sides, and toward the middle, being careful to not over agitate the meringue and lose too much air. Once the almond mixture is predominantly incorporated, add the second half and repeat the folding motion.
- When the almond mixture is just incorporated, you will need to transform the batter into the appropriate texture. Using the flat of the spatula, “punch” down into the center of the batter, then scrape more batter from the sides to the center, and punch again. You will need to repeat this 10-15 times (or more, depending on your arm strength and the beginning texture of your batter) until the batter slowly and continuously drips back into the bowl when you scoop it up with the spatula. Think of the consistency of molten lava. For the best results, punch the batter a few times, check the consistency, then punch a few more times, etc. Do not make the batter too runny or the macarons won’t rise as they should, and you could end up with oil stains on the surface.
- Pour batter into a pastry bag fitted with a 0.4-inch tip. In a pinch, you can also use a gallon-size Ziploc bag: just snip a teeny bit from one of the bottom corners. Twist and clip the top of the bag to avoid overflow. On your prepared baking sheets, pipe out 1-inch rounds in the circles you drew (remember to draw the circles on the back side of your parchment to avoid ink or pencil stains on your macarons!).
- Holding the baking sheet in both hands, rap each baking sheet firmly on the counter two or three times. This smooths out the tops and helps form the “pied” or frilly foot on the bottoms of the macarons. Allow the piped macarons to dry, uncovered, for at least 15 minutes. The macarons should form a very thin, smooth crust where, if you tap it lightly with your finger, the batter will not stick to your finger. If after 15 minutes, the batter is still sticky, let it dry longer. This may take up to an hour on humid days.
- Place both baking sheets in the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes. After the first 2 minutes, open the oven to allow any excess humidity to escape. Halfway through, swap oven racks and rotate the sheets for even baking. The macarons are done when they are baked all the way through and the shells are just hard. Take care to not underbake (insides will still be mushy) or overbake (tops will begin to brown). Remove them from the oven, and cool on baking sheet placed on a wire rack.
- When fully cooled, assemble the macarons with your choice of filling. The assembled macarons can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.
I bought my almond flour from Costco but it wasn’t quite ground down to a fine powder. I mixed the almond flower and powdered sugar together and threw it in my Magic Bullet to grind it down. Now I learned that I should have taken more time and done it in smaller batches because I did still end up with larger chunks of almond and not as smooth of a macaroon top as I thought I should have.
I am an impatient person and was not planning 3 days ago to make macarons. So I found a tip that said you can age eggs by heating them up. I separated my egg whites into a bowl and microwaved them for about 20 seconds. The tip I was following said up to 30 seconds but I know my microwave zaps things pretty quick so I kept it at 20. It seemed to work well.
My last tip on the making of the macarons is that I used a silicone macaron baking mat, totally not necessary. I am not a fan of the silicone bakeware and this just made me kind of angry because everything sticks to the dang stuff. Next time, I am just going to draw out the little circles. Much easier in the long run. It does look like a good idea, but cleaning it is just not worh it.
Some of the ‘feet’ turned out perfect and some were lop sided and some fell apart and broke when I picked them up. Like these, this is a google image but it’s bang on to my massacre of macarons.
Adapted from I Love Macarons by Hisako Ogita
Basic Macaron Buttercream Filling
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Cut butter into pieces, and mash with a spatula until the consistency resembles mayonnaise.
- In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks, then add the granulated sugar, and whisk until the mixture lightens to an off-white and you can no longer see the granules of sugar. Add the milk, and whisk to combine.
- Pour the egg mixture into a small saucepan, and heat over low heat, whisking frequently to ensure that the mixture does not curdle or scorch. Cook until the mixture becomes thick and custardy, like pudding.
- Pour the egg mixture back into its bowl, and whisk constantly until it returns to room temperature. Whisk in the butter in three batches, add the vanilla, and stir until smooth and all ingredients are fully combined. Pipe or spread onto one macaron half and sandwich between the other.
I have no complaints with this buttercream. I like it because it doesn’t call for icing sugar. I don’t know what it is but I do not like the taste of it.
Store them in an airtight container and keep them in the fridge. The key to eating the macaron so that it is at its tastiest, is to let it sit out at room temperature for a few minutes before sinking your teeth into them. I have no self control so waiting that extra minute is extremely difficult, but very much worth it.
If this is you first attempt at making macarons, I hope they turn out well. They are not that tricky to make. I know the precise directions can turn you off of trying it but trust me, it really isn’t that bad. I made lemon filled macarons, what are you going to make? Here’s a little flavour chart to help you decide, happy baking!