A year ago I launched this blog as a birthday gift to myself. It was something that I had thought of for a long time that had finally come to fruition. I could not predict just what a fulfilling and joyous journey it would turn out to be and how truly grateful I am for each and every reader. It is a privilege to share this passion and my heart with you all. So in the spirit of celebration, I cannot think of a better way to mark this milestone of a blog meant to teach and inspire you to bake than to tackle perhaps the most feared and intimidating bake of all, the French macaron. This recipe is for my intoxicating rose scented macaron with a silky dark chocolate ganache filling.
The elusive macaron. It’s been described as finicky, temperamental, difficult, fussy, persnickety, and then there’s that moment when you see your macarons unceremonious fall flat without even a hint of a foot, when I am certain some choice expletives came to mind and perhaps even exclaimed!
Now, while my approach to this blog is to explain technique and process step by step, this recipe will be just a bit different. I will give a very specific, but condensed instruction of the recipe and technique I have created that have worked consistently for me. This is the condensed version, you ask? I know, it doesn’t appear to be so, but in comparison to the books, doctoral thesis and research projects that have been dedicated to deciphering this difficult cookie, this truly is a simplified approach.
Initially when attempting to make macarons, I’d have one epic failure after the next, only getting true macarons about once every four feeble attempts, and that was only when there was a full moon, with geese migrating overhead, at a constant 72 degree humid free temperature, when I held my breath and tiptoed around the kitchen. I’m joking. But not really.
At first, I only succeeded about a quarter of the time, however, as I began to create my own recipe and test every possible variable, technique and process, my odds dramatically improved. I can now say that the results of those failures have resulted in a recipe and technique that has worked every single time I have made it over the past six months. I can go through every failed attempt and explain the why or I can simply do what I have done here, which is show you what has worked for me. While temperature, weather and humidity can vary depending on where you live and may effect your result, I hope you decide to tackle and conquer the macaron beast! Bon Appétit friends.
This recipe will yield 40-50 shells (20-25 macarons), depending on how large you pipe them.
1 ½ cups (180 grams) powdered sugar
1 cup (120 grams) almond flour/meal (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
3 (100 grams) egg whites (separate, cover and refrigerate the day before)
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
3 tablespoons (39 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon rose water
1-3 drops of gel food coloring (all natural if possible)
1 Chocolate Ganache recipe for the filling (Prepare the dark chocolate ganache and set aside to firm. Stir the set ganache vigorously to lighten and aerate it prior to piping. If it’s warm in your kitchen, once the ganache is cooled, refrigerate it until set, take it out half an hour before using and then stir.)
How to use them:
Line 4 cookie sheets with parchment paper, preferably unbleached natural. You can add a bit of batter to each corner to hold down the parchment paper if it’s easier for you when piping. If you do not have that many cookie sheets, you can turn a half sheet or other pans over and use them that way.
Weigh the powdered sugar and almond meal in a bowl and whisk together until incorporated.This is one of the most important steps in this process. It is crucial for the sugar and almost mixture to be as fine as possible. All of the almond meal that I have used in the past has needed additional processing. Add your mixture to a food processor and process for 30 seconds, stir and process for another 30 seconds. Sift the mixture in three small batches in a fine sieve. You can see below how fine the sieve is that I am using below. It’s easier if you use the back of a spoon to coax the almond meal and sugar out. After each batch, you will have larger grains of almond remaining. Empty them into a separate bowl after each sift for reprocessing. Reprocess the larger grains for another minute and sift once again. Discard any remaining large grains. Set aside the sifted almond and sugar mixture.
Add the egg whites and cream of tartar in a large mixing bowl. Using the whisk attachment on your mixer, whisk the eggs on low speed for 3 minutes. The reason you want to start out slow is because at this point the egg white proteins are tightly coiled. Whisking them slowly initially will allow the egg white protein strands to gently unravel which allows you to build more air when you increase the speed. After the first 3 minutes on low speed, increase the speed to medium and whisk for another 3 minutes until foamy.Stop and add the sugar. Increase the speed to medium high and whisk for another 3 minutes to achieve a soft peak. Add the desired food coloring and rose water and whisk on medium high for another minute until you reach the stiff peak stage. Next is macaronage, which is the art of folding the macaron batter. This is the technique where you incorporate the almond mixture with the egg white mixture. Macaronage requires patience and preciseness, there will be issues if you either under-mix or over-mix. I have included pictures as usual, however, I have also made a few short videos because this is truly the most important part of macaron making, the one that tends to give people the most problem and is the source of many failures. Please excuse the inferior camera work and quality as I was attempting to both fold and film simultaneously. However, I hope that the video and pictures will provide a basic understanding of how to fold the macaron batter and what the correct consistency should look like. Now let’s macaronage! Add half of the almond mixture and fold in until it’s just incorporated.
You want to keep going until you have a thick lava like batter that drops into a ribbon. As soon as you get to that phase stop! Again you do not want to under-mix or over-mix your batter.Pour the batter into a large piping or zip lock bag with a 1/2 inch round tip. I use a large mason jar, twisting the tip end and folding the bag open. This makes it easier to fill the piping bag. Pipe the macaron in a small circle, with very light pressure, quickly lifting up. I do a count of 1 Mississippi and that is the perfect macaron size, without the need to draw circles to guide you. Simply pipe while counting 1 Mississippi and then quickly lift the tip up, move 1 ½ inches to your next spot and pipe once again, repeating until all 4 sheets have been filled.
As soon as you pipe the macaron, lift each tray a few inches off the counter and drop it down, trying to keep it as level as possible. Repeat this at least 6-7 times. This is an important step in making macarons as it allows all of the trapped little air bubbles rise to the surface and pop. This means that your macaron will have a lovely smooth top.Allow the trays to sit for 30 minutes, then bake two trays at a time. Allowing the macarons to dry out causes a thin film to form on top that will be tacky to the touch. The above picture was taken right after piping and the tray below it after 30 minutes. When your cookies have been drying for 15 minutes, you can begin preheating your oven to 310°F/154°C. You can visibly see below how the top of the macarons have dried and taken on a dull appearance compared to the glossy sheened ones above.You can test the macarons after 30 minutes by gently pressing down on the top. You can see rather than any of the batter getting on my finger, there is a slight indentation in the shell now which means they are thoroughly dry and ready for baking.
The reason you want them to dry and develop this film is because it means when you bake them and the steam inside the cookie begins to form, it will lift the top up perfectly with a perfect foot, rather than domed or misshapen.
Bake for 14 minutes. You want your macaron to have lifted with a glossy flat top and feet, the bottom ring around the macaron. The bottom should be ever so slightly browned. You can test the doneness by lifting one up and seeing if it lifts up easily off the parchment paper. If it does, then it’s done, however, if the bottom and top separate and it looks wet still, then they need to bake a minute or so more. Transfer the macarons on the parchment paper to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Make certain they are completely cool prior to attempting to lift them off. When you do lift them off the parchment, the parchment paper should look fairly clean with just a bit of small crumbs attached.Try to match like sized macaron shells together and then fill with your favorite jam, jelly, curd, buttercream or ganache. My personal preference is a dark chocolate ganache like this one. The macaron shells are sweet and I prefer to temper and balance that sweetness with a high quality dark chocolate ganache. Pipe about a nickle size circle of ganache in the center of the macaron and press the top and bottom together gently. Please be gentle! I have broken many a shell at this stage by pressing down just a bit harder than I should have.
You may serve these right away, but I have to tell you they perfect as they “age.” Place the filled macarons in the refrigerator for a day and allow them to come to room temperature prior to serving, or you may freeze for up to a week (mine have never lasted that long though!).I really, really, really hope you give these a shot, knowing that you may fail sometimes. BUT, I honestly believe that I have taken many of the variables that cause problems out of this recipe and I think that you have a much higher chance of success than I did when I first began tackling macarons. If you try it and have any problems, please reach out to me and we will trouble shoot it together!
Now, you can stop reading here and you will have all of the tools you need to make a perfect macaron. However, if you are interested in the subject, please find some tips below on the most common technique questions regarding macarons. I address each one and what specific technique worked for me.
Aging Eggs: Separate the egg whites the day before you intend on making your macarons, cover and refrigerate. Take out the egg whites 1 hour prior to starting this recipe to allow them to come to room temperature. However, having said that, I have also “warmed” cold eggs in hot water for 15 minutes and then separated and used them immediately for macarons and they’ve worked out just perfectly as well!
Weighing vs. Measuring: This is the type of recipe where weighing ingredients is imperative. It can be done with the cup measurements that I have provided above, however, your recipe may not turn out quite as well, since weighing ingredients is a precise method, where as volume measurements can vary greatly and are not as reliable.
Almond Meal: Sift. Sift. Sift and then when you’ve sifted the almonds and sugar, sift again. Large grains of almond meal are the equivalent of shards that make for cracked macarons.
Baking Sheets: I use parchment paper (preferably unbleached), not a Silpat or silicon mats which retain fats and can be problematic in macaron baking. Use a flat cookie sheet, not a jelly roll pan with edges. I don’t know why, perhaps the edges trap heat or moisture, but regardless, they don’t work as well as the edgeless cookie sheets.
Oven Temperature: This is perhaps the most difficult variable to accurately predict as each oven is different. I highly suggest checking your oven temperature every few months with an oven thermometer to confirm it is heating at the correct temperature. This will increase your chances of baking success. As for the temperature at which to bake your macarons, I have seen everything from the high 200s°F to the high 300s°F, from starting high and lowering the temperature to switching trays midway, to cracking the oven door open. The problem is that the more variables you introduce, the higher the chances of things going wrong. In my many testing sessions, I found that the 310°F is a solid steady heat that bakes the macarons perfectly.
Humidity: Anyone who has attempted meringue bakes on a rainy day will tell you that high humidity will make you and your meringue weep! Macarons and rainy days do not pair well and I suggest you pick a less humid day to make macarons.