Macarons are probably the most finnicky cookie you will ever come across. So, in my laziness, I was overjoyed to learn that I could find them in freezer section of my local Trader Joe’s store. Of course, curiosity will always get the better of me, so I had to try to make them on my own.
This was not the first time I had made macarons, I made them successfully years ago, less successfully once after that, super unsuccessfully about a month and a half ago (That was the recipe’s fault, not mine. Well, my fault for not doing more research I suppose) and finally, this last time, super successfully. With the help of a small refresher from Sur La Table.
So, finally, the masochism paid off and I got my macarons. And they were delicious! So, to spare you the heartbreak of failure, let’s review what I have deemed to be important to your macaron success.
1. Weigh your ingredients. You will find plenty of recipes that offer cups instead of grams. Just skip those all together. Honestly you should always be weighing things but I’m far too lazy for that so I opt for cups in almost all my recipes. Macarons, however, will not stand for that. They just won’t. So get out your scale and get to weighing. I have an older version of this one and it seems to work fine.
2. Sift, sift, sift! Large chunks do not a happy macaron make, so sift your almond/powdered sugar mixture through a fine mesh sieve and discard any large chunks that are left behind. Your cookies will thank you for it.
3. Gel colors only! Macarons are a very careful balancing act of liquid to solid ratio and you want to disturb that as little as possible. So, if you would like to color your macarons, opt for gel coloring and add it towards the end of your egg-beating (once you have just reached the stiff peak stage). Add more color than you think you need because the color will fade when the macarons bake. I use these colors. The macarons at the top of this page are really just vanilla shells with red gel coloring and berry filling.
4. Find the Goldilocks zone. Overmixing your macarons will give you a runny batter that is impossible to manage. Undermixing will result in a batter that is too thick and the macarons won’t spread or settle properly (you may notice that your macaron has a “point” after it is piped). Your batter should have the consistency of magma – not too thick and not too thin.
5. Use a real piping bag and tip. I’m forever cheap and try to avoid buying piping bags when I am convinced a Ziploc bag with the end cut off will do. This will NOT work with macarons (trust me, I’ve tried). It’s not worth the heartache, just cough up the cash for a couple tips and disposable bags and get on your way. I wouldn’t tell you to buy them if I didn’t think you needed them. I promise.
6. Hands off! After you have tapped your baking sheet to release the air bubbles, you can quickly pop any remaining bubbles you see with a toothpick if you like. But then it’s HANDS OFF for at least 30 minutes. Forming this skin is critical to creating the feet for your baby macarons so use this time to make your filling, preheat your oven, or to say a few prayers for your precious baby cookies. You will know enough time has passed when the tops have changed from shiny to dull and you can gently drag your finger across the top without any issue.
7. Time + Temperature are the two keys to success. (AKA: More Goldilocks stuff.) Remember to turn down your oven as soon as you put the macarons in. If you think you will forget this step, you can preheat to the baking temperature of 300F instead of the higher temperature. If you see your cookies are browning too fast, cover them with foil. If you think they’re cooking faster or slower than the specified time, go ahead and follow your instinct. If you over-bake the cookies, they will be dry and crumbly. If you under-bake them, they will be soft and gummy inside. You want a perfect balance of crisp shell with a chewy interior. It might take a few tries to get it right, but when in doubt I always err on the side of slightly under-baked.
Below you can see two sets of macarons – and the ones on the left are NOT chocolate. The left batch baked at too high of a temperature and over-browned. The others I lowered the oven temperature and covered with a bit of foil to prevent over-browning.
8. Be creative! You can get creative with your filling – don’t feel like making a buttercream? Go ahead and use a ganache instead, or simply spread a bit of jam or fruit curd between the cookies! Here I did a ring of buttercream with a dollop of jam in the middle.
9. Practice, practice, practice! If at first you don’t succeed, don’t be afraid to try again! Once you make them, you’ll see that they actually come together quite quickly and since you can freeze them you can have like a month’s supply of macarons at the end of all your hard work! I’m far from a macaron master, but I can confidently say that I can make a darn good macaron and plan to get plenty more practice to up my skill level to play with other flavors and techniques.
For the macarons:
- 110 grams almond flour
- 200 grams confectioners sugar
- 100 grams egg whites
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
- 50 grams granulated sugar
For the vanilla filling:
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or extract
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
For strawberry filling
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 to 2 tablespoons strawberry jam
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Make the Macarons
- Line two baking sheets with parchment and preheat the oven to 375F. YOU WILL TURN THIS DOWN WHEN YOU PUT THE MACARONS IN. DON'T FORGET TO TURN IT DOWN!
- Pulse the almond flour and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor until finely ground and well blended.
- Sift almond mixture into a bowl (or onto a large sheet of parchment if you don't feel like dirtying another bowl. Discard any large chunks that will not go through the sieve.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium-high speed until foamy, then scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean pod into the mixing bowl.
- Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue beating until a smooth, shiny meringue with stiff peaks forms, then add vanilla extract and beat a couple seconds more just to incorporate.
- Add 1/3 of the ground almond mixture to the meringue THIS IS WHERE YOU WANT TO BE VERY CAREFUL Over-mixing your batter will make it super runny and hard to work with, and your macarons won't get their tiny feet.
- Gently fold the 1/3 of almond mixture into the meringue until it is completely incorporated. Add remaining almond mixture and gently fold that in, it will take about 100 strokes (it sounds crazy, I know) - You want it to reach the consistency of "magma' (ha-ha!). So, it should be relatively thick, but still flow easily. When drizzled from above, the ribbon should sit on top of the remaining batter, then slowly be absorbed within about 2 seconds. Another way to check is to run your spatula down the center of the bowl, the two sides should "kiss" within about two seconds (see video in the post above).
- Transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a plain wide round tip (I used a 1/4 inch tip because it's all I could find). Pipe into small rounds spaced about 1 to 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets - you want to avoid "spiraling" while you pipe, just pipe into the center and allow the batter to flow outward on its own. Each round should be about 1-1½ inches in diameter.
- Once piped, bang your baking sheet on the counter about 2 to 3 times to release any air bubbles that are in the batter. Let sit out uncovered 30 minutes to an hour to form their "skin" - The skin is what will help them grow their feet! They are done when the tops are dull and you can touch them gently without leaving a mark.
- When ready to bake, turn the oven temperature down to 300F and place the macarons into the oven. I bake mine one sheet at a time (since sitting on the counter doesn't hurt anything). Bake anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes. If they start to brown too quickly, once they have their feet you can cover them with a sheet of foil and continue baking.
- When finished baking, place baking sheet on a wire rack and allow cookies to cool completely before moving. When ready to move, use an offset spatula to scrape under the cookies to remove them from the parchment.
- Match into approximate pairs that are similar in shape and size for filling.
Make the filling(s):
- Using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, beat butter on medium-high speed until it begins to become light and airy. Add powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla bean paste or extract and continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add jam (if using) and beat until fully incorporated.
- Scrape into piping bag and set aside until ready to pipe.
Fill the cookies:
- Fill cookies by piping filling onto one cookie (I do use the spiral method for this, to ensure the filling reaches the edges) and gently pressing the top cookie onto the filling, flat side down.
- Once all cookies are filed, place into the freezer for at least 1 hour. I like to wrap mine individually in cello-wrap to keep them fresh and store them in the freezer. You may thaw cookies before eating. Store in refrigerator prior to serving.
[ See the original cookie recipe on Annie’s Eats ]