Just so you know I am not talking Macaroons, the cookie. I am talking the wonderful sweet and fancy French Macaron. Here are the ones we bought from Natasha’s this past weekend in KC. As you will see they look nothing like the ones we made.
Yumsugar.com – the real recipe but not what I made…
I wanted to make them but I knew how hard they were based on everything I had read… ridiculously hard and a painstaking pain in the butt – especially when you make them wrong. To quote whose website recipe I am using for my first try… “Much like a first date, there’s a good chance that your first batch could end awkwardly. As in love, you simply pick yourself up and try again.” My friend Lauren and I embarked on this experiment with caution and not much hope of our first try being successful. I think the pressure got to us and we made a silly mistake, which we discovered much later.
What was going to happen? Not what we expected but something quite good.
Basic French Macarons
2/3 cup almond flour/meal
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 large egg whites at room temperature and preferably aged up to 3 days
Pinch of Cream of Tartar
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 280 degrees and position two racks in the lower section of the oven. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
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, add the pinch of cream of tartar and gradually add granulated sugar one 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. Be careful to not overbeat the meringue (e.g., the meringue takes on a clumpy texture). Apparently it is important to use old eggs.
Mix together the almond flour and powdered sugar. Add half of the almond flour 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 overagitate the meringue and lose too much air. Once the almond mixture is predominantly incorporated, add the second half and repeat the folding motion. I had no idea at all if I was doing this right – but later (much later) we discovered that we had forgotten an important ingredient! So of course we were not doing it right.
When the almond flour 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. I wasn’t exactly sure what “punch” meant so I just hit the mixture with the spatula. I assume that was correct.
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. On your prepared baking sheets, pipe out 1-inch rounds.
Holding the baking sheet in both hands, rap each baking sheet firmly on the counter two or three times. This smoothes out the tops and helps form the “pied” or frilly foot on the bottoms of the macarons. My macarons did not have frilly “feet.” It may have been the lack of important ingredient or the eggs were not old enough?
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. Ours just didn’t form the crust – of course. Missing ingredient – duh!
Place the 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. We made traditional butter cream frosting and also used strawberry preserve and chocolate frosting with sea salt.
Our first batch was so visually disappointing. They tasted really good, but didn’t look right at all. We are calling them “Macaro–oh no’s.”
Our second batch which we added strawberry preserve to was much the same, although a little more visually pleasing. They still tasted great and were so fun for us to eat and everyone echoed how yummy they were. Just too small again and no “feet.” Of course we know why!
Interestingly enough I had a look through Joanne Chang”s Flour Cookbook and found a recipe for Almond Macaroons and mine looked almost exactly the same and had the exact texture and flavor described… “chewy and sweet.” I didn’t want to be dishonest about what we were trying to achieve here, which was French Macarons! This led me (way after that fact) to something I am completely embarrassed to share… we totally forgot to add the powdered sugar so I now need to make them again! What an idiot!!!!! I will not let them defeat me. I am going to keep trying to so that one day I produce the perfect French Macaron – with ALL of the ingredients. Until then, it is still an “Experiment in French Macarons!”