I've been making a lot of macarons lately. Something I hadn't really done much of since the craziness that was 2 years ago... But as your average foodie knows, they've become something of a mainstream delicacy. I predicted this would happen, 2 years ago when I swear Helen single-handedly seduced the entire food-blogging world into making French macarons out of their home kitchens. And look what's happened - they have totally become the "new cupcake". The only problem is that they are nowhere near as simple to make as cupcakes!
After making probably 50-100 batches of macarons over the last couple years I think I've ACTUALLY and FINALLY gotten to the point where I can produce a pretty consistent product. It used to be so hit or miss. One batch would be gorgeous while the next would be a disaster. And I had no idea what I'd done. Or if perhaps I'd done nothing wrong and it was...the oven... or, the weather... or, the egg whites... It was infuriating!
I've said it before and I'll say it again - macarons are just about the most difficult item I've ever turned out of my kitchen. It's one of those things that's all about feel and experience, so teaching oneself to make them can be a very frustrating process. It'd be a whole lot better if one could be shown. But I didn't have a teacher. So I taught myself from books and websites. That's probably why it took me a gazillion tries to really GET IT.
My very favorite flavor of macarons is pistachio. I grind up pistachios and use half pistachio powder with the ground almonds in the cookie and then I make a simple pistachio buttercream for filling. HOWEVER. I think I have a new favorite after this weekend. Passionfruit. Oh lordy!! Passionfruit macarons. I think I've died and gone to the tropics (or wherever passionfruits come from...)
I have to just mention here that I would not have been making passionfruit French macarons this weekend had I not tasted Anita's friend, Ray's passionfruit macarons at our bake sale a couple weeks ago. Ray brought some passionfruit macarons that day and as soon as I tasted that buttercream (the flavor is all in the filling - the cookie is just 'yer average unflavored mac) I HAD to make my own! Fortunately for me/us, Ray is a sharing type of guy and told Anita the ratio of buttercream to passionfruit puree he used in his filling: roughly 1.25 to 1! Hot diggity dog! I got my grubby paws on some (excruciatingly expensive) passionfruit puree, whipped up some swiss buttercream and... was in heaven.
I don't think I've ever actually put my macaron recipe on the blog before and that's mostly because I didn't feel "solid" enough about it to share it. But I'll share this one since it's the one I use most of the time and it's quite SOLID by this point.
Now keep in mind that I really wouldn't suggest that anyone who has never made macarons attempt to do so from this recipe alone. I'd try asking someone you know to show you. Or watching some videos online or something. Or be prepared for a lot of trial and error. It's just sadly not so simple that you can follow a recipe and get it...
Makes about 35 macs:
100-110 grams egg whites (left uncovered at room temperature for at least a day)
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
200 grams powdered sugar
110 grams ground almonds
25 grams granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon powdered food coloring (for a pastel color, more for a stronger color)
Sieve the ground almonds once or twice to make sure there are no big pieces (always measure after sieving, obviously!) Add the powdered sugar.
Whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar until foamy. Add the sugar as you continue beating to soft peaks. Add the food coloring and beat the whites to STIFF peaks (but not dry!!)
I was recently asked why I use aged egg whites and if fresh would be okay: allowing the egg whites to age is actually allowing moisture to evaporate from them (this is why you leave them uncovered). The less moisture in the egg whites - the more stable they will whip up. If you are uncomfortable letting them sit at room temp (or want immediate gratification) I've done Helen's suggestion of zapping fresh/cold egg whites in the microwave for about 5-10 seconds - just until you start to see strings of white - and this seems okay as well.
Adding the food coloring to the whites
**ALERT: THIS IS WHERE YOU WILL EITHER SUCCEED OR FAIL AT MAKING FRENCH MACARONS**
Add the whites to the almond/powdered sugar mixture and FOLD gently but sufficiently until the batter flows SLOWLY. You don't want it to be runny, nor do you want it to hold its shape. It's incredibly particular. If you don't fold the batter enough you will get meringue cookies. If you fold it too much your macarons will not develop the "foot" they require to truly be called a macaron; or worse they will crack and break and essentially FLOP. Sometimes this can be a matter of 1-2 strokes difference!
Many people trace 1" circles on the back of parchment paper to get consistent sized cookies. I don't do this anymore and have found myself counting to 4 as I pipe to get consistent cookies. Ha! Mostly I'm too lazy to draw the circles. It's enough hassle to cut pieces of parchment to the right size! You can also use a Silpat, but be sure the cookies are totally cooled before attempting to peel them off a Silpat. I've had the tops come off in my hand and the bottoms stay glued to the Silpat... :-|
Pipe rounds of cookie batter onto your parchment/Silpat at least 2-3" apart. If your batter is a tad bit under-worked, you might get a little tip that doesn't spread into each cookie. Just press it down with a slightly damp finger. Now let the cookies hang out in a dry environment (humidity? rainy day? I'm not sure what to tell you...) for at least 45-60 minutes. I've always erred on the side of 60 minutes, but I know others who pop them in the oven after 30. To each their own. However long it takes for your macs to develop a reasonably thick "skin" on top.
A macaron is not a macaron without the "foot" at the bottom
I'm still toying with my temperature... I used to bake them for about 11 minutes at 315°, but I recently tried 305° for 12 minutes and liked it better (yes - they ARE that temperamental). But of course it really depends on your oven. I've never done the "wedge a wooden spoon in the door" move that Mr. Hermé recommends...
After you take them out, let them cool COMPLETELY. Don't attempt to peel them off the parchment paper/Silpat before they cool or they will become 2 pieces of cookie, instead of 1. Pipe your buttercream of choice onto 1 cookie and smoosh with the other. I like to let them rest in the fridge overnight, before reintroducing them to room temperature for about 10-15 minutes and gobbling them down.
It's important to "smoosh" the 2 sides together before any
filling hardens (like a chocolate ganache)
filling hardens (like a chocolate ganache)
These particular macs I filled with the passionfruit swiss meringue buttercream which was devastatingly delectable. I made a ginormous amount of the buttercream so I have no idea how much one would need for this recipe. But what I can tell you is that if you mix 1 part passionfruit puree with 1.25 parts buttercream - you too can die and go to heaven!!