And now for something a little different! I've gone a little over the edge making macarons lately--not much of a surprise for anyone who knows me! A friend asked if I'd write a tutorial (saying I make things easy to understand, to which, yay!), so here it is.
First, the recipes I've been using. Please visit them for the amounts and good instructions--they taught me what I'm doing!
Salted Caramel Macarons at Cakecrumbs--This is the base recipe I've been using for all but my chocolate macarons. To change things, just add orange or lemon zest, a tablespoon of espresso powder, gingerbread style spices like these at Tartlette, whatever you can think of! I usually halve the salted caramel because I don't like a ton of filling.
Chocolate macarons at Chocoparis--My chocolate recipe! If you're afraid of overmixing your macarons, this is the one for you. The meringue is a very stiff one and takes more mixing than the above recipe.
Whatever base recipe you use, keep using it! Don't switch recipes when you want to try something different, just add whatever it is you want. If a recipe works for you, use it!
Below the jump, a fairly fully photographed macaron making session!
First, what you need. Powdered sugar, Baker's Sugar,almond flour, and eggs. That's it (well, except for fillings), unless you want to flavor the shells.
This is a $10 scale from Amazon, and I love it. It's so much easier than cups! You can see that you can zero out the bowl you're using as well. Or, in this case, a lime :)
Prepare the almond flour and powdered sugar by stirring them together. This is where you would add any dry ingredients--zest, spices, coffee, etc. (I used to do this in the food processor, but found it to be unnecessary.) Then sift it through a wide mesh strainer. Trust me--wide mesh is good! My first few batches took ages and the sifter I bought didn't work either--the almonds got stuck in the mechanism. A reminder--visit the recipes linked above for the amounts.
You will have a little almond leftover. This doesn't make a difference.
Next, beat your eggs. If you've read about macarons online, you've read about aging eggs. As far as that goes, I've let whole eggs sit out for a day, separated them and used them half an hour later, and mixed a fresh from the fridge egg with ones that sat out overnight because I accidentally got yolk in the whites. I'm not sure it matters!
Once they start to get foamy (see left), add the Baker's Sugar. Then keep going until they're quite stiff (see right). Peaks should form and there'll be a clump in the whisk.
I've had this take anywhere from 5-15 minutes. I'm very thankful for my Kitchenaid mixer!
Here's what the egg whites/Baker's Sugar look like. Move to a lower working surface, especially if you're short! Your arms will thank you.
Fold in half the almonds/powdered sugar. This is quite simple. Just put your rubber spatula at the bottom, pull it up, make a folding motion, repeat. This will seem very resistant at first, then will magically blend.
Once it has blended (see left), add the rest (see right). Continue folding!
Keep going! It will blend in. On the left, you can see right before it comes together. I forgot to take a picture when it was. Oops. On the right, is an example of the most important part, learned from the Cakecrumbs recipe. When you drop batter on a plate, it should take about 15 seconds to smooth out. You can see a newly dropped drop of batter next to one that sat. Macaron batter is thick, which surprised me. You want it to keep its shape and barely spread after piping.
Now, fill the piping bag. It's very easy if you put it in a glass. Just make sure the tip is folded down so nothing escapes.
Prepare your baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat. Many people draw circles as guides, but I eyeball them. I'm not concerned with perfection, and after so much sewing, I'm pretty good at eyeballing!
To pipe, put the tip on the sheet, and press gently from the top. Don't move it around, it'll grow. I love this part! (A side note, I'm quite proud of this one handed piping while using a dSLR...)
When you pipe them, they will have tips. If the batter is correctly mixed, they'll flatten out.
Now, smack the pans down a few times to release air bubbles. I'm lifting it here to do just that. Well, once I put the camera down.
Time to bake! I've seen doubling the baking sheet recommended, but I've never done that. I do have a baking stone which I think helps a great deal.
I start the oven at 390, then turn it down to 290 when I put the cookies in. I think I want to try 375 to start though, as my second batch always comes out a little prettier than the first. I've only seen this two temperature thing in a few recipes, but it really seems to work for me.
My macarons usually take about 13 minutes.
While you're preheating the oven, let the macarons dry. Mine normally take about half an hour. They're ready when you can press the top and they have a little skin and nothing sticks to your finger. You can see the indentation on the right. You don't need to press that hard--I just did to show what it was like :)
With this batch, I got impatient and I put the first sheet in a little early. I was hungry and needed the oven for my white bean veggie burger. What can I say? :)
The macarons are done when they come off the parchment easily. If they stick, cook them for another minute. It's hard to overcook them because the filling will make them soft.
My first and second sheets right out of the oven. You can see how the first one cracked a little. From what I understand, this is a foot (the little bumpy part around the edge) forming on top, and it can be caused by many things, but in this case they weren't completely dry. No matter though--they taste just as good!
I've read that cooling them upside down can prevent hollows. This is because the inside can deflate as it cools. Now, while there's loads out there on hollows, I have to say my favorite macaron is one that has a little hollow--the shell crumbles and dissolves into the center. So good! But no hollow, a little hollow, or all hollow, incredibly delicious!
And these are by far the best bottoms I've had. Perfect timing, no? :)
Spread a little filling on--this is salted caramel I made yesterday--and top it with another shell, and, well, wait. They taste good now, but the texture isn't right. They're best when you wait a day. Everything melds together into a little taste of awesomeness...
The salted caramel macarons and chocolate filled with white chocolate ganache (heat 1/4 cup heavy cream in a steel bowl over a pot of boiling water, stir in four ounces of white chocolate chips) and raspberry jam (I boiled this with a tiny bit of water to give it that nice texture jam in baked cookies has). Yum!
Want to read more? Here are some friends' posts on macarons! I'm choosing friends posts here, not the seemingly thousands of blogs I read online. You can search for many happy hours if you're as obsessive as I am though. (Ignore the doom and gloom of many macaron blogs though--yes, they can be fussy, but the doom and gloominess I found in many food blogs was kind of annoying. Yes, they can be fussy, but they can definitely be made! And even wonky ones are delicious...)
Jenny-Rose's Great Macaron Post
Gina's Blackberry Macarons (she has a few other entries about them too!)