You can do it. BE NOT AFRAID. The only thing to fear is fear itself! And improperly ground almonds! Or just plain bad luck!
Nonetheless, you too can be a macaron goddess.
Elaine and I ogled macarons endlessly when we worked together in Vienna, but we never tried because it seemed too intimidating. My best advice to you would be to read as much as you can ahead of time, and then arm yourself with endless fortitude and an electric mixer. (Beating egg whites by hand is endlessly tiring.) And if you really want to succeed, find yourself a friend who’s really good at baking and become their assistant. (Read: Anna.) Then there’s nothing but five hours of continuous work and THE HAND OF DESTINY standing between you and becoming a macaron goddess.
Here are some links to articles that helped or inspired me:
- Macaron Tips and Tricks on What’s for Lunch, Honey? (You can find tons of macaron recipes in her recipe index, too, including Black Sesame and Nutella macarons, Raspberry Tea macarons with Tahini Dark Chocolate cream, Matcha macarons with Passionfruit Curd cream, and so much more.)
- Bakerella’s account of learning how to make macarons… not that many tips, but she makes it sound feasible, which it is!
- A ridiculous number of macaron recipes in Tartelette’s recipe index
- Months of ogling macarons on Tastespotting
Another really fantastic tool in my artillery is the book you see below: i love macarons by Hisako Ogita. My Nonna got it for me for Christmas along with a box of Wilton pastry bags and tips. This book is really incredible. It gives you tips and tricks for every step of the process (22 for the cookie part alone, if you follow her instructions). Some of the tips are a little extreme, including, for example, “on rainy days, it helps to dehumidify.” However, we followed the instructions pretty much to the letter and ended up with our best macarons to date, so I’ll vouch for their effectiveness.
Here’s the basic recipe:
- 2/3 cup ground almonds (85 g mald mandel)
- 1.5 cups powdered sugar (150 g florsocker)
- 3 large egg whites, at room temperature (it helps to age them overnight) (3 äggvitor vid rumstemperatur)
- 5 tablespoons (65 grams) granulated sugar (65 g råsocker)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean (vi använde en tesked vaniljsocker istället)
Instructions (Abbreviated and without Hisako’s tips. You’ll have to go buy the book!)
- In a food processor, grind almonds and powdered sugar together to a fine powder. Sift the mixture through a sieve twice. Set aside. (We didn’t have a sieve, so we didn’t sift. Still came out fine.)
- In a stainless-steel mixing bowl, beat egg whites on high speed until they reach stiff, glossy peaks, gradually adding the granulated sugar to the egg whites.
- Add vanilla, stir lightly.
- Add half of the sifted flour mixture. Stir it with a spatula while scooping it up from the bottom of the bowl.
- Add the rest of the flour and mix it lightly in a circular motion. DO NOT OVER-MIX.
- When you run out of flour, press and spread out the batter against the bowl’s sides. Scoop the batter from the bottom and turn it upside down. Repeat this process about 15 times. (DO NOT OVER-MIX. We only did this press-and-spread method about 5 times and then quit in favor of not allowing all the air to escape.)
- When the batter becomes nicely firm and drips slowly as you scoop it with a spatula, the mixture is done. (I don’t know if ours has gotten this firm, actually, but it gets close.)
- Pour the batter into a pastry bag with a round tip. (By the way, if you’re following along with Hisako’s instructions, we are now at step 12.)
- Squeeze the batter onto parchment paper on a baking sheet in small circles. The batter tends to spread out after being squeezed. (Hisako recommends using tracing paper to outline perfect circles, but we haven’t done that. However, we use rapseed oil, rapsölja, to very lightly grease the parchment paper. You can also use corn oil or any other flavorless oil… no olive oil, no butter.)
- Rap the baking sheet firmly against the counter or another flat surface. This helps the macarons hold their rounded shape and helps the pied, or foot, to form. This also allows air bubbles to rise to the surface before baking so that they don’t crack in the oven.
- Dry the batter at room temperature, uncovered, for 30 minutes. A slight crust should form on top. (We let them sit for a little less time.)
Here’s where we diverge slightly from Hisako’s method. She says to bake at 375°F (190°C) for 15-18 mins. We have been baking our macarons at a lower heat for longer, at 300°F (150°C) for 30 minutes. When I cooked them at the higher temperature, my macarons were much flatter. The macarons Anna and I rose much higher and became much puffier. I kind of like that look, but if you want the flat, smooth look, go for the higher temperature.
Hisako has a very special approach to baking the macarons which involves multiple baking trays and more time and patience than I have. Ours came out really well anyway.
For the coffee flavored macarons, we added 1.5 tablespoons of ground up instant coffee powder to the macaron batter. When we made chocolate and black tea, we divided the batter into two and added just a little less than half of cocoa powder and ground black tea. The possibilities seem endless, to be honest, and I am so excited to make them again… but it will have to wait until I can muster the energy to take the whole thing on again. It’s way more fun doing this with a friend, by the way. The one time I tried to do it by myself, I ended up totally frazzled and worn out. This is a project that is definitely improved by having another person around to talk to and hang out with while you slave over teeny-tiny French delicacies.
And if you’re wondering, the macarons are actually worth all the effort, precisely because they’re so delicate and can go wrong so easily. They are delicious, of course, but there are lots of delicious cookies that take a quarter of the time and the effort. What makes this such a fun project is the feeling of mastery you get when they come out well. When we finished our last batch and the macarons had risen and developed feet and looked exactly as they should, Anna and I were so proud of ourselves. I’ve been giving them away in little glass jars as gifts to people, and it feels so good to say, “I made that.”
Be strong of heart! VENTURE FORTH unto the promised land of MACARONS!