French Macarons

  • Serves: Makes 20 to 30 Filled Macarons
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  • Comments: 248

Variations: Bluebird French Macarons or Macaron Pops; Candy Cane Macarons; Cheeseburger Macs or Macarons; Fourth of July Macarons; French Macaron Woodland TopiaryNut-Free French Macarons; Pumpkin Spice Macaron Pops; Raspberry Lemonade Macarons; Savory French Macaron Hors d'Oeuvres

The pink/brown macarons are bittersweet chocolate raspberry flavor / The pink/yellow ones are pink lemonade / The yellow/brown ones are lemon and dark chocolate / I also filled some with dulce de leche...can't go wrong with that! 

 
Fresh Meyer Lemon and Blackberry Macarons: The purple ones have chocolate ganache with seedless blackberry preserves, and a blackberry right in the center. The yellow ones have white chocolate/Meyer lemon ganache filling.

Made with ground almonds or almond flour, egg whites and sugar, but now with added coloring to make green, ivory, chocolate, yellow, flecked or marbled, macarons are little fragile and crispy light cookies that sandwich a creamy filling. They used to be made in just a few flavors, such as vanilla, chocolate, coffee and raspberry, filled with either with ganache or a butter cream. But, today you can find them in Hermé's shop in every flavor choice possible. He has also substituted the ganache or a butter cream fillings with lighter, flavor-packed ones flavored with fruit.

Macarons take a lot of practice to make because everything has to be just right! I think the whole making of a macaron is an exercise in food architecture and engineering!

The Parisian macaron should have a smooth shiny outer skin rather than a cracked one that we see in other recipes. They should have flat tops, not puffy ones. The secret to their perfection is a delicate balance between creating the feet - the little ruffled skirt on the macaron that touches the filling, which should not poke out from the cookie, but rather stay within the borders of the baked shell - and having flat topped cookie - all controlled by how much you beat the whites and how long you let the piped macaron batter sit before baking - it does make a difference. The egg whites should be beaten until they just reach the perfect "firm peak stage." Biting through the crust should be effortless, like an egg shell, to unveil the cookie's texture beneath it, which should be light, just a little chewy, and soft.
COOKIE RECIPE HELP

KELLY SAYS: "The French, or Parisian Macaron is fast becoming the latest trend in baking.
These lovely little almond sandwich cookies are notoriously difficult to make, but Sarah's fool-proof recipe makes them a real breeze.
Really people, these are SO delish. No wonder these little gems are replacing cupcakes as the hot new "in" dessert!
...they are all the rage right now and I have read so many articles about how hard they are to make. They all talked about praying for the elusive "feet" that are supposed to form on the bottom of the cookie, and how tricky it was to get it just right.
I have to admit that I was prepared to fail, at least the first time I tried these. This is a testament to Sarah's recipe.
In my opinion, she has skillfully stripped the recipe down, to only the very important elements for success.
I felt like a giggly little girl when I saw that the feet had formed! Yeah, I'm weird that way.
Added bonus, they taste SO DANG GOOD!!
I fear that I may become addicted to trying to come up with new flavor combinations for these...yeah, I'm weird that way too."

Sarah's
Secrets

The macaron batter should be folded just until it flows and looks like a runny cake batter, not one that is too stiff. If you lift the batter with your fingertip, any peak formed should fall into the batter and quickly dissolve; You need not smooth the tops after piping them on the silpat mat or parchment paper that lines your cookie sheet if the batter is mixed properly. Fold too little, and your macarons won't have feet and will have a peak on their tops. But fold too much, and you'll end up with flat, cracked, tough and chewy macarons. If you overmix your batter, the macarons will spread a lot and have feet that deflate.

If the whites are too stiff and have too much air incorporated into them, you will get a peak on top of the cookie, and a foot. If the batter is too thick, you will get nipples on top of the cookies; do not use water to smooth them out because you will end up with a weak spot in the shell. Instead, try to tap the baking pan a few times on the countertop and they should disappear. If the insides escape from the crust during baking, the batter is too thin or has been over-folded.


SARAH SAYS: I learned how to make macarons properly from the Executive Pastry Chef at the China World Hotel, Beijing, China, when I visited there in July, 2007. I spotted a trend just starting to emerge in the United States that year, and early recipes were not home baker friendly. (When I had visited Paris more than a dozen years before, I could not stop eating these tiny little cookies and became fascinated with them! I must have eaten a hundred macarons during our visit!) I was particularly interested to learn the Pastry Chef's techniques from China because I noticed his macaron cookies, which he served at his spectacular dessert buffet, had the best "feet" and the smoothest tops I saw - which I knew were the signs of great success! He told me his secrets, and also said to use a recipe with powdered sugar! His tips worked beautifully, which I wrote into my recipe!

The Chef in Beijing explained to me that: 1 to 2 hours or more of letting the batter sit after piping helps a better foot to form. Some recipes indicate to let the formed batter sit for up only 15 minutes before baking, which I found isn't enough. After you pipe the batter, he explained you shouldn't have to smooth the peaks at all. It's important to let them rest until they've formed a skin. That's so they hold their shape. The little feet that develop on the bottom is because the cookies puff slightly, and during which some of the batter spreads out from under the skin and forms the foot. You never know where you are going to learn something new! I love to meet pastry chefs wherever I travel because I always learn something

Macarons from China World Hotel, Beijing, China Photo by Sarah Phillips © Sarah Phillips

During the tour of the kitchens at the World Hotel in Beijing, I noticed racks and racks of macaron batter drying on silicone mats.
If the macarons do not develop feet, it may be that the batter is too wet or you didn't let them sit long enough. If so, try reducing the amount of egg whites. And, let them sit for more time; one chef told me he lets his sit for no less than 6 hours before baking. Before careful because macarons can get hollow when baked, if there is too much liquid ingredients, such as added lemon juice.

FRENCH MACARONS 
INGREDIENTS
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar; makes the surface of the cookies shinier
1 1/2 cups (4 oz) FINE almond flour or finely ground almonds; see Note, below
3 large egg whites; see instructions for handling, under INSTRUCTIONS - STEP I: PREPARE THE EGG WHITES
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or any extract; do not use an oil based flavoring as it will deflate the egg whites

FILLING OPTIONS
Although, the classic filling for French macarons is Italian Buttercream, of various flavors. You may also used flavored ganache, or jam to fill your macaroons.
 1 recipe Italian Buttercream Filling
or, 1 recipe Bittersweet Chocolate Raspberry Ganache
or, I recipe White Chocolate Lemon Ganache Filling
or, 1 recipe Salted Caramel Filling

*NOTE: How to Make your Own Almond Flour.
Kelly Says: I could not locate almond flour locally, so I made my own, from whole almonds.
2 cups whole almonds will yield: 1 1/2 cups almond flour
First, blanch the almonds:
1. Bring water to a boil in a large wide pan.

2. Put whole almonds in the boiling water and let boil for approximately 30 seconds, then drain.

3. Run cold water over the almonds to cool them.
When they are cool, you should be able to slip the skins right off with your fingers.

Toast the almonds:
When all of the almonds are skinned, put them in a baking pan, in one layer, and place in a warm oven, to dry out. Do not toast the almonds, you just want to dry them.
If you have a pilot light in your oven, you can leave the pan in the oven overnight. The pilot light should be hot enough to dry the almonds overnight.

Process the almonds into flour:
1. When the whole almonds are dry, place them in the bowl of a food processor, fitted with a steel blade. Pulse them until the almonds are finely ground.
Be careful that you don't take them too far, or you will start to make almond butter.

2. Measure 1 1/2 cups finely ground almonds for the recipe.

3. After measuring out your ground almonds, add 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar from the recipe, place them in the food processor together, and process for about 30 second to make sure that the almonds are ground very finely. The almonds must be finely ground, to make proper macarons.

4. Sift the almond mixture together through a fine mesh sifter. Remove any large pieces of almond.

5. If the mixture is not dry because of the ground almonds, spread on a baking sheet, and heat in oven at the lowest setting until it is.

6. After that, proceed with the recipe. NOTE: SKIP STEP III.

INSTRUCTIONS
STEP I: PREPARE THE EGG WHITES
1. Allow the cracked egg whites to thicken by leaving them uncovered at room temperature for two hours. This is very important.

2. Then, warm the egg whites to around 75 - 76 degrees F. This is very important.
To warm them, run the mixer bowl under hot water and then dry. Add the egg whites to the bowl. Use an Instant Read Thermometer to measure.
SARAH SAYS: Do not skip this step; I have found you will get better results if you follow these steps.

STEP II: PREPARE THE BAKING PAN
1. Draw a template of circles to pipe the macaron batter on. You will need about 40 to 60 circles. There are two ways, A or B:
A. On three pieces of parchment, use a pencil to draw 1 1/2-inch circles about 2 inches apart.

Flip each sheet over and place each sheet on a baking sheet. Or, Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats (Silpats), and mark circles using a 1 1/2-inch cutter dipped in flour.

Or,
B. If you are using silpat mats, you can draw the circles right on the baking sheet. You will be able to see them through the mat. The pencilled circles wash off when you are done.

STEP III: COMBINE THE POWDERED SUGAR AND ALMOND FLOUR
Skip this step if you are grinding your own whole almonds with powdered sugar into almond flour.
1. Sift powdered sugar into a medium-size bowl.

2. Mix in almond flour and set aside.

STEP IV: BEAT THE EGG WHITES AND FOLD IN THE ALMOND FLOUR MIXTURE. ADD THE VANILLA EXTRACT AND OPTIONALLY TINT THE MACARON BATTER
SARAH SAYS: It is important to follow the steps carefully; mixer speed is important and one of the most overlooked steps.
1. Fit an electric stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Whip the egg whites on low speed until it starts to froth, and then add salt.

2. Gradually increase the mixing speed to medium-high and slowly add granulated sugar, a few teaspoons at a time.
Continue to beat the whites until the "firm peak stage", which means at the end of the range of "soft peaks".
The egg white foam will start to become smooth, moist and shiny.

SARAH SAYS: Stop the beaters and then lift them -- straight peaks should almost form. Do not beat them to the Stiff Peak Stage. This is very important.

3. With a large rubber spatula, gently fold in 1/3 of the powdered sugar/almond flour mixture into egg whites until just incorporated.

4. Fold in vanilla and the next 1/3 of powdered sugar/almond flour mixture until just incorporated.

5. Fold in vanilla the remaining 1/3 of powdered sugar/almond flour mixture until just incorporated. The mixture should be shiny, just like a runny cake batter.

6. KELLY  SAYS: If you want to color your macarons, this is the time to add the color and fold it into the beaten egg whites.
I used a couple of drops of red gel food color for the pink macarons. Be careful not to add too much. You want a nice pastel color.

7. Test your batter to make sure it is the proper texture. Not too liquidy, nor too stiff. Lift the batter with your fingertip, any peak formed should fall into the batter and quickly dissolve. Firmly tap bottom of bowl on the counter to eliminate air pockets.
KELLY SAYS: You may also take a small spoonful and place it on a plate. If the peak dissolves, the batter is ready to be baked.

STEP V: PIPE THE MACARON BATTER AND LET DRY FOR ONE TO TWO HOURS
1. Fit a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch plain, round tip (such as Ateco #806). And, fill the pastry bag no more than half full with the macaron batter.

2. Pipe the batter into the marked circles onto the prepared baking sheets, starting next to the edge of the circle and spiraling into the center.
Repeat until all of the batter has been piped. Tap the underside of the baking sheet to remove air bubbles.
SARAH SAYS: If the cookies form peaks on their tops after piping, flatten them with a wet fingertip.

KELLY  SAYS: If you want to add toppings to your macarons, do so while the batter is still wet. You can add finely chopped nuts, if you like.
Do not add too much, you do not want to weigh the cookies down with toppings. I added some finely chopped pistachios to some of the cookies.

3. SARAH SAYS: Let the piped macaron batter dry UNCOVERED at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours, to allow skins to form on top and so the feet can form on the bottom of the cookie when baked. This is very important. If it is humid outside, I let the batter sit for 2 hours.

Letting the batter rest before baking and leaving the oven door slightly ajar during baking helps prevent the tops of the macarons from being too soft or fragile. I believe the feet are formed because, as you let the batter sit, the edges of the piped cookie batter circle dry out. So, when you bake the cookie, the dried edges form the pretty feet and the more liquidy part of the inner batter puffs up to form the cookie part. A thin sugar shell dries on top of the batter, allowing a thin sugar skin to form on top, stretching and helping keep the macaron flat and shiny on top as it bakes. So, resting the batter is essential.

STEP VI: BAKE THE MACARONS
1. Meanwhile, position an oven shelf in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F for 30 minutes.

2. Bake one sheet at a time, for 10 to 11 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to keep the oven door slightly ajar.
Check at 30 second intervals near the end of baking because these cookies overbake very quickly; do not open the oven door to check, but rather peak through the opening in the oven door.
Bake until macaroons are slightly firm and can be gently lifted off parchment (bottoms will be dry).
SARAH SAYS: Letting the batter rest before baking and leaving the oven door slightly ajar during baking helps prevent the tops of the macarons from being too soft or fragile.

3. Remove macarons from oven. Let cool on sheets 5 minutes and transfer on parchment paper to a cooling rack. When cool, slide a metal offset spatula underneath the macaron to remove from parchment.

STORAGE
Keep the unfilled macaron shells in an airtight container at room temperature. Best only for a couple of days, otherwise freeze them for up to a month or two.
Let them thaw at room temperature. They almost thaw out immediately.
NOTE: I have frozen the unfilled shells and they freeze beautifully.
I put them in a plastic lidded container, with waxed paper between the layers.
When I wanted to use them, I took them out of the freezer, opened the container and let them thaw.


STEP VII: FILL THE MACARONS
1. Fill a disposable pastry bag with ganache or buttercream.

With scissors, cut a small hole in the tip side of the pastry bag.

2. Pair macarons of similar size.


You may gently press the flat side of the macaroon with your thumb to make a small indentation, to make room for more filling.
Take care so the macaroon does not crack.

3. Pipe about 1 teaspoon of the Italian Buttercream, or ganache filling onto flat sides of half the macaroons.

KELLY SAYS: I also added a little dollop of dulce de leche to the center some of my macarons, just for a little flavor excitement.

4. Sandwich with remaining halves, keeping flat sides together.
NOTE: Press the cookie together gently. You do not want your filling to ooze out the sides of the cookie.

5. Refrigerate for 20 minutes, to allow flavors to blend together, but do not store there. They also turn shiny on top after being in the fridge for awhile. Bring back to room temperature before serving.

STORAGE
Let the cookies stand at least one day before serving, so the flavors can meld. 
We recommend refrigerating the filled macarons in an airtight container for 2 days, or freeze, depending on the filling.


VARIATIONS

Bluebird French Macarons or Macaron Pops

Candy Cane Macarons

I made some French Macarons and sprinkled the edges of the ganache filling with crushed candy cane, for some holiday flair.
Basic macaron recipe, filled with chocolate ganache. When I crushed the candy canes, I sifted the pieces and stirred the fine powder, that fell through the strainer, into the ganache, keeping the larger pieces for the edges.
Best Mac recipe EVER! Works every time. If you are going to do this, you must eat them quickly, because the candy cane absorbs moisture from the air and will turn sticky after a day or two. Very tasty, though.

Cheeseburger Macs or Macarons

Fourth of July Macarons

Red white and blue macarons. / The muted colors give it more of an Old Glory feel. / Red has white chocolate raspberry ganache filling. / Blue has white chocolate blueberry ganache filling. / White has salted caramel filling. / Stars are meringue kisses

French Macaron Woodland Topiary
Nut-Free French Macarons
Pumpkin Spice Macaron Pop

Raspberry Lemonade Macarons
Savory French Macaron Hors d'Oeuvres


KELLY SAYS: I served macarons at a party. So many people were amazed by them, because they had never tasted them before, and didn't know what to expect. You could see the look of surprise, and delight, in their eyes, after the first bite. They really ARE that good!

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