I first read about the macaron in the December 12, 2011 edition of Time Magazine. The macaron was being sold at a NYC French bakery with lines around the block. It claimed that it was going to overtake cupcakes in popularity. Since that article, I have read and watched numerous macaron blog posts and videos all over the internet.
There are many interesting takes on the history of macarons. The Serious Eats introduction to and history of macaroons is an interesting take on this 500-year-old delicacy and confectionary treat. They are extremely popular in France but originated in Italy.
So in my fearless quest to make to macarons I had to do my research. In Denver D Bar Desserts is one of a few bakeries that make macarons. So I checked it out. Petite, tasty little treats that would be good with a cup of tea or a glass of champagne.
The most comprehensive blog on macarons I found was Food Nouveau. She had step-by-step directions, along with a several of her own posts on trouble-shooting tips. Four ingredients of almond flour (meal), powdered sugar, granulated sugar, and egg whites. How hard could it be? Six batches later culminated with the Fearless Cooking Club (FCC) members meeting to celebrate all things macaron and Valentines Day.
210 g powdered sugar
125 g almond meal/flour
3 large egg whites
30 g granulated sugar
So with so few of ingredients I learned that this adventure was all about cooking techniques. It’s like playing a sport, you have to have the basic techniques.
Technique #1 -Prepping the dry ingredients.
The dry ingredients are measured in grams, which are important to know when preparing. I actually pre-measured the almond flour and sugars in advance and bagged them to be ready for the next batch to trial.
The powdered sugar and almond flour must be placed in a food processor to bring the ingredients together. Following that the combined ingredients are then sifted to a fine state of powder.
Technique #2 – All about the egg whites
Egg whites must be separated from their shell partner, the yolk, and placed in a sealed container, refrigerated 1-5 days in advance of using them. Before whipping them, they must be brought to room temperature for a couple of hours. Then place your egg whites in a very cold steel bowl and whip them until frothy. Add the granulated sugar in three stages to the egg whites until they are stiff peaks, which takes about 3-4 minutes. Some recipes I saw indicated that the egg whites should also be measured in grams. I didn’t choose to get that technical, but it is recommended that you use large eggs.
Technique #3 – Folding in the ingredients
If you want pastel-pretty macarons, then this is the time to do it. Many sites say to use only powdered food coloring, which I didn’t have access to, so I used Wilton gel food coloring. I folding in the food coloring so as to not deflate the whites.
Once combined, I then added very small amounts of the almond-powder sugar mixture at a time. I accomplished this in 5-6 portions, again, folding the ingredients until each portion is combined.
Technique #4 – Piping out the macarons
All the mixture went into a piping bag with a 1/2 inch wide tip to pipe out onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Food Nouveau had downloadable templates to place under my parchment paper so I had a guideline for uniformity. That was pretty awesome. Make sure to slide out the template before baking!
Pick up and drop or bang the cookie sheet to get out the air bubbles and let them rest for 20 minutes.
Technique #5 – Baking
Set the oven at 275-300 degrees. This is where practice will tell you the right temperature. Place the cookie sheet into the oven on top of another cookie sheet so as not to burn them. Bake them for 14-18 minutes, again another point of practicing. I turned my cookie sheet half-way through the baking time for uniformity. I’ll have to read more on macarons whether that is a good idea or not.
So that was the technique, but what did I really think once it was all over and done with? I made six batches of macarons this week. A labor of learning it was.
- Two of the six batches were tossed in the trash; completely wrong texture.
- The circumference of the cookie probably determines the adjustment of the time and temperature in the oven.
- Sifting was tough. I had a very fine sifter which was great for consistency but it took a good 30 minutes to sift the entire mixture.
- I made chocolate, lemon-yellow and the pink macarons. We had a variety of fillings from Nutella, cherry jam, and lemon curd. But the favorite was the one Sarah brought which was salted carmel!
Now that I have officially made macarons I have an appreciation for pastry chefs. Attention to detail is the key. They were good but I need more practice and a few tips to fully perfect them. But I really think going to France and appreciating them first hand would be a better place to start.