Ah, the elusive macaron (pronounced with a heavy French accent, “maa-kaargh-roe”). Show up to a party with a box of these soft yet crunchy, deliciously delicate pastel cookies and people will think you must have valet parked your Rolls Royce and left your Chanel handbag on the front seat. Because the macaron is the Cartier of the cookie world.
But macarons are not to be feared! They really aren’t difficult to make–the Man just wants you to think they are so you’ll wait in line at the bakery all morning and pay $20 for 6 cookies. They take precision and practice, but give yourself a few tries and you too will be making macarons for any (and all!) occasions.
The first time I made macarons was for Christmas and I made 4 different varieties. I had no idea how time consuming it was to make them and would not recommend such a large batch on your first try. But they turned out excellent, and by batch 3 I was a pro.
The second time I made macarons was at my Mom’s house and had three difficulties: a broken whip attachment for the Kitchenaid stand mixer, no food scale, and no piping bags or tips. But they still turned out excellent, just not as perfectly round as Martha would like.
The next time I made macarons was for my baby shower with my three favourite women, my sister, my best friend, and my sister-in-law. The four of us really had this down to a science! One measured the ingredients while the other sifted the almond flour while the other timed the whipping while the other folded. And the most extraordinary thing happened when my sister-in-law dropped the pan on the counter for the first time to get out the air bubbles: the sweet baby girl in my tummy was startled and did a huge barrel roll! It’s my favourite macaron memory. My second favourite is the time my husband and I sat on a Central Park bench sharing a box from Lauderée on Madison Avenue before going to the Costume Institute at the Met. And my third favourite is just the fact that my sister has been there to make them with me almost every time (you can check out her blog here). See what I mean about these being special cookies!?
The fourth time I made macarons was again at my Mom’s house (I got her a new whip attachment) with my beautiful sister and my dearest grad school friend. We still didn’t have a scale or piping bags, and we foolishly used my Mom’s convection oven instead of the gas. It cooked the outside of the macarons way too fast while leaving the inside too gooey. But as usual, they still tasted amazing and it was so fun for the three of us to make them together.
And now I’ve made them one more time in turquoise! They could have used 30 seconds less in the oven to avoid the slight browning, but oh well! I used one drop blue and half a drop of green paste food colouring from Williams-Sonoma to make the perfect turquoise colour.
Here is the tried-and-true recipe from my Guru, Martha Stewart, edited to include my personal tips and tricks:
71 grams almond flour
117 grams confectioners sugar
2 large room temperature egg whites
53 grams granulated sugar
Smooth jam for filling
Optional: food colouring and flavouring
One: preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the lower third. Measure your ingredients using a digital kitchen scale. If you don’t have a scale, stop what you’re doing and go get one! They are like $10 at Walmart and are a kitchen staple! The eggs have to be from a chicken in a shell, no egg substitutes or liquid egg whites.
Two: shake the almond flour and confectioners sugar in a Magic Bullet for about 1 minute to remove any clumps. Pass this through a fine-mesh sieve. Repeat until your clumps are gone. If you don’t have a Magic Bullet you can use a food processor, but I find shaking the Magic Bullet is the most effective. Don’t skip this step, even if you are using store bought almond flour or you will have ugly lumpy cookies.
Three: whisk the egg whites and granulated sugar by hand just to combine using your whip attachment in the mixer bowl. Then pull out your timer because this part gets precise, and have your food colouring and flavouring close by! Whip using a KitchenAid stand mixer for exactly 2 minutes on level 4, then exactly 2 minutes on level 6, then if you’re not adding colouring or flavouring exactly 2 minutes on level 8. If you are using the food colouring and flavouring, you mix for 1.5 minutes on level 8 and without stopping the mixer you add just a tiny amount (you don’t want to introduce a lot of liquid) and whip for the remaining 30 seconds. If you don’t have a KitchenAid stand mixer you could use a hand mixer but just be prepared for 8 minutes of nonstop mixing!
Four: add the sifted dry ingredients all at once and roll up your sleeves for some heavy labour! You may want to just watch the video on Martha’s site, but here’s the explanation for how you fold the dry ingredients into the wet. Imagine your bowl is a clock. Start your spatula at 12:00, then go all the way around the edge clockwise back to 12:00, then cut straight down the middle to 6:00. It’s all in the wrist and elbow. That counts as one revolution. Rotate your bowl and do it again 37 times. Seriously, 37 exactly!
Five: line two baking sheets with a Silat or parchment paper and put your batter into a piping bag with a 3/8″ round tip. You may want to do a youtube search for how to pipe a macaron and practice different styles because everyone seems to do it differently. I do it by making a spiral, going around once on the outside of the circle, then moving in and up going around once in the middle of the circle, then going right to the centre and going around a tiny bit then pulling away to the side. So three rotations to make a 3/4″ circle that will have a tiny little fallen Hershey’s Kiss peak on the top. UPDATE: I tried to make heart shaped macarons for Valentine’s Day, it did not go so well…check it out here!
Six: lift the cookie sheet up a few inches off the counter and let it fall, releasing any air bubbles in the cookies (if you’re pregnant this may startle your baby like it did mine!). Do that three times. Now leave it for half an hour. No less! The Hershey’s Kiss peak will spread out, they will look dull, and the surface of the cookie will have a “skin” (those are tips I picked up from Anna Olson). If you don’t let them sit for half an hour they will crack when you make them and your batch will be ruined.
Seven: bake one sheet at a time until risen and set, rotating half way through. You don’t want them to brown or for the colour to fade. When I make more than one batch I find that my oven gets hotter with time so the first batch takes 11 minutes but the last batch takes only 8 minutes. Do not use a convection oven (learned that one the hard way).
Eight: cool completely. I always need the pan to make more, so after waiting a minute I carefully slide the Silpat onto the counter and let the cookies cool there. Then I just use a spoon to place a little jam in the centre–enough that it is visible right at the edge but not so much that it spills over. Chunky jam won’t work because the cookies won’t sandwich level. You could also use a piping bag if that’s more your style, and of course there are many other types of fillings you could try, like chocolate ganache! UPDATE: Here’s a pumpkin spice filling to try and here’s chocolate berry, delicious!
It’s best to eat them within a day, but they stay moist if you store them in an airtight container in the fridge.
They really aren’t so hard, they’re just technical. I promise these luxurious cookies are much easier to make than they look, and they are totally worth the trouble!
Goldtouch Cookie Sheets: Williams-Sonoma