For a long time now, Saucy has been wanting to tackle the elusive baking task known as the French macaroon, or Parisian macaron.
After reading some blogs and cookbooks, her little bit of research told her to be careful. They might be one pastry difficult to master. It appeared that many of the recipes online were complicated and the ingredients confused her. Why did some recipes call for almond flour and others for ground almonds? Of course most French recipes are metric... but exactly how many egg whites are in 90 grams? Just the thought of solving these simple problems left Saucy putting off the great macaron attempt... until today.
Would you like to know how simple they are? No, really. Don't worry about it. Saucy has you covered.
If you follow these step by step instructions, you'll have a sweet pile of Parisian macarons to share with your peeps. Go ahead, start gathering fancy little tins and boxes now. You're going to need them. This is going to as popular as cupcakes, people.
Here's your shopping list:
1 and 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup finely ground blanched almonds (super white, no "skins")
3 extra large egg whites
pinch of salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
a pastry bag with a the biggest round tip you can find
a silicone spatula
a silicone baking pad or some parchment paper
... and something to fill your macarons with - for her first batch, Saucy simply used some raspberry preserves she had on hand. Let's get fancy later.
Tip One: Plan Ahead
You can't make good macarons on a humid day. Because they have to sit on the counter and cure before you bake them, your kitchen can't be hot and sticky. You either need air conditioning or you'll just have to wait. Today was perfect for baking.
Also, all of your ingredients need to be at room temperature, most especially the eggs. They'll work best for this recipe if they "age" a bit on the counter overnight. That sounds a little yucky (Saucy agrees) so instead of separating them and leaving the bowl to age on the counter overnight, Saucy left three extra large eggs out on the counter for a day or two with the other ingredients. This morning, everything was a "go."
Tip Two: Process, Don't Whisk
Saucy was worried about exactly how fine her ground almonds were. She got out the food processor and gave them a good healthy beating just to be sure. It was at this point that she added the confectioners' sugar to the almonds, even though the recipe said to simply whisk the sugar and nuts together. She reasoned that this would create a kind of superfine almond meal, and it did. This could also be done well in advance and set aside.
Are you ready? Let's try this.
In a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt on medium speed until frothy. Bump the speed on the mixer to high and gradually add the 1/4 cup granulated sugar to the whites. Continue beating on high until whites are stiff, glossy and form nice firm peaks.
Next, fold the mixture of almonds and confectioners' sugar into the egg whites using your silicone spatula. You want to ensure the dry is incorporated into the whites but don't overfold. The batter should appear somewhat fluffy.
Outfit your pastry bag with the large round tip and fill the bag with the macaron batter.
Tip: Use the largest pastry bag you have on hand. You should be able to load the whole batch into one big bag and get piping.
You don't have to work quickly here, but you have to work smart. Decide how big you want your finished macaron to be and pipe out a disc onto the parchment paper or silicone. Don't pull up and away to create a little peak with the batter... you want the disc to be somewhat flat, so drag the piping tip slowly away from the cookie as you finish it. You can even dab your finger in cold water (sparingly) and tap away any peaks... but do it sooner rather than later.
Let the piped macarons sit on your counter to "age" before baking them. This should take about a half hour to an hour. You are allowing the cookie to form a "skin" or a "shell" before baking. The macarons will also spread out a tiny bit and flatten down... perfect. Don't panic when they flatten out, that's a good thing. It's not that your meringue is bad, it's that your macarons are aging and will bake into a perfect shape:
Voila! Bake at 325 degrees (with the door of the oven propped open a tiny bit if you can) until they are completely dry, about 15 minutes. See that little ruffly part on the bottom? That's the macaron foot, it's desirable. The aged "shell" of the cookie rose above the rest of the batter that oozed out when baking, creating the delicate ruffled effect macarons are best known for.
Well that, and their fillings. And the fact that they're so damn pretty. And yummy.
It's a win-win-win.
They're super-easy to slap together after completely cooled. You can use buttercream frosting if you have some on hand, make a smooth chocolate ganache or you can get crazy and try something else.
Saucy wants to warn you. It's gonna get a whole lotta crazy around here. She's got the macaron fever and she's got it bad.
Well, that was almost too easy. Saucy feels silly for putting it off for as long as she did. All this time she's been feeding you cupcakes and you could have been enjoying something decidedly more French.