I don't have any one person or place to credit this post to. Just a Pinterest board full of French Macarons so lovely I couldn't help but try a version of my own for Valentine's Day.
Why I love this Valentine Macarons project
I've made French Macarons before and I got pretty lucky. I didn't experience any of the horrors often associated with these tricky little cookies. I had good "feet" so I figured I did everything right. But after closer examination and some market research [aka: eating macarons from every bakery in town] it became obvious I had some things yet to learn. So, here is my second go: Valentine macarons. This time it took seven batches before I understood which parts of the process need to be executed flawlessly and I've gained a ton of confidence in my macaron making skills. I shouldn't have to rely on luck for my next batch and I'm feeling pretty good about that!
Tips, techniques & takeaways
It’s true, macarons are finicky. But, don’t be scared off by all of the crazy things people do to get them right. You’ll hear advice like “sift your almond flour and icing sugar 5 times” or “age your egg whites in the microwave” or “stand on one foot and hold your piping bag with your left hand” egads! Really? After my fourth batch I was making plans to go to pastry school just so I could learn the “right" way to make these little buggers. But instead, I took a deep breath, shut out all the noise and started from the beginning with the macaron recipe that’s been around for centuries [probably more]. And suddenly, the mystery of macarons was right in front of me… and it’s name is Macaronage. Once I mastered the technique of combining meringue with an almond flour/icing sugar/egg white paste, perfect macarons were within my reach. The key is a lava like texture that runs off the spatula in a ribbon. No trickery, just good ol' fashioned French technique!
My key takeaways:
Age your egg whites if you can [separate from yolks, cover with saran and let stand in a cool dry place for 24 hours] Aged egg whites have a lower water content. Which means less elasticity and a stiffer meringue. This is helpful when using the Italian [sugar syrup] meringue method.
Bring all ingredients to room temperature before you begin.
The pros use the Italian [sugar syrup] meringue method.
To make these Valentine macarons I added a little pink gel food coloring to the meringue and give it a few whisks until color is even. Using a stencil and pink AmeriMist coloring, I airbrushed a solitary heart on each cookie [tip: do this before assembly]
Special thanks to my friend Christopher for bringing some sweet inspiration from Patisserie 46 and spending the day in the kitchen with me.
Jes Best French Macarons
Makes 60-70 macarons
300 g icing (powdered) sugar
300 g almond flour
110 g liquified egg whites (see step 1)
300 g granulated sugar
75 ml water
110 g liquified egg whites (see step 1)
gel food coloring
sprinkles and/or decorations
Separate and weigh egg whites in two containers. Cover with cling film and pierce the film with a sharp knife so egg whites can "breathe." Store in the refrigerator for 3-7 days.
Prepare 4 half sheet baking pans by lining them with Silpat macaron mats. I prefer the Silpat mats to parchment. They provide good "grip" so the macaron batter maintains a perfect circle shape. The Silpat mats also aid in an even release whereas parchment can often stick to macarons.
Sift icing sugar and almond flour together using a medium or fine mesh sieve.
Add coloring (if using) to the first portion of liquified egg whites at this time. Whisk a bit until color is even.
Add first 110g egg whites (with coloring) to sugar/almond mixture, but do not stir.
Put second 110g egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Combine granulated sugar and water in a small sauce pan fitted with a candy thermometer. To avoid crystallization, brush water droplets down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush. Place on medium-high heat. Do not stir.
When sugar mixture reaches 115ºC, start mixing egg whites on high speed.
When sugar mixture reaches 118ºC, remove from heat and add to egg whites slowly by pouring them down the side of the bowl (this keeps the sugar syrup from splattering and sticking to the bowl instead of in your meringue).
Continue to mix at high speed for one minute.
Reduce speed to medium and whisk for another 2-3 minutes or until mixture is a glossy, not dry, meringue.
Allow meringue to cool to 50ºC.
Add egg white meringue to sugar/almond mixture. Using a large silicone spatula, fold and push the mixture until the ingredients are well combined. This technique is called Macaronage. Keep folding until the batter runs off your scraper in lava-like ribbons. If it falls off in a clump, the batter is still too thick.
Transfer batter to a large pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip. I use Ateco #804. Don't forget to twist the bag near the nozzle so batter doesn't drip out before you're ready.
Holding the piping tip absolutely perpendicular to baking sheet, pipe rounds using the Silpat Macaron mat as a guide, stopping about 1/8" short of the template (batter will spread). Reduce pressure and jerk nozzle away and to the side quickly to avoid a peak. Or try piping from the side to ensure a smooth macaron shell.
Drop each sheet on work surface a few times to release trapped air.
Add desired sprinkles or decorations to shells at this time.
Let stand at room temperature for 40-50 minutes (depending on humidity). Macarons should "set" and be dry to the touch before baking.
Preheat oven to 180ºC or 350ºF. I recommend using an oven thermometer to monitor your oven's temperature. Adjust as necessary before baking.
Bake one sheet at a time for 12 minutes, quickly opening and closing the oven door twice durning baking time. (this releases steam and keeps oven temp from getting too hot)
Out of the oven, carefully lift the Silpat mat out of the baking sheet and transfer the mat and shells to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Once completely cool, sandwich two same-size macarons with a dollop of desired filling.
Store macarons in the fridge for 24 hours before serving. Bring to room temperature (2+ hours) before serving.
283 g Bittersweet chocolate chips
400 ml Heavy whipping cream
Place chocolate chips in a glass bowl.
Gently heat whipping cream in a small sauce pan on medium heat until small bubbles start to appear on the surface.
Pour the hot cream over the chocolate chips and let stand for one minute.
Stir gently until smooth.
Set aside at room temperature to cool. About an hour or until the ganache is a smooth spreadable consistency.
If it's still a little loose, refrigerate for 10-15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so until it's just right.