***This article first appeared on Modern Reston.***
Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and all the stores are offering all kinds of heart shaped candies, muffins, cakes and lollipops. How about making this year a little bit more classy and give it a taste of Paris? Yes, I’m talking macarons, these colorful pieces of heaven that make you fall in love from the first bite. I know people who don’t like chocolate, cupcakes or fruit tarts, but I have never met a person who would not like macarons.
Even though I like to bake, it took me a while before I dared to make my first batch of macarons. “Age the egg whites for minimum 3 days” – who’s got time for that? “Stir the batter until it has hot lava consistency” – I travel a lot, but I have never seen hot lava so I can’t compare. To be honest, these recipes intimidated me until at some point I decided to roll my sleeves up and give it a try.
Now that I’ve done it many times, I can say that making macarons is not a rocket science for sure, but you need to be patient and determined. There were times I cried over a tray of pink cracked shells and times when I was jumping like an Easter bunny when I took perfectly round and smooth cookies out of the oven. I’m sharing my recipe and I’m sure with a little bit of practice and inspiration you will become great at baking macarons in no time. Ok, in short time. 🙂
For the shells (makes 48)
- Kitchen scale (it’s very important to measure correctly. Substitutions are not an option either).
- Hand or stand mixer
- 4 oz almond meal
- 7 oz powdered sugar
- 4 oz egg whites
- 3.5 oz regular sugar
- Pinch of cremme of tartar
- Gel food color of the choice (optional)
Sift the almond meal together with powdered sugar. I do it at least twice to make sure my mixture is fluff, airy and does not have any lumps.
In an aluminum bowl (because your egg whites want the bowl to be cold) start whisking egg whites with your hand or stand mixer. Once they start getting foamy, add regular sugar and continue beating. When the texture becomes creamy, add the desired gel color and keep beating until hard peaks. How do you know your peaks are hard? If you can keep the bowl with meringue upside down and your meringue does not try to escape– that’s the right texture. Be careful not to overbeat though – check few times and stop as soon as the needed texture is reached.
With the help of spatula and circular motions incorporate the almond/sugar mixture into the meringue. The batter will seem stiff at first, but as you keep incorporating, you will see the meringue starts getting more liquid and will easily take all the almond mixture in. Stir in circular motions until the batter is even and there are no air pockets.
Pre-heat your oven to 300F. On a baking tray place the silicon mat (you can also use parchment paper, but I’ve never done it, so cannot speak much to it), transfer the batter to the piping bag and start piping out holding your piping bag strictly perpendicular to the tray. Truth be told, it’s nearly impossible to get all your shells evenly sized if you don’t use the template. I use macaron making kit I bought on Amazon, but you can just print a sheet of paper with circles on it and place it under your mat or parchment paper before piping out:
Don’t get frustrated if your shells have little peaks on top. Bang the baking tray hard against the counter few times to allow the extra air bubble come out and your shells will flatten out. Place the tray to rest for about 30-35 minutes to allow the skin to form. Once you can lightly touch the shells with your fingertip without leaving the dents, they are good to go in the over.
Baking time really depends on your oven. I am baking them for 19-20 minutes at 290F. If the shells start getting golden – you had them in the oven for too long or the temperature was too hot. This is where you ill have to experiment some to figure out the right temperature/time ratio for your oven. Take the shells out of the oven and let them cool down completely before removing them from the tray.
For the filling – sky is the limit. Nutella, fruit preserves, chocolate sauce, cream cheese with fruits or berries – you name it. My favorite one is mascarpone with a bunch of fresh berries and 2 oz of powdered sugar whisked together. Fill the shells with the filling of your choice. Macarons are best enjoyed the next day, when the shells take the moist from the filling giving you the crunchy skin and soft inside.
The best thing about macarons is that you can make them ahead and freeze them for up to 4 months. Just take them out of your freezer 20 minutes before serving – et voilà.
As you can see macarons are not the easiest thing in the world to make, but not the most difficult one either. It does require practice, determination and patience but you will be rewarded with delights and accolades of everyone who is lucky to get this pure happiness made in your kitchen – and for me it makes all the hassle worthwhile.
Or you can always contact me and I will be happy to bake you a batch!