In 2006 and then again in 2013, I visited Paris and each time I fell in love with the French macaron. It is basically two meringue biscuits filled with ganache, buttercream, or jam. The macaron should have a soft, almost meringue texture in the middle with an egg shell-like outer crust. A perfect macaron should have feet that surround the flat side of the cookie.
I've attempted to make this cookie once and let's just say that while it wasn't a disaster, I would have been embarrassed to serve it to anyone who knew what it was supposed to look and taste like. Making this cookie is all about technique, and I've been incredibly intimidated to try again without taking a class.
Recently, I took a class from Ann Amernick, a well renowned Pastry chef who lives in the Baltimore area. My mother, three of my friends, and I went to Ann's house one Saturday. The class was really fabulous and I learned a great deal from Ann, and I'm now on a mission to perfect my technique. Ann taught us the French Meringue Method in which egg whites are whipped to stiff peaks using sugar and then folded into the dry ingredients. Ann asked me not to share her recipe (you'll have to take her class to learn how she makes her macarons) so I'm posting another recipe which I tried after the class. The recipe below, which is posted all over the internet, belongs to Pierre Herme, the Picasso of pastries. His uses the Italian Meringue Method which incorporates the same ingredients as the French method except instead of making a regular meringue, sugar and water are boiled together and then poured into soft peak egg whites. Also, the dry ingredients are glued together by an addition of egg whites before the meringue is folded into them.
This recipe had a few more steps than the one I learned in class but I think it's worth it. I was pleased with the results.
Makes 72 macarons
For the cookie:
- 300 grams finely ground blanched almonds (if possible, use Trader Joes sliced dry roasted almonds)
- 300 grams confectioners sugar
- 300 grams extra fine granulated sugar
- 75 mL water
- 110 grams aged Egg Whites at room temperature (to be mixed into dry ingredients)
- 110 grams aged Egg Whites at room temperature (place in bowl of mixer)
- 4 drops Red food coloring
- 1 teaspoon pure raspberry extract
For the raspberry French buttercream:
- 12 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup raspberry preserved
- 1 to 2 tablespoons creme de cassis
Step 1: To make the macaron cookie: Separate eggs at least 24 hours before using (or up to five days). The older the eggs the better. Save yolks to make the French buttercream.
Step 2: Line 5 half sheet trays with silpat baking sheets or parchment.
Step 3: Using a scale, measure out all the ingredients. Remember to set aside 110 grams of egg whites for mixing into the dry ingredients and 110 grams of egg whites to place into the bowl of mixer.
Step 4: Place the ground almonds and confectioners sugar in a food processor and process until finely ground (about 1 - 2 minutes). Sift the mixture to remove any lumps.
Step 5: Mix 4 drops of red food coloring and 1 teaspoon of raspberry extract into 110 grams of egg whites. Add more or less food coloring until you reach your desired raspberry color. Take the egg whites mixed with the food coloring and raspberry extract and pour into the almond meal and powdered sugar mixture. Allow it to sit.
Step 6: Take a heavy bottomed pot and pour the granulated fine sugar and water into the pot. Attach a candy thermometer to measure the temperature of the sugar and water as it heats up. Bring the water and sugar solution to 245 degrees F.
Step 7: Meanwhile, in the bowl of your electric mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the remaining 110 grams of egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Start beating your egg whites when your sugar is close to your desired temperature.
Step 8: Once the sugar solution reaches 245 degrees F, slowly pour it over the whisking egg whites. Continue to whisk and allow meringue to cool. Meringue should not be hot when you add to almond sugar mixture. Continue to beat meringue until it cools.
Step 9: Once meringue has cooled, gradually fold egg whites into almond sugar mixture, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. Once the almond mixture is completely folded into the meringue, the batter will fall back into the bowl in a thick ribbon.
Step 10: Fill a pastry bag, fitted with 1/2 inch (1 cm) tip (#5 or 805 ATECO tip), with about half the batter. Pipe about 1 - 1 1/2 inch (3 - 4 cm) rounds onto silpat-lined pans. Leave at least 1 inch between macarons. As you pipe, hold the bag perpendicular to the baking sheet and flick the tip of the bag as you finish each cookie to minimize the peaks. Let the macarons sit at room temperature for about 60 minutes or until the tops of the macarons are no longer tacky.
Step 11: While your macarons are sitting at room temperature, preheat oven to 300 degrees F with an oven rack in bottom third of the oven. You may have to do some experimenting with your oven to determine the best temperature for your macarons - it could be anywhere between 250 to 350 degrees F.
Step 12: Bake the cookies (one sheets at a time) for about 10 minutes, rotating the pans front to back, about halfway through baking. The macarons are done when you can just barely separate the cookies from the parchment paper.
Step 13: Remove from oven and let the macarons cool completely on the baking sheet placed on a wire rack.
Step 14: To make the raspberry French buttercream: Heat sugar and water in a small saucepan to 242 degrees F or a few drops form a soft ball in cold water.
Step 15: While syrup is cooking, beat egg yolks until they are fluffy. Pour hot syrup in a thin stream into yolks, beating constantly.
Step 16: As the mixture cools, it will become thick and light. Continue to beat for a few minutes and then set aside until entirely cooled. If the syrup has not been cooked sufficiently, no amount of beating will make the mixture thick enough. If the syrup has been cooked too long, it will not beat smoothly into the egg yolks but will form little lumps of sugar.
Step 17: Beat in the softened butter until thick and creamy. You may have to beat up to 5 to 10 minutes for the buttercream to become creamy. Add raspberry preserves and cassis.
Step 18: To assemble the macarons: Take two cookies and sandwich them together with your filling. Place filling on flat side of cookie, and leave a narrow, unfilled border when piping the filling onto the cookie bottoms. You want to use just enough filling so that it spreads to the edge when topped but doesn’t squish out much when bitten. Top the filled halves with their partners. Best served at room temperature. Filled macaroons can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Here are pictures from my class making macarons using the French meringue method.
The French meringue method: First we processed our ground almonds with the confectioners sugar in a food processor (far left picture). Next we beat our egg whites and granulated sugar to stiff peaks (middle picture) and then we folded our egg whites into our dry ingredients (far right picture).
The picture on the left is our batter before we added the food coloring. You can see how the batter falls back into thick ribbons. The far right picture is the macarons piped onto our cookie sheet. These need to sit for about an hour before baking in the oven.
The macarons in the top pictures were the raspberry macarons. Pictured above are the rose macarons that we filled that day. Ann had already made the meringue shells the night before our class. We filled these macarons with a rose and lychee French buttercream. These were really delicious and truly tasted like a rose. The secret is really in the flavorings so Ann gave us a tip on where to buy just about any kind of flavored extracts - check out Silver Cloud Estates at silvercloudestates.com