Nov 15, 2013

On Making Successful Macarons

I will be the first to admit that macarons are a ridiculous dessert. My first time making them, I felt like laughing at the amount of time and research they took to make. It's so bizarre that there is an expectation that everyone's macarons should all look the same and be "perfect". What other dessert is like that? I wanted to be above the obsession for smooth macarons with large feet, and yet I couldn't help squealing the first time that they came out perfect.

All that being said, macarons are delicious and adorable.  All the hype online makes them seem like some untouchable and impossible dessert, but in reality they just take a little more preparation and time. If you feel like going on the adventure that is making macarons, here is some advice to help you on your way. These are all the tips and tricks I've found from blogs and this amazing Youtube video, along with observations from my own personal experiences.

Basic Macaron Ingredients:

3 egg whites
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 cup almond flour
pinch of salt
1/4 cream of tartar

Macarons Step-by-step:

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Start by putting the confectioners sugar, salt, and almond flour in a food processor and grind until fine.  Sift this mixture into a medium bowl, and set it aside while you make your meringue.

To make the meringue, start with three room temperature eggs. If you just pulled your eggs out of the fridge like I always do, you can put your eggs in a bowl of warm water to speed the process.  Separate the egg whites into a large bowl and use a mixer to beat the egg whites into a meringue. Now, I now most fancy bakers have stand mixers, but I assure you a hand mixer will work just fine. To speed up the process of making the meringue, add 1/4 teaspoon of tartar. You can find tartar in the spice section of the grocery store. Beat the meringue until the peaks are stiff, this can take a few minutes.  If your peaks are falling over, be patient, you'll get there I promise!

Once you have finished your meringue, fold in the sugar and flour one cup at a time.  You want to avoid smashing the meringue, but guaranteed at some point you're going to wonder how the hell all of your dry ingredients are going to fit in the meringue and you're going to think that you've messed it all up. Just relax, it will be fine! Once all the ingredients are mixed, make sure that when you pull up your spatula the mixture falls in a thick ribbon, then you're good to go!

Put the mixture in a piping bag, or if you're cheap like me use a gallon sized plastic bag.  On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, pipe out little circles.  I tend to make mine around 1"-1.5" in diameter. I find that the best baking sheet to use are the fancy hollow cooking sheets, like these. Once you have piped out your cookies, bang the sheet on the counter a few times to bring any air bubbles to the surface. This will stop them from rising during baking and ruining the smooth surface of your macaron.

By now I bet you think it's good to pop them in the over. Wrong! You should try to let them sit for at least 20 minutes before placing them in the over. I warned you these took forever to make, but you just didn't listen, did you? By leaving them out, it allows the cookies to form a crust which keeps the tops smooth during baking and helps your cookies bake upwards instead of outwards. That is what gives you the feet that everyone is obsessed with.

After you've waited and wondered why in the hell you thought making macarons was a good idea, pop them in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Once they have cooled add your favorite filling and bask in the glory of your beautiful, perfect macarons

Important things to remember:
  1. Put the dry ingredients through a food processor and sift them well
  2. Start out with room temperature egg whites
  3. Make meringue with stiff peaks
  4. Combine the mixture until it falls in thick ribbons
  5. Bang the pan against the counter to bring out air bubbles
  6. Let them sit for 20-30 minutes to form a crust before baking
Phew! That was a lot of words! Best of luck with your macaron endeavors :)
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