French Macarons (GF)

Macarons are all-the-rage these days as they’re the new “trendy” dessert. They’re light yet decadent and a beautiful little treat. They’re often touted as impossible to make at home, and there are countless blogs out there that claim to have “foolproof” recipes for this difficult-to-master dessert. I can’t tell you how many FAQ posts I’ve seen about macarons. There are also so many superstitions about aging egg whites, humidity, letting them sit out to develop “skins,” and so forth.

Honestly, they’re hard, but they’re also not hard at the same time. I tried seven times to make macarons at home and failing each time before totally throwing in the towel. While all of my macarons tasted fine, none of the recipes I tried produced good looking ones. Which in macaron world, appearances are apparently everything.

Fast forward two years later, I found BraveTart’s recipe and it changed my world. I loved how she had a “no frills” approach to making macarons and I decided to tackle them once again. I followed her recipe, and first try, I came out with perfect macarons. I was jumping up and down with joy and disbelief. I NO LONGER HAD TO PAY $2 FOR A TINY LITTLE MACARON AT STORES ANYMORE!

It’s been amazing and I love playing around with flavor combinations. Some that I’ve made are matcha, salted dulce de leche, salted caramel, miel latte, peppermint, vanilla, and cinnamon chestnut. While I’ve found lots of success with this recipe, I will say that toying around too much with additions can definitely mess up the results. Since they are finicky, you’ll still probably wind up with the occasional cracked macaron. Either way, it’s fine, it tastes amazing, eat it anyway!

While I love macarons, I really don’t like how sweet they are. To combat that, I don’t add much sugar to the filling and I add more salt to the shells–you’ll see that reflected in the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces (115g) blanched almonds or almond flour, or whatever nut you like
  • 8 ounces (230g) powdered sugar
  • 5 ounces egg whites (144g)
  • 2 1/2 ounce (72g) sugar
  • the scrapings of 1 vanilla bean or 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp (2-4g) kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F and have ready a large pastry bag, fitted with a plain tip. You’ll also need two parchment lined sheet pans ready too.
  2. Sift almond flour with the powdered sugar and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg whites, sugar, vanilla bean (not the extract), and salt and turn the mixer to medium (4 on a Kitchen Aid). Whip for 3 minutes. They will not seem especially foamy at that point.
  4. Increase the speed to medium-high (7 on a Kitchen Aid) and whip another 3 minutes, then crank the speed to 8 for go another 3 minutes.
  5. At that point, turn the mixer off and add in any extracts/flavor/color and whip for a final minute on the highest speed.
  6. At the end of this minute, you should have a very stiff, dry meringue. (Check out this photo if you’d like to see a picture of how your meringue should look.) When you remove the whisk attachment, there will be a big clump of meringue in the center, just knock the whisk against the bowl to free it. If the meringue has not become stiff enough to clump inside the whisk, continue beating for another minute, or until it does so.
  7. Now dump in the dry ingredients all at once and fold them in with a rubber spatula. Use both a folding motion (to incorporate the dry ingredients) and a rubbing/smearing motion, to deflate the meringue against the side of the bowl.First timers: the dry ingredients/meringue will look hopelessly incompatible at first. After about 25 turns (or folds or however you want to call “a single stroke of mixing”) the mixture will still have a quite lumpy and stiff texture. Another 15 strokes will see you to “just about right.” Keep in mind that macaronage is about deflating the whites, so don’t feel like you have to treat them oh-so-carefully. You want to knock the air out of them.Undermixed macaron batter: quite stiff. If you spoon some out and drop it back into the mix, it will just sit there and never incorporate. Do this test before bagging your batter and save yourself the trouble of baking of undermixed macarons.
    Overmixed macaron batter: has a runny, pancake batter-like texture. It will ooze continuously, making it impossible to pipe into pretty circles.

    Essentially, the macaron batter needs enough thickness that it will mound up on itself, but enough fluidity that after 20 seconds, it will melt back down. I’ve heard people describe this consistency as lava-like, or molten, and that’s pretty apt.

  8. Transfer about half the batter to a piping bag and pipe the batter onto the sheets.
  9. After piping your macarons, take hold of the sheet pan and hit it hard against your counter. Rotate the pan ninety degrees and rap two more times. This will dislodge any large air bubbles that might cause your macarons to crack. Keep smashing it against a hard surface until you’re sure all the air bubbles are out.
  10. Bake for about 18 minutes, or until you can cleanly peel the parchment paper away from a macaron. If, when you try to pick up a macaron, the top comes off in your hand, it’s not done.
  11. Once the macarons have baked, cool thoroughly on the pans, before peeling the cooled macarons from the parchment.
  12. Fill a pastry bag fitted with the buttercream of your choice and pipe a quarter sized mound of buttercream into half of the shells, then sandwich them with their naked halves.

Macarons, against all pastry traditions, actually get better with age. The shells soften and become more chewy, mingling with the flavor of the buttercream too. So, while of course you can eat them right away, don’t hesitate to store them refrigerated for up to a week. If at all possible, set them out at room temperature for a few hours before consuming.

Adapted from BraveTart.

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