French macarons have been on my baking bucket list for a while now – ever since I tasted it for the first time in 2009 from MacarOn Café in New York City. A macaron (not to be confused with a macaroon with 2 o’s) is a delicate French cookie sandwich, whose main ingredients are egg whites, sugars, and almond powder/flour. It has an eggshell-like texture and chewy consistency. This trendy dessert comes in a variety of colors, flavors, and fillings (i.e. ganache, buttercream, fruit jams).
I have visited several famous macaron bakeries, including Ladurée, Bouchon, La Maison du Chocolat, Miette, and Nadège Patisserie. Unfortunately, good ones are hard to find in Boston. Thus, this prompted me to bake my own. Macarons are not difficult to make (this is coming from an amateur baker!), but there is a lot of work, time, and planning involved. Now, I know why macarons are so expensive (often priced at $2-3 per cookie). Despite this, the results are worth all the hard work. I finally dedicated one Saturday to tackle my next big baking project and followed the basic macaron recipe from MacarOn Café‘s recipe book. I didn’t want to add any flavors or coloring this time around – only because this is my first time making it; I wanted to keep it as simple as possible, mastering the basics first. I did, however, decorate the macarons with Hello Kitty faces, inspired by blogger, i-heart-baking. P.S. Hello Kitty’s birthday was yesterday – November 1st!
Basic French macaron recipe, adapted from MacarOn Café‘s recipe book (yields 80 shells or 40 cookie sandwiches):
- 1 cup egg whites at roomtemperature for 2 days (from 7 large eggs)
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2-3/4 cups almond flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand, bought from Whole Foods)
- 2-3/4 cups powdered sugar
- pinch of salt
- 2 teaspoons meringue/egg white powder (use if humidity > 60%)
- Your choice of filling (I used Nutella)
- Pour almond flour and powdered sugar in same bowl. Get rid of the clumps by sifting the mixture or pulsing it in the food processor until very fine.
- Line tray with parchment paper.
- Beat egg whites, salt, and meringue powder at increasing speeds until foamy.
- Add granulated sugar; beat for about 10 minutes or until mixture is stiff and shiny (test: if you flip the bowl upside-down and the meringue doesn’t drip, then it’s ready!)
- Add dry mixture to the meringue and fold about 40 times with a rubber spatula until batter is a thick, flowing ribbon. Slap outside of the bowl periodically to get rid of air bubbles.
- Pour batter in piping bag (or zip-lock bag) fitted with a piping tip (I used Wilton #2A round tip).
- Pipe 1-inch wide discs on parchment paper (it will expand to 1.5 inches). Leave at least 1-inch space in between discs.
- If you want to make cat face-shaped macarons, immediately use a toothpick and pull the batter out a little into desired shape, making sure it is the same thickness all around. Do this within a few minutes of piping, before the discs settle and harden.
- Holding the parchment paper in place, slam the tray down really hard on the table a few times to release air bubbles (you might look a little silly here).
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Let macaron shells rest for at least 15 minutes before baking.
- Bake for 12-14 minutes (check the first batch: the inside of the shells should be soft; if it’s hard, reduce the baking time). After first 5 minutes, open oven door briefly to let steam out.
- Let cool completely on wire rack before removing from parchment paper.
- Fill and decorate shells.
Jamie’s tips for this recipe:
- I took out the egg whites 2 days in advance, placed them in a bowl, covered with plastic/cling wrap at room temperature.
- If you are new to piping, print out this macaron shape template and slide it under the parchment paper as a guide, piping just shy of the border. Remove template before baking.
- Do not use toothpicks to pop air bubbles in the discs. I learned this the hard way: some of my macaron shells cracked in the oven.
- Presentation ideas: dust powdered sugar over the macarons; use edible Foodwriter markers (from A.C. Moore stores) to draw details; add sprinkles onto the cookie surface (glue with frosting/Nutella).
- Remember, macarons are very delicate and fragile! Always hold the sides of the shells and not the surface, especially when sandwiching the shells together and when drawing details on the surface with markers.
- The macarons taste best at room temperature, after being refrigerated overnight in an air-tight container.
- I would recommend tasting a good, authentic French macaron from a bakery first before baking your own. That way, you know what to expect.
- What to do with your leftover egg yolks? Make crème brûlée, butterscotch pudding, and/or flan.
I was thrilled with the results and will continue to follow recipes from the MacarOn Café book. These shells had all the right features: the “feet” (ruffled edges), smooth surface, egg-shell texture, chewy consistency, and a strong, natural almond flavor. Now that I’ve got the basics down, I look forward to experimenting with other flavors and homemade fillings. Have you ever tried French macarons before?