When is a macaroon not a macarons? When it looks like this:
Macarons can be tricky to prepare, so one needs to pay attention to the details. I attempted to make them about a year or so ago and it didn’t go so well. I ended up munching on a few and then throwing them out. I had a photo, I thought I had deleted it, but here it is:
They looked good on the cookie sheet, but after they baked, well, um, they looked pretty bad and I didn’t add any food coloring. It helps if the weather is good, and not rainy or foggy, as it can cause the egg whites to deflate a little.
This time around, I wasn’t disappointed at all!
I finally had all of the necessary ingredients for making these delicate mounds. The ingredients are pretty simple and basic, except for the almond meal, which is a specialty grain where I buy ingredients. I found it in the health-food section, but it can also be found in the baking section in some stores. Macarons can be made in all kinds of colors and flavors. Some recipes call for a pinch of salt – I found I didn’t need it.
- 3/4 c. almond meal, finely ground
- 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar (icing sugar)
- 3 large egg whites (not freshly laid, better to be 5 days old or more), at room temperature
- 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar (Castor sugar)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Food coloring paste or powdered colors (not liquid)
The egg whites need to be several days old, preferably 5 days to a week (in the shell, that is). Let the eggs sit out and come to room temperature a few hours before you make them. The almond meal absolutely needs to be finely ground. If you need to, grind it finer. The package I bought was very well ground and fine. Measure out all the ingredients into separate little bowls so they are ready at hand.
Prepare your baking sheet and parchment paper ahead of time too, as you’ll need to move quickly from prepared batter to piping on the parchment paper. Draw 1″ circles in rows, about 1 1/2″ apart, using pencil. I used a soda pop bottle cap, as it was just the right size. You can draw your circles bigger, it depends on how big you want the macarons to be. I ended up piping mine out bigger than the 1″ circles. Also, once you draw all those circles, be sure to turn the paper over so you don’t have circles on the bottoms of all those macarons! Did I do this? Haha, um, I’m not telling.
Mix the powdered sugar and the almond meal together, until well blended. Set aside.
Start beating the egg whites, and when they become foamy, slowly start adding the 2 Tablespoons of granulated sugar, and then add the vanilla extract, and your food coloring at this time, continuing to beat until the egg whites form a stiff peak.
Remove the bowl and fold in the powdered sugar/almond meal mixture, carefully, slowly adding and folding so that the egg whites do not deflate. This is where I must have gone wrong the first time I made them.
Then fold 2 or 3 times with a little more pressure until the egg whites are like a blob of lava. At this point, oops, I realized I forgot to add the coloring, so I slowly folded it in here:
Now, you’re ready to pipe onto the parchment paper. Using a piping bag (I used a 16″ Wilton bag) or a Ziplock bag with the corner cut off, spoon the mixture carefully into the bag. You can also fit a 1/2″ tip into your bag to aid in piping. After filling the bag, twist the top and rest the twisted portion in your palm, gripping it with your thumb, a position which helps you control the piping evenly. I found that if I held the point in the middle of each circle and just apply pressure, the circle would fill out evenly. Once you have piped onto all the circles on the parchment paper, take the pan (carefully) and bang it 2 or 3 times on the counter top. This gives the bottom of the macarons that characteristic lip that you see in the photos. Then, let the sheet of macarons sit out on the counter for 15 minutes to an hour, in order to form a skin. If you touch them, and your finger is sticky, then let them sit out longer.
In order to bake the macarons evenly without browning, the oven needs to be at a low temperature (280 degrees F). My oven was a little too warm at this temperature and the macarons wanted to brown a little, which changed the color to a peach, instead of a rose. I would lower it to 250 next time. Adjust your oven to what you think would be best.
Baking takes about an hour, after a couple of minutes, crack the door a little to let any steam out and continue baking, turning the sheets occasionally and moving them around so they bake evenly and basically, dry out into crispy wafers. Don’t overcook or brown them, as they will lose their color. I lightly touch them to see if they are dried solidly. See, here, they are peachy colored and my shapes aren’t perfect, but hey, it’s my second attempt!
When the macarons are done, remove from the oven and cool them. They should pop off the parchment easily. Once they are cooled completely, you can pipe or spoon on butter cream frosting or any flavored cream filling that you fancy. Even Nutella would be great!
I had on hand an edible glitter in a soft pink color, so I brushed it onto the surface of each of them, returning the cookies to the pink color I originally tinted them with. They turned out so pretty and lustrous.