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French Macarons

Macarons are a delicacy. If you’ve had them before, you’ll never forget them.  If you’ve never had the opportunity to try them, I suggest you do so immediately. These are not the coconut clouds many think of, but instead a light meringue cooking that is sandwiched together with all sorts of amazing flavors in the form of butter creams, jams, ganache and more. The way you usually spot them in a shop window is through the sheer variety of bright colors. When you have a good macaron, the cookies will be crunchy on the outside, with a chewy consistency in the middle and take on the flavor of whatever is in between them. Melt in your mouth awesome. The cookie part of the macaron are actually very rarely flavored. It is through their maturation process that they take on the flavor of the filling and you’re left with a flavor packed goodie!

My first experience with macarons came from a trip to New York City and I happened upon Bouchons on Columbus Circle. I had seen macarons all over the city but it never quite piqued my interest. The flavor that caught my eye was a Salted Caramel. To a novice, it looked like a yummy sandwich cookie, I figured ‘why not.?’ I gave in to my curiosity and since then I’ve never looked back. It was such a unique experience, unlike anything else in the dessert category. It amazed me that they are gluten free and relatively light in calories (especially when you compare them against cream filled goodness). This began my obsession of searching them out and making them at home.

I spent weeks researching how to make macarons and I quickly understood why they aren’t carried in more bakeries and speciality shops. These little cookies are a b*tch to make. Just like with everything baking- exact instructions, perfect weights, timing, all of this needs to be followed to produce the results of perfection. Macarons are no different. What really messes with you is environment- your oven and the humidity, in addition to all the normal rules of baking to follow. So for every individual who embarks on making macarons, results will vary greatly.

Once I found what I thought was the perfect plan for me and my environment, I went to work. My first task was getting a kitchen scale, this I learned was something you couldn’t just wing. I also dug up my oven thermometer which seemed to be of utmost importance. I then purchased piping tips for my pastry bags. Basically getting all the equipment I didn’t already have so that I could narrow down the possibilities of failure later on. I’m a perfectionist by nature. I wanted to prepare myself mentally from the get-go that I would probably fail my first couple of times. It was basically what every other food blog told you when they weren’t being liars. In my perfectionist mind, achieving my expectations of failure was OK, but I would prefer to exceed them if at all possible.

My first batch was a Grapefruit Macarons with a Grapefruit Buttercream made from homemade Grapefruit Curd. They turned out surprisingly awesome, but being the perfectionist I am, I found that the ‘crust’ on the cookies was fragile and the macarons were too thin. They were also too sweet, so back to the drawing board I went. I ended up becoming even more obsessed and seeking out shops making them, books which focused on them, and even taking a class which helped troubleshoot a few areas. Above all this led me to wanting to share my knowledge for the greater good of macaron lovers everywhere (Nancy being the main inspiration in this case). Macarons are fussy, but even failed attempts will leave you with great toppers for ice cream, or fun colored gluten free cookies for the kids. So I invite you to expand out your kitchen equipment, prepare to sweat a bit, and have fun! Be sure to read the instructions all the way through so you know what to do with the ingredients and what equipment you’ll be needing. Happy Baking!

French Macarons
recipe from Blue Tierra Chocolates, yields about 60 cookies

2 teaspoons Egg White Powder

2 ounces Granulated Sugar

16 ounces Confectioners Sugar

9 ounces Almond Flour*

7 ounces Egg Whites (6 egg whites or so)

Gel Food Coloring**

Prior to wanting to make this recipe, weigh out your Egg Whites, erring on the side of more than what you should need. Cover with a paper towel and allow to sit in the refrigerator for at least five days, maximum a week. This allows the whites to age and allow excess moisture to be evaporated. On the day you wish to make macarons, leave them covered on the counter for a few hours to allow them to come to room temperature.

Cut parchment paper for your baking sheets, you’ll need between 6-7 sheets of parchment for the whole recipe. Be sure to cut for the exact size of your baking sheet. Extra paper or wrinkles can make the macarons crack. Then, prep a piping bag with a round tip. Place into a tall glass, and cuff over the lip to allow you to fill via hands free later on.

Using a kitchen scale, weigh out all of your ingredients and leave them out in separate bowls. Combine the Egg White Powder and  Granulated Sugar together with a fork to remove all lumps, set aside. Using a food processor, combine the Almond Flour and Confectioners Sugar. Pulse until they are combined. Sift the Almond mixture, note that at-home food processors will not be able to get the Almond Flour super fine, so there will be many larger Almond pieces after sifting. You can dump them into your sifted flour, the sifting process simply helps to remove the larger particles and lighten your mixture.

In a stainless steel or copper bowl, whisk your Egg Whites by hand until they become foamy. Add your Granulated Sugar and Egg White Powder, continue to whisk by hand until thoroughly incorporated. With a hand mixer, beat until stiff glossy peaks form. Scrape down the sides to double check that mixture is at stuff peak stage. You can double check this by carefully tilting your bowl upside down, if everything stays in place, you’re good to proceed. If they look dry or grainy, you’ve beaten them for too long. Mix in your Gel Food Coloring.

Gently fold 1/3 of the Almond Mixture into the Egg Whites at a time. Continue to fold in Almond Mixture until thoroughly incorporated. Try not to over mix as your goal is to keep as much air in the batter as possible. Place a sheet of parchment paper onto your baking sheet. Fill your pastry bag and begin to pipe out quarter sized dollops on your parchment paper. Keep about 1 1/2-2 inches apart from each dollop as the batter will spread. Forcefully rap the baking sheet on your surface to remove any air pockets in the batter. Slide filled parchment paper off baking sheet and place an empty one on. Repeat process until batter has been used up.

Allow the cookies to rest for about 30-60 minutes until they are no longer tacky to the touch. Preheat oven to 295 degrees. Place a sheet into the oven and bake for 6 minutes. Rotate pan and return for another 6 minutes. What you’ll be looking for is a very faint browning on the sides and the cookies to have puffed upwards forming feet. Remove and allow to cool completely.

Fill and allow to sit in your refrigerator for 12-24 hours before enjoying!

*If you cannot find Almond Flour, which is usually in the baking section or natural foods section of the supermarket, use blanched slivered almonds. Bob’s Red Mill Almond Flour is the most notable brand found in stores. You can also purchase it online at Amazon. To make the slivered Almonds into Almond Flour, overestimate the amount needed in the recipe. In your food processor, pulse the almonds. Be sure to pulse because over grinding them can result in a nut butter. After pulsing is completed, lie them out in a thin layer on a baking sheet. In an oven preheated to 200 degrees, bake for 15-20 minutes, do not brown. This process is simply to remove the excess moisture in the nuts from grinding. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before using.

**Gel Food Coloring is absolutely what I’d recommend for making macarons. By using liquid or powdered, it requires an immense amount in the recipe to get vibrant colors which can offset the balance of the batter you’re creating. Gel Food Coloring offers the vibrancy in small amounts. Some professional bakers will use Intense Powdered Food Coloring which is very hard to come by.

Here’s a great reference for mixing that has been a huge help for me:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDo0SgDKLVw&w=420&h=315]

You can also check out the blog Not So Humble Pie where she breaks down the macaron into amazing ways so you can learn extensive amounts of knowledge.

Filling Suggestions:

Decide ahead of time what flavor of macarons you’ll be craving. I’ve found that Swiss Buttercreams aren’t as sweet and carry flavor profiles really well. Swiss buttercreams are a essentially a cooked meringue or marshmallow with butter folded in. You can mix fruit purees or curd into them for a fruity macaron. You can mix ice cream toppings into them such as caramel or hot fudge for a sinfully sweet macaron. Or you can add vanilla bean scrapings for a wonderfully pure filling.

Swiss buttercreams are essentially all the same and making them into a macaron filling is all about personal taste preferences. You’ll start by adding small amounts of your flavoring to the buttercream, and adding small amounts until you have reached your desired flavor profile. Keep in mind that the more liquid you add to something like this, the more it will separate. It will taste good, but sometimes end up looking a lot more like cottage cheese.

Swiss Buttercream

5  large Egg Whites

1 1/2 cups Granulated Sugar

pinch of Salt

1 1/2 pounds unsalted Butter, room temperature

Whisk Egg Whites, Sugar  and Salt together over simmering water until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved. Place mixture into a mixing bowl and whip until it has doubled in volume and becomes slightly stiff.

Attach your paddle attachment for your mixer, and slowly add in chunks of butter. Increase speed (up to Medium) and continue to beat until mixture begins to look light and fluffy. There will be a time when the mixture separates a bit, but keep beating! Scrape the bowl and continue to mix if needed.

Proceed to use with flavorings!

Vanilla Bean Macarons
Made by adding scraped Vanilla Beans to the Swiss Buttercream.

Grapefruit Macarons
Made by adding Grapefruit Zest to the Granulated Sugar in the cookie recipe. And then adding homemade Grapefruit Curd to the Swiss Buttercream.

Raspberry Almond Macarons
Perfection not achieved every time! Some slightly over browned, and too much liquid in the raspberry fruit puree, but SO delicious regardless! Made with Raspberry Fruit Puree and Almond Extract added to the Swiss Buttercream.

Salted Caramel Macarons
WAY too thin and fragile, teaches you to always use aged Egg Whites! Made by adding Caramel topping to Swiss Buttercream.

Written by Tarte Chic

Author Kat Nielsen (formerly Kat Wojtylak) is a creative type with an immense love for food. She maintains a day job handling marketing and brand support to various companies while enjoying her evenings and weekends writing recipes and blogging all about her culinary experiences.

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