I did it.
Oh yes, my friends. That lofty peak, that holy grail of baking, those finicky little bites of meringue and almond and delectable filling – after a number of sticky, flat, and frustrating attempts, the elusive French macaron is MINE.
You may notice that some of my shells have cracked tops. You may notice that a few are lacking noticeable “feet,” that bubbly little region on the bottom of each cookie. You may also notice that I don’t care, because I’ve finally figured out how to make these little suckers, and it’s all going to get better from here.
I really wish I could offer some profound macaron wisdom for any who, like me, have spent more time than they care to admit dropping almond meal onto a food scale, grain by grain, for fear of upsetting the delicate balance of French patisserie. Unfortunately, I don’t tend to be that useful, and this is no exception. Instead, I’ve tried to emphasize the important steps in the recipe below – the things that I messed up and gradually and by process of elimination learned to do correctly.
Afraid of macarons? I don’t blame you. I’m still learning their secrets, but I can promise that they’re attainable – in addition to delicious, gluten-free, and lowish-calorie (they’re made with egg whites; that counts, right?) – and really, I’d like to see anyone come up with a reason compelling enough to refute that argument.
Strawberry Buttercream Macarons
This is a very basic shell recipe. Since the filling I chose was strawberry buttercream, I chose to make the shells pink, but you can easily omit the food coloring (or use a different color) and fill with anything you choose. Nutella? Dulce de leche? A ganache of some sort? Go to town.
3 oz. egg whites (about 3 whites), aged at room temperature at least a day [This is important. Don’t be lazy.]
3 oz. granulated sugar
6 oz. powdered sugar, divided
3 oz. almond meal
Generous 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
Food coloring (optional)
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a stand mixer using the whisk attachment (or by hand, if you want a workout), whisk egg whites to foamy. Add granulated sugar and whip to soft peaks. Do not overbeat! You’ll end up with flat, oozy shells.
With a spatula, gently fold in 3 oz. powdered sugar. This is important. Don’t use the mixer. Add food coloring, if using. Gently fold in almond meal and remaining 3 oz. of powdered sugar, then vanilla. Again, if you’re folding, you should not be using your mixer. Spatula is the way to go.
Pipe batter into small rounds on parchment paper. Let sit 1-2 hours, or until rounds have developed a hard shell. If you’re planning on making your own filling, this is a great time to do so. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit; bake 8-10 minutes. Cool completely on racks before filling.
Just a note: Every time I’ve made macarons, I’ve ended up baking them for at least 10 and sometimes 12 minutes. Check at 8, but if your shells don’t come off of the parchment fairly easily, they probably need another minute or two.
3 large strawberries
1 stick butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-4 cups powdered sugar, divided
1 tablespoon heavy cream
In a food processor, pulse strawberries until pureed. Add butter and vanilla, then 2 cups powdered sugar. Pulse until combined. Add cream, then remaining sugar, pulsing after each addition.
When buttercream has reached the desired consistency, pipe onto the flat side of one cookie and sandwich with a second.