I told my boyfriend the other day that I "discovered" macarons. He laughed at me (rightly so). While that is totally an exaggeration, I have been obsessed with this little French cookie for what seems like forever, long before they were commercially available at every bakery. I think it started when I watched the 2006 Sofia Coppola Marie Antoinette movie. While I admit the movie wasn't the best, the pastries they used on set were incredible, and I was set on recreating the colorful cookies. I went out to purchase my first pound of almond flour (before the GF movement was big and it was super hard to find). I totally had beginner's luck the first time, because the macaron shells baked up quite nicely and I filled them with buttercream and jam. Then came the macaron dry spell--no matter what I did I could not recreate them. I tried probably 8 or 9 different recipes, spent way too much money on almond flour, and was just so frustrated. Cracked shells, exploding shells, burnt shells, sticky shells--I couldn't find a way to recreate my original success.
I eventually sought help from the professionals at Sur la Table and took a macaron making class in Los Angeles. It was there that I finally found a recipe that yielded consistent results and bought some kitchen tools that made the difference. While I am normally not a fan of investing in gadgets for the sake of making one recipe, I've found these to be helpful for multiple recipes and they've been worth the initial investment:
Electronic Kitchen Scale--I think part of my initial struggle was that the ingredients were not measured exact enough. Not all egg whites are of equal volume, so when a recipe was calling for 2 egg whites there is a large spectrum of what 2 egg whites actually means. Measuring correctly is important for all baking but especially macarons. I immediately noticed a big improvement by following recipes that list everything in exact grams.
Mini Food Processor--The almond flour you pick up at the store isn't always ground super finely By putting all your dry ingredients in the food processor and pulsating it for a minute or two, you guarantee that your ingredients are well-incorporated and that your almond flour is superfine, which will give you those smooth macaron shells.
For these macarons I used a recipe by Culinary Couture.
1. Start by measuring out the above ingredients for the macaron shells using your kitchen scale.
2. Start by placing your almond flour, powdered sugar, and cocoa in the food processor and pulse until fine and homogenous (see below).
3. Next, add your egg whites to a bowl, preferably a metal one. Make sure it is clean! Even the smallest amount of residual grease can affect your meringue construct. Most macaron recipes, including this one, recommend you use aged egg whites which are essentially egg whites that have been allowed to breathe for a half a day or so. This allows some water to evaporate off them which creates a stronger protein structure for your meringue. I personally have found that a way to get away with fresh egg whites is to add a pinch of salt to your egg whites before blending. Blend on a medium speed with a mixer until it looks like latte foam (below).
4. Once you hit the latte foam stage you are ready to add the granulated sugar, a few teaspoons at a time, blending on medium-high speed the entire time. Keep blending rapidly until the mixture becomes white, shiny, and thick (below).
5. Your meringue is done when you can lift up your beaters and stiff mountain peaks form (below).
6. Now you're ready to add your dry ingredients from the food processor. Add in 4 equal parts, blending as you go. The word for mixing your batter is called the macaronage technique. It basically refers to the process of deflating the meringue you worked so hard to make, while incorporating the dry ingredients to form a homogenous, sticky mixture. There are many videos on YouTube showing this--definitely watch one before you try to see the rhythm. It is more of a scrape-and turn-of-the-bowl movement and not just stirring the mixture.
7. After adding all the dry ingredients and macaronage-ing, "paint" the mixture up the side of the bowl. If the batter runs like hot lava, your macaron batter is ready. If it is too stiff, scrape the batter back down and macaronage a few more times then repeat the paint process again.
8. Transfer batter to a piping bag with a 1/4-inch round tip. Do this immediately after your batter is done because the batter dries out fast. Keeping it in a pastry bag prevents this. You can freehand your macaron circles or trace circles onto parchment paper like I did (just use a lid off a small jar or biscuit cutter). I used to believe in using a circular silplat mat like this, but I have since changed my mind because I found that after the first couple uses the non-stick surface wears away and the macarons start to stick to the bottom--not fun after you spent so long making them. Good old-fashioned parchment paper works great after you get the rhythm of piping.
9. Pipe circles, airing on the side of too little batter rather than too much (note the macarons sticking together below--too much batter!) The batter s p r e a d s!
10. Rap pan (hard!) on counter 5-10 times to release bubbles from the batter (you can see below on mine where bubbles were released).
11. let macarons dry for 30 minutes to an hour, or until the macarons have lost some of their sheen and they are dry to very light touch.
12. Bake at 300 degrees for 15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Watch them like a hawk! If your oven runs hotter and you notice the tops getting browned, put tinfoil over the pan. Macarons are done when the shell doesn't move off the bottom when gently wiggled and the macarons slip off the parchment paper easily after cooling.
The filling for this could literally not be easier--store-bought caramel sauce from Trader Joes and toasted coconut flakes mixed together! You could totally make your own caramel too if you're feeling fancy.
13. Toast 1 cup of coconut in the oven (300 degrees) until lightly brown. Be careful because it can burn quickly. After toasting I put it in the food processor to make it finer and more easily to spoon onto macarons.
14. Add 1/2-3/4 cup of caramel sauce to toasted coconut. You can warm caramel in the microwave to make it easier to mix if needed.
15. To assemble, take 1 macaron shell and spoon on a generous amount of filling. Sprinkle with a pinch of high quality salt, like fleur de sel. Top with a second macaron shell.
16. Melt chocolate chips in microwave for 30 seconds, stirring every 10 seconds. Place melted chocolate in ziplock bag and make a tiny cut on the corner, thereby creating a make-do piping bag. Pipe zig-zags across the top of each macaron and let dry.
Macarons will keep for 2 days, but I promise they won't last that long :) Xx