French macarons are small light meringue-based cookies, crunchy outside and soft inside, made with almond flour and sandwiched with some filling. They take a little bit of practice to get right, but once you’ve learnt it can become seriously addictive as…. there is no end to the colour and flavour varieties you can create.
My road to perfect macarons, those with cute feet, smooth tops, and not hollow insides, took four trials. I’m very happy that I didn’t give up as this time they turned out magnificent!
For the filling you can choose among buttercream, jam, curd, chocolate ganache and etc. As I baked these macarons to decorate my son’s birthday cake, I went with cake frosting – whipped hazelnut chocolate ganache.
For French Macarons
- 115g blanched almonds or almond flour, or whatever nut you like
- 230g powdered sugar
- 144 g egg whites, temperature and age not important!
- 72 g sugar
- the scrapings of 1 vanilla bean or 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp (2 g) kosher salt
For the hazelnut chocolate ganache
- 40 g bittersweet (70% cacao) chocolate, chopped
- 40 g milk (40% cacao) chocolate, chopped
- 100 g hazelnut butter (or peanut)
- 100 g heavy cream, cold
For the macarons
- Preheat the oven to 150°C and have ready a large pastry bag, fitted with a plain tip and two parchment lined sheet pans.
- Simply sift almond flour with the powdered sugar and set aside. If you’re using whole nuts, bust out your food processor. Process the almonds and powdered sugar for about a minute. Take out the mixture and sift it, reserving whatever bits don’t pass through the sieve. Add these bits back to the food processor and run the machine for another minute. Sift again. You should have about 2 tbsp of slightly chunkier almond bits. Just add those into the dry mix.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg whites, sugar, vanilla bean (not the extract), and salt and turn the mixer to medium. Whip for 3 minutes. They will not seem especially foamy at that point.
- Increase the speed to medium-high and whip another 3 minutes, then increase the speed for another 3 minutes.
- At that point, turn the mixer off and add in any extracts/flavor/color and whip for a final minute on the highest speed, just to to evenly distribute the color/flavor.
- At the end of this minute, you should have a very stiff, dry meringue. When you remove the whisk attachment, there will be a big clump of meringue in the center, just knock the whisk against the bowl to free it. If the meringue has not become stiff enough to clump inside the whisk, continue beating for another minute, or until it does so.
- Now dump in the dry ingredients all at once and fold them in with a rubber spatula. Use both a folding motion (to incorporate the dry ingredients) and a rubbing/smearing motion, to deflate the meringue against the side of the bowl. After about 25 turns (or folds or however you want to call “a single stroke of mixing”) the mixture will still have a quite lumpy and stiff texture. Another 15 strokes will see you to “just about right.” Essentially, the macaron batter needs enough thickness that it will mound up on itself, but enough fluidity that after 20 seconds, it will melt back down.
- Transfer about half the batter to a piping bag. Pipe the batter into the pre-traced circles on the baking sheet. Stop piping just shy of the borders of the circle, as the batter will continue to spread just a bit.
- After piping your macarons, take hold of the sheet pan and hit it hard against your counter. Rotate the pan ninety degrees and rap two more times. This will dislodge any large air bubbles that might cause your macarons to crack
- Bake for about 18 minutes, or until you can cleanly peel the parchment paper away from a macaron. If, when you try to pick up a macaron, the top comes off in your hand, it’s not done.
- Once the macarons have baked, cool thoroughly on the pans, before peeling the cooled macarons from the parchment. Use a metal spatula if necessary.
For he whipped hazelnut chocolate ganache
- Place both chocolates in the top of a double boiler set over hot water and allow to melt, stirring often.
- Remove from heat and whisk in the hazelnut butter.
- Add the heavy cream and with the help of an electric mixer, whisk until soft peaks form. Be careful not to overbeat, as the frosting will become grainy.
- Fill a pastry bag fitted with the ganache and pipe a quarter sized mound of ganache into half of the shells, then sandwich them with their naked halves.
- Undermixed macaron batter is quite stiff. If you spoon some out and drop it back into the mix, it will just sit there and never incorporate. Do this test before bagging your batter and save yourself the trouble of baking of undermixed macarons!
- Overmixed macaron batter has a runny, pancake batter-like texture. It will ooze continuously, making it impossible to pipe into pretty circles.
- Macarons, against all pastry traditions, actually get better with age. The shells soften and become more chewy, mingling with the flavor of the buttercream too. So, while of course you can eat them right away, don’t hesitate to store them refrigerated for up to a week in an air tight container. Set them out at room temperature for a few hours before consuming.
Macarons recipe from Brave Tart