French. Macarons. Yes, those delicate, glossy, perfect looking treats that I struggle with making like it is no ones business. The French macaron contains very few ingredients; egg whites, granulated sugar, salt, almond flour and powdered sugar.
The first time I was introduced to making these was in 2013 in culinary school. I was terrible at them. I was patient. I would even talk to the batter, and while they were in the oven. I would try to give them pep talks to do what they are supposed to do. The trick is for them to have “feet”. Meaning they start to rise as they bake and keep those little feet/edges. Mine never got feet while in school. I a also would get nubs on the tops of them while piping and those never baked away. At that point, I walked away from them entirely and was just determined they are my nemesis and I just cannot make them.
Fast forward to August 2018 while I’m in Vegas with my mom and step-dad. My mom has a gluten allergy so she is always looking for something that is gluten-free but actually tastes good. At a little cafe in one of the casinos they had French macarons. My mom was so excited and I started to flashback to the days when I tried to make them in school and failed miserably. My mom wanted to learn how to make them and I wanted to be able to teach her.
When I got back home I started reading articles and different recipes on Pinterest. Yes, I am slightly addicted and yes I have several boards of nothing but recipes that I want to try but I haven’t. What I noticed is every recipe for the original almond shell is different. The amounts of each ingredient, the time spent mixing, and even the length of time and temperature to bake them at. It can be a bit overwhelming and a little discouraging. What kept me motived, watching the Kid’s Baking Championship on Food Network. Those little ones could just whip up some French macarons with their eyes closed! I was like umm, no way am I going to let these delicious treats win. And if these kids can do this, so can I.
I ordered a cookbook online from Amazon called Les Petits Macarons by Kathryn Gordon and Anne E McBride. I read every technique and tip in this book several times. I felt confident. I was ready to try and attempt French macarons again.
I started whipping the egg whites, adding meringue powder as a stabilizer (something I picked up online), and slowly added in the granulated sugar. After 11 minutes of whipping on high, my meringue looked amazing!
Perfectly stiff peaks and had a beautiful glossy shine to it. This made my confident go through the roof. I was pumped! I mixed in the flour and powdered sugar and piped this little gems onto the silicone mat. The other trick with French macarons is they need to form a skin. So, once they are piped, they need to sit out for 30+ minutes and air out.
I still got the nubs when I piped them but I didn’t care. I wanted to get these into the oven! The recipe wanted to start the oven at 200 degrees and cook for 15 minutes and then raise the temperature to 350 degrees for another 9 minutes.
I failed, miserably. No feet, no shiny color, absolutely nothing. Just a flat mess. I was devastated.I scrapped them off into the trash.
I read some more articles as to why they didn’t rise. Of course, I’m reading different reasons I failed and I’m frustrated again. What I also don’t understand is I feel like every blog and article out there never talks about the failures people have when it comes to making these. I’m being completely honest here, these things are challenging!
One thing I found that could be a factor is the oven temperature. I bought an oven thermometer to make sure my oven wasn’t too hot. I did find out it really takes a bit longer to get the preset temperature. At least it wasn’t too hot.
Another issue can be how the batter is mixed. There is a specific method that is used called the “J” method. Start at the center, streak the spatula down the middle and to the left to make a “J”. I was doing my own method the first time around that I’m thinking didn’t want to work in my favor. Note to self, try the “J” method.
Final issue, the skin. Humidity can play a huge role with the skin not forming and the macarons not drying out properly. Humidity is an issue in Texas, all. the. time. I needed to find a solution to the humidity.
Today, I made another attempt at macarons with having these issues in mind. I found yet another recipe online that I wanted to try. As I’m whipping up the egg whites, I’m getting a little frustrated. The recipe called for two large egg whites. It was taking such a long time for my mixing bowl to reach those eggs and whip them up! (Note to self, find a recipe that uses more than 2 eggs). I used the “J” method and while mixing, I would turn the bowl a little more each time. I did a total of 8 turns and “J’s”. Once I piped them out, I decided to put the cooking fan on and set the baking sheets on top of the stove. I let them air out for about 45 minutes and guess what?! THE PERFECT SKIN! I can’t even begin to describe the excitement and happiness I was feeling.
This time, I decided I’d bake them at 325 degrees for 10 minutes. Before I put them in the oven, I did notice that the temperature inside wasn’t quite 325 degrees but I put them in always. (Another note to self, wait until the oven is at the temperature per the thermometer). I looked like a little kid. I sat on the floor in front of that oven watching them ever so closely. With a little over 2 minutes left on the timer, I see the feet! But, I also see the tops were browning. I didn’t care thought, I HAD FEET!
I started dancing. I haven’t been so happy that a dessert was successful I think…ever! I kept the shell flavor original almond flavor and I made a honey buttercream for the filling. Things I have also read online indicate that they taste better once filled, and after sitting for at least 24 hours in the fridge. So, they are sandwiched, and sitting in the fridge as I anxiously wait to eat them tomorrow!
They are far from perfect for me but I am thrilled that I have finally had a successful batch! I will post the recipes I used below for both the French macaron and the filling along with the steps I took.
60 grams egg whites
75 grams almond flour
90 grams powder sugar
50 grams granulated sugar
1/4t meringue powder
Gel food coloring or flavor extract
- Using stand mixer and whisk attachment, whisk together egg whites and meringue powder on power 6 for about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the granulated sugar in two parts, and increase the speed to 8. Whisk together for 11 minutes or until stiff peaks form. (This is also when to add food coloring and or flavor extract so it is thoroughly mixed)
- Sift almond flour and powder sugar together.
- Once you have stiff peaks, remove the bowl from the stand mixer and add the almond flour and powder sugar. Combine the ingredients just until they are combined using the “J” method – start at the top middle, pull the spatula through the middle, and to the left scraping the side. Turn the bowl 90 degrees after each “J”
- Once batter is combined, put into a piping bag and pipe onto either a silicone mat or parchment paper. (I have the silicone mats with the stencil of the macaron shapes. There are several print out stencils available online that can be placed under the mat or parchment. Remember to remove the stencil after piping)
- Allow macarons to air out and create a “skin”, about 30 minutes. When you touch the tops of your macarons, none of the batter should stick to your finger
- Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Bake for about 8-9 minutes. Be sure to watch them so they do not darken on top. Additionally, the lighter the color of the macaron, the easier the color will start to brown.
- Allow macarons to cool completely before removing from the silicone mat or parchment paper.
- Fill with buttercream filling and put into a tightly closed container into the fridge to set up. Pull out of fridge 30 minutes before serving.
1 stick of butter; room temperature
2 cups of powder sugar
- Using stand mixer and paddle attachment, combine butter and honey for 2 minutes on medium speed.
- Scrape down the sides and add one cup of powder sugar. Start the mixing speed on low and gradually increase to a medium speed. Mix for about 2 minutes. Repeat with second cup of powder sugar.
- Add tablespoon of milk and mix on medium speed until buttercream is smooth.
- Put buttercream into piping bag and construct macarons.