French Macarons have earned their finicky reputation, but the resulting cookies with their crispy shells and chewy filling are well worth the effort!
Moms & Daughters, baking together
My younger daughter is here, visiting before she heads off to start graduate school. Having her here means one thing...she and I will be baking.
This daughter is the one that makes incredible cakes (and if you don't know, head over to her Facebook page, Sweetheart Cakes and Treats and prepare to be amazed. It's ok...I'll wait...). She loves to try new, interesting, and sometimes challenging, recipes.
Actually, she's like me that way, and she inspires me to try recipes that I wouldn't necessarily attempt. I had some egg whites left over from making Lemon Curd, so my daughter decided that we should make French Macarons. O-o-o-o-kay...
What are French Macarons?
French Macarons are dainty little confections with crisp outer shells and chewy seductive centers. At their base, they feature little ridges called “feet” around the cookie that are the mark of a well-made macaron. And their reputation as a finicky cookie are well noted. Oh sure, we'll just whip up a batch, easy peasy...NOT!
(Side note: if you just say Macaroons, people think you mean the treats made with coconut flakes...these are definitely not those!).
The recipe from Entertaining with Beth had some really good tips and tricks for making the macarons, and even a video to watch…that was really helpful for Macaron beginners. The recipe from Ahead of Thyme was more straightforward, but it also had good clear instructions and notes.
My recipe for French Macarons below is an amalgam of the two recipes I used. The ingredients are adapted from both Cooking with Beth and Ahead of Thyme, and the instructions were adapted from Cooking with Beth.
Luckily, these blogs from which I had pulled the recipes had done all the failing for me, so I could just use their lessons learned and plow right ahead, right?
How to make French Macarons
Next, whip egg whites, sugar, flavoring, and color into a stiff meringue (one recipe had us add cream of tartar and a pinch of salt to the meringue. More on that later…).
Finally, gently fold the dry ingredients into the meringue. Pipe the batter onto Silpat- or parchment-lined half sheet baking pan, allow them to dry for 30 minutes, then bake for 20 minutes. Voilà, perfectly puffed macarons with their distinctive feet.
We felt like we knew what to do, so we dived right in…and failed.
[insert tires screeching sound here]
What can go wrong
These French Macarons tasted good, but the look and texture were all off. What went wrong, you ask? We think it was several factors:
- The egg whites had been sitting for several days in the refrigerator, so they weren’t as fresh as newly cracked egg whites would be. Hmmm…maybe a reason, maybe not.
- I didn’t have any cream of tartar, which helps stabilize the meringue, so we proceeded without it. Not a likely factor.
- Sifting the almond flour and the powdered sugar took a lot time, and since I had made the meringue, it sat for quite a while. Maybe enough to deflate a bit?.
- It was a humid day. The batter needs to dry out before baking to increase the surface tension of the batter as it expands, thereby allowing it to puff up properly. Humidity definitely had an effect. Probably a factor, but not the main one.
- We overmixed the almond meal mixture into the meringue, thus deflating the meringue. This is a well-noted stumbling block noted by both bloggers, and probably the main reason for our failure.
** SIGH **
Whatever the reason(s), my daughter wanted to try again. I was more hesitant, but she can be stubborn (again, like me). So the next day try again, we did.
It was a beautiful (read: less humid) day, we had fresh eggs, I had bought the cream of tartar, and she counted the folding strokes. She piped the batter, we let it dry, baked it…and…AND…WE HAD FEET!
Tips for French Macaron success
My first tip is be patient when you sift the powdered sugar and almond flour together. This step is tedious, but is important to made the powder as smooth as possible, and remove any larger almond pieces that would make the shells look less than ideal.
The next important tip is to be careful when folding in the almond flour & sugar mixture into the meringue. Under-mix and your macarons will be lumpy and cracked when they bake and won't have feet; over-mix and your macarons will be flat and still won't have feet. Be diligent, and count carefully.
My third and final tip is to allow the rounds to dry before going into the oven. When they dry out, the shells can't spread out in the oven, and are forced to rise up (that's what creates the feet). And it's such a good feeling when you have success!
The fillings are up to you
You’ll notice I didn’t include the filling recipes because there you can get creative. Use classic buttercream frosting, jam, caramel, peanut butter, or anything else you’d like.
My daughter crushed up Oreo cookies with their filling for her cookies & cream filling, and used crushed graham crackers, melted marshmallow, and chocolate ganache for a s’mores variety.
Also, you can flavor the meringue before folding in the almond flour & sugar mixture (think mint, fruit puree, coffee, cocoa…). The possibilities are endless!
These treats are finicky, and they deserve that reputation, but my daughter didn’t let me quit. You should’ve seen us dance about when our second attempt came out of the oven…we kept shouting, “we have feet!” over and over.
She inspired me, and I hope I’ve inspired you. Want a challenge? You've got this!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
Recipes using egg yolks
If a recipe uses egg whites, what do you do with the egg yolks? I've got you covered! From custards to sauces, you'll be able to use up those yolks.
- Hollandaise Sauce
- Lemon Curd
- Boston Cream Pie
- Chocolate Mint Chip Gelato
- Caramel Swirl Almond Gelato
- 1 cup powdered sugar, (3-1/2 oz, 100g)
- ¾ cup almond flour, (2-3/4 oz, 80g)
- 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
- ¼ cup granulated sugar, (1-3/4 oz, 50g)
- ¼ tsp cream of tartar
- pinch kosher salt
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- food coloring, optional, see Recipe Notes
- Preheat oven to 300°F degrees.
- Using a sifter, combine the powdered sugar and the almond flour together. You want a really fine powder mixture to create a smooth and pretty top to your cookie. This can take a while so be prepared. What remains after sifting will be the larger lumps of almond pieces...just discard those, or use them to snack on.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat egg whites until foamy, then add granulated sugar, cream of tartar, and salt. Whip until they form a peak that stands upright, about 8-10 mins (think Seattle Space needle).
- Add the vanilla and food coloring (if using).
- Fold the almond flour mixture into the egg white mixture, counting about 65-75 turns of your spatula.
- Tap the pan hard at least 2-3 times to release the air bubbles. This will prevent the tops of your macarons from cracking.
- Let the rounds sit out for 20-30 minutes, or up to an hour if you want, allowing them time to dry out a bit before hitting the hot oven. They should be "tacky" to the touch, but not stick to your fingertips.
- Bake for 20 minutes. Do not underbake, even if they look done (otherwise they will stick to your tray).
- Allow to cool, then fill with chocolate ganache or other fillings. Enjoy!