I never understood the fuss about French Macarons until I tried the Passion Fruit as well as the Persian Rose Macarons at Chantal Guillon’s in Palo Alto. I think I bought a package of 20 Macarons for myself and a smaller package of 10 for my friend Irina. I ate the first one in the car on the ride to her home (that was within a minute after we left the store), 1 immediately at her house (it takes 1 minute from the Macaron place to my friends house), another 4-5 during the evening, a couple the next morning an the rest on the flight home. When I arrived in Seattle they were all gone! The plan was to distribute them over 3 days (French Macarons taste best when eaten within 3 days), but they tasted soooo good, that I ate them all within 24 hours – 20 x 200 calories each – yikes..that’s quite the calorie intake within 24 hours, but they were worth it!)
Well this weekend I finally (for now) satisfied my urge for Macarons as I must have baked 100 of them and ate at least 30 myself. Its not really that they are hard to make, it just takes a couple of tries to really figure out the consistency of the Meringue and the technique of the piping. I would say those are the two most important factors. I must have read at least 50 recipes and it seems although they all had listed pretty much the same ingredients (almond flour, egg whites, powdered sugar and regular sugar), there are as many different ways to prepare the Macarons as there are flavors out there.
My biggest challenge was coloring the Macarons. In the stores and online the Macarons show the most precious pastel colors and my colors – I tried to go for yellow and for red – just turned out super in your face dirty pink and ugly mustard yellow. I think the reason behind that was that I used Almond Meal instead of Almond Flour. The difference being that Almond Meal is made out of almonds that still have their brown shell on where almond flour is made from blanched almonds. I couldn’t find anything else here in my supermarkets and even tried to grind my own blanched almonds but they either stayed too coarse or turned into paste. So after 5 tries of coloring I gave up and ordered Almond flour online. So in a couple of weeks I will give it another try with the coloring and see if I can achieve nice Easter pastel colors.
The below Macaron’s might not be the prettiest but its not always about the looks, its what’s on the inside that counts, right? And if I have learned one thing, no matter which color your Macaron has, the filling is what truly makes the difference. I tried the very popular Martha Stewart Swiss Buttercream filling and – yuck – I didn’t like that at all. I will stick to Genache and fruit fillings and will experiment with mousse fillings with my next batches.
For the below Macarons I used Nutella/Chocolate Ganache filling as well as very fresh Lemon Curd filling. The Lemon Curd filling would be great for any time of the year but especially for summer as it tastes so refreshing. The Chocolate/Ganache filling is good at any time of the year and if you wanted to wrap those up as a gift, Ganache filled Macarons can be easier transported than the lemon curd filling, Lemon curd is great for at home but not so great to transport as it doesn’t get rock hard like the Ganache.
Give those delicate French treats a try, like I said they are not really hard to make and so much cheaper than buying them in the store at $2 a piece. If you can’t get the right consistency though for the Meringue, start over again with new egg whites as they won’t come out with “feet” and “dome” (see the photo above top row to the right shows the bottom feet and top dome of a perfect Macaron if I can say so :-)) if your egg whites are not stiff. If they are too stiff you can always fold them in a little bit longer with the almond/sugar mixture and make the Meringue more liquid but if the Meringue is liquid to begin with, there is no fix and your shells will be flat and spread out.
- 2 egg whites
- 2.5 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2/3 cup almond flour
Lemon Curd filling:
- 1/2 cup of sugar
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 stick (120 g) of butter
- 2 organic lemons
Chocolate Ganache filling:
- 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1.5 oz finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
- 1/2 teaspoon butter
- 3 tablespoons of Nutella
- Whisk together the almond meal and the confectioner’s sugar and sift over a large bowl – set aside.
- Pour the egg whites into a standing mixer and combine with the sugar. Mix on high speed (Kitchen Aid #8) for 6 minutes. The egg whites should show shiny peaks and when you lift up the whisk you have a “puff ball” of super stiff egg whites stuck in the whisk that only falls off when you tap the whisk really hard against the bowl. That’s how stiff the egg whites need to be. I watched this video and it really helped me figure out the consistency of the egg whites and how to pipe the shells. If you want to color the Macarons, add a bit of the food coloring just shortly before the Meringue is done – after approximately 5 minutes of whipping.
- Fold the egg whites into the almond/sugar mixture until combined – between 40-50 strokes – don’t under or over – mix. The mixture should have the consistency of honey and take 30 second to fall off your spatula.
- Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch piping tip. Pipe 1-inch rounds about 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets (you start with a mound and then a couple round swirls and lift off the tip to the outside).Tap the baking sheet a couple times hard on the counter to release any air bubbles. Let the unbaked Macaroons rest for 30 minutes to help them set a bit and form a “shell” on top. This will also create the famous “Macaron feet”.
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and bake the Macarons for 15 minutes. Let them cool out on a cookie rack.
- Meanwhile prepare the fillings: (these can be prepared ahead of time so that they are cooled and can be piped onto your shells without being all runny.)
- For the Chocolate Ganache: bring the heavy cream to a slow boil, add the chopped up chocolate and butter, stir to combine. Stir in the Nutella. Let the mixture cool out until spreadable.
- For the Lemon Curd filling: beat the yolks with the sugar in a bowl and pour them into a small saucepan together with the juice and the zest of the 2 lemons. Cook the mixture on a low flame until the custard is nice and thick, then remove the pan from the heat and fold in the softened butter. When the butter is completely melted, place the custard in the fridge to set.
- Now pipe a little bit of the filling onto a shell, set a second shell on top and squeeze delicately down but not so hard that you break the shell – Voila – your Macarons! If you don’t eat them all at once like me, put the Macarons in an airtight container and keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. Eat at room temperature.