Stella over at the Brave Tart recently wrote a post about Macaron Myths. She demistified a lot of steps to the macaron process: aging the egg whites, bringing them to room temperature, drying the almond flour, adding cornstarch to the powdered sugar, baking on a humid day….Basically, the two most important steps to successful macarons were: beating the egg whites to the correct stiffness, and folding the mixture with the almond flour and powdered sugar to the correct consistency.
When all I had to worry about were these two steps, the recipe became much easier. I didn’t have to think too far ahead when it came time to making macarons. My success rate improved a little – up to about 65% compared to 35% – but the steps were way easier.
Whenever I make macarons, I always make a half-batch. Since I never know if the shells will co-operate, there’s less waste if there’s less batter to begin with. Since I use egg whites from a carton, they are easy to measure out. I also use a kitchen scale set to grams to measure out all the ingredients, to ensure the correct amounts.
The flavors I made were: pistachio, lavender, lemon, and tangerine. The yellow and orange ones were sacrifices to the Flat Macaron gods, which is why there are hardly any of them in the pictures. I had never baked with lavender before, and loved the delicate, floral flavor it gave the purple macarons. Decorating the shells was fun, although challenging with a toddler clinging to my legs.
adapted from Brave Tart
- Preheat the oven to 300° and have ready a large (18”) pastry bag, fitted with a plain tip, along with two sheet pans lined with parchment paper. Trace shapes onto parchment if desired.
- Process the almond flour and powdered sugar in a food processor 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. Add this into the dry mix.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg whites, sugar, and salt and turn the mixer to medium (4 on a Kitchen Aid). Whip for 3 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-high (6 on a Kitchen Aid) and whip another 3 minutes, then crank the speed to 8 for go 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.
- 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. Dump in the dry ingredients all at once and fold them in. Use both a folding motion (to incorporate the dry ingredients) and a pressing motion, to deflate the meringue against the side of the bowl. After about 25 folds the mixture will still have a quite lumpy and stiff texture. Another 15 strokes will see you to “just about right.” Keep in mind that macaronage is about deflating the whites, so don’t feel like you have to treat them oh-so-carefully.
- 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 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.
- Bake for about 18 minutes, cool thoroughly, then peel the cooled macarons from the parchment, using a metal spatula if needed.
- For lavender macarons: add ¼ tsp dried, crushed lavender to the egg whites.
- For lemon or tangerine macarons: add 1 tsp desired zest to the egg whites.
- For pistachio macarons: use finely ground pistachios (skins removed) in place of the almond flour.