Macarons seemed like the best place to start this all off for a few reasons. They’re cute, popular, and actually easier to make than one would imagine. That being said wonderfully rustic, adorable, and stupidly delicious macarons are easy to make. Picture perfect ones, however, are a different story. I’ve made a lot of macs in my day and I still cross my finger that every batch will have perfect feet,* chewy centers, and be free of any and all rogue cracks. More often than not they come out smooth as silk and bursting with light clean flavors. Today just was not my day. Consider it my disclaimer that macarons are just plain ole’ temperamental. You may do every little thing perfect and something will just not be as pretty as you’d like. These will be freaking delicious with a plush chewy center and a shatteringly crisp shell that just beg for a satiny buttercream filling. I can forgive these guys for being a bit bumpy. In fact if I keep too many of these around the house I’m going to start getting bumpy too. The amount of butter in the filling is no joke. If they don’t come out the way you want them crumble them up and use them to decorate a cake, or top some ice cream, or just give them away to the people in your life who don’t/won’t/can’t cook. They’ll still be impressed and if you’re not satisfied try again.
This time the recipe is not mine, which is kind of a crime for my first post. It can be found here on Brave Tart’s site. I halved my recipe and got 24 macs out of it. I also used her Swiss buttercream recipe using my own homemade vanilla extract (saved for a later post.)
To put it bluntly her recipe kicks ass but there are still some tips to help you out as you go that I’ve learned over the years.
*Feet are the little bumpy lining on the bottom of the macaron shell that is made when the macaron rises, assuming your batter isn’t too wet.
First: get your Mise in gear! Mise from “mise en place” or French for “Get your shit together” (no, not transliterated) is step number one. You’re going to want to have your oven preheated to 300 degrees on an average day, 275 if its really humid out. I like to have my oven preheated for at least 20 minutes before I throw anything in there. They say that every time you open the oven you lose 25 degrees. A longer preheat period allows the walls of your oven to truly heat through which means that your temps will bounce back a lot quicker. How do you know you have the correct level of heat kicking in your hot box? Well certainly you have an oven thermometer, don’t you? You don’t? For around $5 a pop why the heck not? No single gadget will save you more time, money, and heartache when it comes to pastry endeavors of all types. Here you go, get one of these, you’ll be so glad you did. You’re welcome.
Before you get started you’re going to want to cut three pieces of parchment paper to fit your two baking sheets. Find yourself a nice cookie cutter about the size that you’d like the macarons to be. Using a permanent marker and said cutter trace out circles where you are going to pipe your macs. Make sure to leave at least 1/4″-1/2″ space between them. Now you are going to keep this paper safe, treasuring it and babying it so you can keep using it whenever you want to make macarons. Simply place another sheet of parchment on top of the designed one and pipe away. Then carefully slide out the bottom parchment and repeat with your second tray.
While the oven is getting nice and hot you want to assemble all of your ingredients. For this recipe I measure the powdered sugar and almond flour in one bowl so that they can be sifted together. In the bowl of my KitchenAid I mix together the egg whites, granulated sugar, and salt. I have all this whipping up on medium speed while sifting.
You want really stiff peaks to form on your meringue. In fact you want this delicious fluff to get so firm that it forms a ball inside the whisk attachment of your mixer. If you’re new to the macaron game I strongly advise against adding any colors or extracts until you get a feel for the process. Even gel based colors change how wet the batter can be and wet batters crack.
This is the batter halfway through the macaronade stage. Its light and resembles a cloud but you can see the almond mixture and the meringue are no where near mixed up entirely. I used almond flour with the skins on, which makes the mixture not as smooth as you traditionally will find but it makes illustrating the steps of mixing a lot easier. Once you are ready the batter will be shiny, wet, and still thick. If you drop a piece of the batter into the rest it will slowly spread out but it won’t fully melt back in. If the drop doesn’t spread out at all then you need to mix more. If it melts back in immediately and won’t hold any shape at all then you’ve over mixed, and, well, theres not much you can do about that. Your best bet is to bake them off anyways and crumble them up as some kind of topping, like mentioned before.
Let your little beauties cool completely before piping them full of buttercream, jam, dulce de leche, or whatever filling you prefer. Then sit back and admire your work!Macarons are weirdly better the second day, and even better still after having been frozen and thawed. Be careful however with the freezing if you are using something other than buttercream to fill them. Jam does not like to be frozen. If thats the route you are taking you can freeze the shells themselves, defrost them, and fill them a la minute when you want to eat them or you can skip the freezing all together. Also if you are freezing them they will keep indefinitely. Just make sure to wrap them well as fat loves to absorb the flavour of anything nearby (I’m looking at you frozen bag of shrimp.) With half of this recipe making 24 little sweet sammies you’ll have plenty left over even if you do give in an eat some same day. They’re a great treat to keep hidden in the freezer should guests stop by. All you have to do is let them sit on the counter for an hour or two and you’ve got “fresh” macs for a crowd, a date, or your mom.