I know I’m brutally late to the macaron party. I’ve been aware of their adorable little meringue hamburger-like presence, and have eaten many over the years, and made a few ugly batches right around 2008 when I was nose-deep into my Martha Stewart Baking Handbook. But out of the blue, I got obsessed with these little wispy sweet crispy chewy bastards – french macarons – and I wanted to make them for my mom’s upcoming 70th birthday party. So the deep-googling and the reading began: how to make macarons! I wanted mine to look like the ones I saw in so many beautiful Instagrams. I was feeling determined, and I needed a good distraction – macaron mania was perfectly timed.
The first thing I sought out was a good recipe. I read through my baking books and then went to the internet for some more goods. I ended up finding the EXTREMEO informative Brave Tart blog and her recipe. I made it once, and they looked terrible. Some with cracked tops and only some with cute little “feet” – that’s what they call the ruffly part of the macaron shell. So I made it again, asked for help online on Instagram and received so many nice tips, sought out video and read some more. I ended up making them four times until I finally got the hang of it.
To break it down, here is what worked for me:
1. Make sure to whip the daylights out of the meringue. If it seems like it’s getting so stiff it’s taking on a life of its own, that’s ok: just roll with it – I remember being surprised at the final odd texture. Set the timer for each stage and let ‘er rip. For a Kitchen Aix Mixer, try: speed 4 for 3 mins, speed 7 for 3 mins, speed 8 for 3 mins and speed 10 for 1 min.
2. After measuring my ingredients using a digital scale, I tried both sifting the almond flour and icing sugar, and I also tried throwing it all in the food processor – the food processor worked great!
3. I dumped the almond flour/icing sugar mixture right on top of the beaten meringue. Then I fluffed and folded. It’s best to watch a few videos on how to fold in the flour – or, Dorie Greenspan describes it as “mix and mash” which I found myself saying in my head while I folded. Her description of the process is great, and you can find it here on Food52.
3. I used a circular cookie cutter and quickly made circle stencils on parchment paper so I could easily pipe to the right size. NOTE: make sure to make the stencils on the BACKSIDE of the parchment paper so you don’t bake pencil marks into your macarons. I don’t have a silpat but I would like to get one now – however, I found parchment paper to work fine!
4. I piped holding the bag upright and just blobbing out the batter. I tried piping the “from the side” method and I ended up with some oblong uglies. Top-dogging it seemed to work just fine for me.
5. Smack dat pan: After you pipe the macaron batter onto your parchment paper circles, hold the pan with two hands on either side and drop it down onto a countertop. It is thunderously loud but it helps to minimize air bubbles.
6. I let my macarons sit out after piping in different increments, from 15 to 30 minutes to 2 hours. For me, it made no difference to the final product. What made a difference is FINDING THE HOT SPOTS in my oven and outsmarting them by simply baking ONE SHEET at a time in the middle rack. One sheet to the wind. It takes a little more time to bake them all , sure – but it may save you from crying over cracked macs. (thanks to some of my Instagram followers for that tip!)
7. Find what temperature and time works for your oven and macarons – mine was 325 degrees and baking them for 8-10 minutes, turning the pan halfway through the baking time.
8. I used swiss meringue buttercream for the filling!
You can get caught up in being supremely anal about whether something is the “right” or “proper” technique or not – but really, we’re just trying to make a lovely little special pal dessert so I think it’s better not to sweat the “that’s not legit or proper” way to make something. Try making them a bunch of times until you get the feel/hang of it, as every oven is different, everyone lives in different climates and the more you practice … YOU GET BETTER!
Wonderful and free smack that mac resources:
Brave Tart’s Macaron Mythbusters post and RECIPE. I followed her recipe, using a scale. I also scraped the contents of a vanilla bean into the batter, and added gel colour for the last minute of beating my meringue.
Eat Live Travel Write’s photographic step by steps, and even VIDEOS. I love her macaron making journey because she shows you from the beginning her very first macarons … blast foward to the present, and hers are beautiful and perfect – and she even teaches classes now.
This nice gal of Macaron and Mint‘s Youtube video! I found watching videos helped to see the texture and “flow” of the batter. She also told me this and I followed it to a T: Kitchen Aix Mixer: speed 4 for 3 mins, speed 7 for 3 mins, speed 8 for 3 mins and speed 10 for 1 min. Totally worked for me.
Dorie Greenspan has a wonderful way with words and describing actions: check out her Parisian macarons post here.
The wonderful Indulge With Mimi has so many tips and video tutorials to help us mac amateurs! Here’s her best french macaron recipe!
Practice, practice and practice some more! I’m excited to keep on making macarons and continuing to improve. I hope this post gives some hope to those who have thrown in the macaron towel! If you have some more great resources, let me know in the comments, and show me your macarons – leave me links! Happy baking, everyone! xo Lyndsay
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