The first time I tasted macarons was a few years ago when my friend, Jill, brought me some home from Switzerland. I could never have imagined how delicately delicious these little cookies would be. They look like little puffy jewels and then practically melt in your mouth. I couldn't imagine how someone could actually make them, let alone at home. It seemed impossible. Needless to say, Husband and I ate the entire box in one sitting. Ever since, I can't resist buying them whenever I see them available, which isn't often around here. So, why not try and make them at home? As always, when jumping into a new thing that I have never done before, I googled and youtubed recipes and techniques from various sources and then settled on the recipe from my favourite pastry chef, Johnny Iuzzini, from his book Sugar Rush. I like the idea that his recipe called for the use of Italian meringue, which is more stable than other methods found. The last thing I want to do is go through all the trouble of getting everything going and the damn things fall flat. It seems like a bit more work (like having to heat the sugar to exactly 244F and then adding it to the meringue without burning myself), but it was well worth it.
There are infinite flavours and colours that you can use when making macarons. My first time, I decided to focus on technique rather than flare. Vanilla, you get to be the star of the show today. Next time I plan on being more creative with the flavours. Maybe a lemon or orange creamsicle. Or a chocolate mint. The buttercream recipe I used is also from Sugar Rush which, step by step, shows you how to make the tastiest, creamiest buttercream I have ever had. No big shock it's butter, not shortening, that is absolutely necessary.
Here is Johnny's recipe for Macarons, from his cookbook, Sugar Rush. It is a must have on my book shelf. If you don't have it, you can click into the link above and purchase on Amazon.ca. I highly recommend this book, a very valuable resource for those of us that are not bakers but want to perfect the classics at home.
185g powdered sugar
185g almond flour
65g egg whites
185g plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
75g egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
To make the macarons:
- Line 3 baking sheets with baking mats or parchment paper.
- Make the cookie base: Using a fine mesh strainer, sift together the powdered sugar and almond flour.
- Add the 65g of egg whites and stir until the mixture is moistened.
- Make the Italian meringue: Place the 185g of sugar in a small saucepan. Add about 2 tablespoons of water and stir with your finger until the sugar is moistened. Wet your finger and wipe down the sides of the pan to remove any sugar on the sides of the pan. Place the pan over medium heat and bring to a boil.
- Meanwhile, place the egg whites in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar and the cream of tartar. Turn the mixer to medium-low.
- Once the sugar has dissolved in the saucepan, take a pastry brush dipped in water and wash down the sides of the pan. Once the mixture is at a roiling boil, turn the mixer up to medium high.
- Cook the mixture until it reaches 244ºF on a thermometer.
- When the egg whites have volume but are still soft, turn the mixture to low and slowly drizzle the sugar mixture into the egg whites, between the side of the bowl and the outer reach of the whisk. Turn the speed up to medium and continue to whip until the outside of the bowl has cooled off and the whites are firm and glossy but not dry, about 5 minutes.
- Add a small amount of the meringue to the cookie base and stir it in with a spatula. Be careful to fold the meringue into the base gently without flattening out the meringue too much. Add in a few drops of food coloring or flavouring, if desired. Add the remaining meringue in 3 batches, folding them gently into the mixture. When the meringue is completely incorporated, continue to fold the mixture over until the mixture forms a ribbon that settles slowly. If the ribbon rests on top of the mixture, stir another 4 or 5 times and test again. You don’t want to stir it too much to liquify the mixture, or the cookies will not hold their shape.
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets in quarter sized rounds.
- Let the cookies stand at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. The cookies should be dry to the touch and will form a “shell” on the surface.
- Bake the pans for 8-10 minutes each, until they are risen and set, but not browned. Remove from the oven and let them cool on the pan.