Okay, I know what you're thinking....EASY? Macarons?? NO way.
Wait, wait, wait. First, let's clarify what we're really talking about here. Whenever I tell someone about macarons, I always get, "Oh, those coconut thingies!". Nooooo, that's not what I'm talking about. Those are macarOONs. (Pronounced Mack-Ah-Rooooooons) And, by the way, they are also very good, for those of us that like coconut.
What I'm talking about is French MacarONs. (Pronounced Mack-Ah-Rahns) What's the difference? One 'O'. Okay, well, there's a bit more difference than that. Coconut macaroons are sweet, soft, coconutty (is that a word?) goodness. They are made of mostly coconut with some sweetened condensed milk and a few other ingredients and are really quite delish.
Now, let's get to the real story: French Macarons. These little delicacies are small sandwich 'cookies' that are crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside and can be made with a variety of fillings. They are absolutely beautiful to look at, and can be made in practically any color or flavor you wish.
Don't get me wrong, there can be some tricky parts to making these, but once you master those parts, these are really quite quick and easy to make. They also happen to store very well, and can be frozen up to 2 months, if packaged correctly.
Let's get to it! Just repeat after me: "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can"
Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients and Equipment
1 cup confectioners' sugar (or powdered sugar, or icing sugar)
3/4 cup almond flour
2 large egg whites, room temperature (about 1/3 cup)
1/4 cup superfine sugar (or bakers' sugar)
The equipment you will need:
Food processor (or fine mesh sieve)
Stand mixer with whisk attachment (or hand held mixer)
Large bowl (if not using stand mixer bowl)
Parchment paper or slipat
Piping bag and round tip (or ziploc/storage bag)
Macaron template (I use the one I found at http://themacaronmaster.com/wp-content/uploads/Macaron-Template-small.pdf).
Food coloring of your choice (preferably gel pastes)
Flavoring of your choice
Sprinkles or other toppings of your choice
Step 2: Prepare Pans and Oven
Line baking sheet with parchment paper and Macaron template (or you can use a silpat if you prefer)
Step 3: Prepare Dry Ingredients
Alternatively, if you do not have a food processor, sift the ingredients through a fine mesh sieve. The object is to make sure there are no lumps in your batter. If you choose this method, you may end up with some larger grains of almond flour in your sieve. Discard these! (No, you do not have to add any extra almond flour to account for this loss; just suck it up and move on) :)
Step 4: Prepare Egg Whites
The third picture demonstrates soft peaks: when the whisk is lifted out of the bowl, the peaks bend over as it is turned upside down.
The fourth picture demonstrates stiff peaks: when the whisk is turned upside down, the peaks stand at attention. Do not over mix your egg whites! Over mixing can cause hollow shells.
NOTE: this is where you will add your flavorings and colorings if desired. You only need 1/2 - 1 teaspoon of flavorings for this size batch, but feel free to flavor to your own taste. For colors, you may want to take it one step darker than the color you are looking for. Typically, the colors fade slightly with baking.
In this batch I used 1/2 teaspoon of almond flavoring, and 1 drop of Wilton Deep Pink gel food paste.
Step 5: The Tricky Part!
At this point, add half of the dry ingredients into the egg whites. Gently FOLD (do not mix) the ingredients until they are combined. Once that is done, add the remaining dry ingredients and FOLD until everything is incorporated.
If you didn't catch on earlier from the ALL CAPS, it is important not to mix, but to fold the ingredients instead. The idea is to keep the egg whites from deflating, which will cause your batter to be too runny and your macarons to be flat.
It is important not to over mix the batter. Again, over mixing can cause your batter to be too runny and your macarons to be flat with no feet. (Feet? What the heck? See future steps to learn more about macaron feet...trust me, it will be fun!)
Only mix the ingredients until it falls off your spatula in ribbons (see video). This usually takes me about 60 - 70 folds.
Step 6: Piping & Resting Your Macarons
Now here comes the fun part! Let's pipe!
There are two ways you can do this: one is with a piping bag and a large round tip, but not everyone has those. The other way is just with a ziploc, or other storage bag.
Put the large round tip in your piping bag then fill the bag with the macaron batter (or fill a ziplock bag and snip off one corner). Following the template under your parchment paper, pipe the macaron batter on the parchment paper until they are the size of the circles on the templates. You may end up with a few points on your macarons. Fear not! We will take care of that! (see pic 1)
Next, think of someone or something that makes you really angry (I'm truly not an aggressive person, but this part is really fun!). Lift your baking sheet and bang it on your counter a few times. No, really...bang it. I know it's loud, so this is not a project for one of your middle-of-the-night rendezvous. Take out alllll your aggression.
Now why on earth did we do that? Well, if you notice in pic 2, the points are gone and the macarons have smoothed out some. Doesn't that look better?
This next part is truly important. Your macarons are tired....they've been through quite a workout and they've been banged around. Now they need a rest. If you've done any research on macarons, you may see some suggested rest times as little as five minutes, but trust me on this, you want your macarons to rest a good 30+ minutes before you bake them. Why? Let's talk about that in the next step.
Step 7: Feet!
Take a look at the first picture above. See at the base of the macaron where it looks all crinkly? (Do you have a better descriptive word?? That's all I could think of!). Those are the 'feet' of the macaron. These are formed ONLY if you have let your macarons rest properly. The resting allows for the macarons to form a skin on the batter. With this skin, the macarons have nowhere to go but UP when baking, hence the 'feet'. In that first picture, the feet truly are not high enough, but it's all your fault. As I was trying to hold a camera in one hand, and fold in the other to get the ribbon video, I slightly over mixed my batter. Thanks a LOT!
Now, take a look at the second picture. This is an older picture of mine where you can see some really nice feet. These ones obviously had the right amount of folding and resting, but certainly not enough banging as I still had some points on top (I must have been too darn happy that day).
So hopefully you can see why the resting in the previous step is so important.
NOTE! If you want to add something (sprinkles, etc) on the top of your macarons, wait until the macarons have rested about 10 minutes. Add your toppings, then allow the macarons to complete their resting time.
Step 8: Baking (Finally!)
First, make sure you have removed the paper templates from underneath your parchment paper then place your baking sheet in your pre-heated oven. Bake them for 5 minutes then turn them around and bake for another 5 minutes.
Place the trays on a cooling rack and make sure they are fully cooled before you remove them from the parchment paper. If they are not cooled, they may stick and you may leave some parts behind, making everyone very sad.
Step 9: Filling
Partner up the macarons; remember, these are sandwich cookies so they will each need a partner. Try to match them up by size. If you've used the template, they should all pretty much be the same size anyway. Don't leave any partnerless #NoMacaronLeftBehind
Pipe filling on one of the cookies then sandwich them together with the other cookie. That's it!
Here are some suggestions for filling:
Your favorite buttercream or icing
Lemon curd, or other fruit curd
The possibilities are endless!
Step 10: Troubleshooting
Here are a few things that may help:
No feet - we already talked about this, but in general no feet is usually caused by either over mixing, or no resting time. There could be other reasons, but these are the main two.
Cracked shells - cracked shells can primarily be caused by over mixing (causing your batter to be too runny), no resting period, or too high of heat in the oven. If you are sure you have not over mixed, and you macarons have rested properly, try lowering the oven 15 degrees or so. (You may also want to check to make sure your oven temperature is properly calibrated.)
Hallow shells - over whipped or dry egg whites
Other questions? Just ask! I'm certainly no expert, but I'm happy to help in any way possible :)