Welcome to the wonderful world of the macaron!
This little Parisian sandwich cookie has been gaining traction in the United States recently. The reasons for its appeal are obvious. They come in a bazillion different colors (pretty!) and flavors (rose or foie gras anyone?), not to mention the fact that they are amazingly delicious.
If you've never had a macaron before, you have to try one. A smooth, creamy filling is sandwiched between two almond cookies which have crisp outer shells and moist interiors. Perfect macarons have very smooth shells, no air pockets inside the cookie, and straight, tall, feet (the frilly section under the shell).
My father's business trips to Switzerland when I was younger always yielded a cute (but expensive!) box of these. There was a macaron drought at my house for several years until I decided to make them. David Lebovitz (a much better pastry chef than me) calls these buggers "one of the most vexing tasks bakers come accross." Uh-oh. However, once you master these treats, you'll be so happy that you did! If you pay attention, they're really not difficult at all.
In this guide, I'll try to teach you all the tips that I've learned from spending hours perusing blog posts and many batches (several failed) of macarons. Since they are more difficult, the majority of this instructable will be devoted to the shell. In order to make these macaron "au chocolat," we'll be filling these with dark chocolate ganache. See Step 8 for the recipe.
Enough of my introduction. Let's go!
Step 1: Software
Macaron shells consist of four ingredients. Yes, four. That's it. What makes these tricky is the process, not the ingredients.
For best results, you should really get a kitchen scale. These things are magnificent and I promise that you'll be able to use them for many things other than these macarons (my mother uses ours to weigh her postal packages).
When measuring ingredients, weigh your egg white (since you can't control exactly how much the chicken put in each egg) and scale this formula appropriately. In case you don't have a scale, I have included volumetric approximations below.
Almonds (whole, slivered, or ground): 1.2 X weight of egg whites
Powdered sugar (aka icing sugar or confectioner's sugar): 2.25 X weight of egg whites
Castor sugar (aka superfine sugar): 0.25 X weight of egg whites
One large egg white (30 g)
Almonds (slivered): 1/4 cup
Powdered sugar: 1/2 cup
Castor sugar: 1/2 tablespoon