Intro: Passable (Beginner's) Macarons
When I first started attempting to make macarons, I always felt that the precision and exactness in all the recipes made the experience much more stressful (and I ended up with many, MANY failed batches). Then I found a video that used simple measurements and directions that weren't overly complicated - which is great for someone who bakes only sometimes and wanted take on a challenge! I gave the original some alterations from my own experiences.
I'm calling these "passable" macarons, because I feel like I'm always just bumbling around the kitchen while making these, but the cookies still manage to come out decent! Also I made a mistake during the macaronage step, and bumbled my way around it, so this instructable is very much more following me along as I attempt to make macarons for the first time in a year, and is in no way anywhere near any professional baking level.
I find that these are perfect to make during the summer, since where I live (a nice, Chaparral/Mediterranean climate) it's not humid and also warm enough for the shells to dry out and get that smooth surface.
Step 1: Ingredients
The recipe I am using is pretty simple as far as macaron recipes go, since it only involves measuring things out as you would for cakes, or cookies, or other simple baked goods (no weighing out ingredients~).
To make macaron shells, you will need:
- 2 large eggs (you'll only use the egg whites, but you can save the yolk to bake something else!...like key lime pie...)
- 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar
- 1 cup of powdered sugar
- 3/4 cup of almond meal (or almond flour. I use almond meal even though there's a bit of husk in it since it's cheaper and I'm only baking as a hobby)
Even though this is suppose to be a "beginner's" recipe, you still need a good amount of tools. Luckily, they're all pretty cheap, or could be substituted with cheaper things (like, the KitchenAid with an electric hand mixer)
Materials you will need:
- An electric mixer or KitchenAid (or a whisk, if you don't mind whipping egg whites to stiff peaks by hand)
- Parchment paper on a cookie sheet
- Piping bags, or a Ziploc bag
Step 2: Whipping Your Egg Whites! - the Meringue
I find that using a KitchenAid is the easiest for this step since your egg whites whip up quickly!
- Make sure that you begin with a clean, dry bowl.
- I separate my eggs in a small separate bowl, rather than directly in the mixing bowl. That way, if I break the yolk on the eggs, I won't ruin all the egg whites! Also, the water bottle egg separator hack is great for making macarons!
- Begin by whipping your egg whites until they get foamy.
- Gradually add the granulated sugar to your egg whites, mixing in between.
- Continue whipping the egg whites until it forms smooth, stiff peaks
(I wait until it gets to the point where the egg whites stick to the whisk, like in the picture. I used to have issues with under-whipping, so I like using stiff peaks. Other people use semi-stiff peaks - slightly softer than what I have pictured - with success. Stop when you get to the stiff peaks, since you don't want to over-whip your eggs!)
I don't do anything fancy with my egg whites like leaving them out overnight or adding cream of tartar, since I haven't had much of a problem with getting a good meringue with a KitchenAid. I used to have a lot of issues using just a hand mixer, so if you have trouble, you can experiment with any tricks other people use to get a good meringue.
Step 3: (Optional) Adding Color
I wanted to make these macarons like my miniature clay macaron, so I dyed the meringue a rosy pink color. I added 1 drop of pink gel food coloring after the meringue was whipped up. This also works with a bit of liquid food coloring, but if you want to get a dark color, stick to using gel food coloring to avoid deflating the egg whites.
If you have powder food coloring, you can add that to the dry ingredients instead of the egg whites.
Macarons lighten in color when you bake them, so make your color a bit darker than you want it to be.
I thought the meringue looked really pretty at this point...It's like a fluffy cloud!
Step 4: The Scary Step: Mixing in Your Dry Ingredients
This step is usually where you might get stressed out - what if the eggs aren't whipped enough? What if I have too much of the dry ingredients? D:
Take a deep breath. It'll all be okay.
- Sift together your 1 cup of powdered sugar and 3/4 cups of almond flour. Or almond meal. This makes the dry ingredients light and airy, so it's not so scary when you mix it with your meringue!
- Add about half of your dry mixture to your egg whites. Fold your mixture with a spatula until it's incorporated (don't over-fold! You want this to still be light and airy, since you have more of your dry ingredient mixture to add!)
- Add the other half of your dry ingredients a bit at a time, while continuing to fold.
If you feel like the mixture is getting too thick and deflated, stop adding the dry mixture! Since this recipe calls for 2 eggs rather than a precise measurement of egg whites by grams, it's possible for the eggs you're using to vary very slightly in volume of egg whites.
When I mixed the batch in the pictures the first time, I added all of the second half of almond meal/sugar in at once, and it ended up too dry! I quickly whipped up 2 more egg whites, added a mixture of even parts powdered sugar and almond meal bit by bit until I found that it was the right consistency. It worked out OK!
Step 5: Macaronage Success?
Once you've mixed in your dry ingredients, check that you've reached the 'flowing lava' stage...slow and thick moving lava...
I like to think of this as more of a cake-batter like stage. If it falls back into the bowl and sinks together like a thick cake batter will, you've finished folding. If it still holds it's shape instead of settling down like cake batter, fold a couple more times and check again.
Step 6: Piping Your Macaron Shells
Place your mixture into a piping bag. I like folding the bag over a tall cup, to make it easier to hold open while I'm scooping the batter in. Make sure to not overfill your piping bag, so you can twist/tie the top of it later.
Cut off the end of your bag, and begin piping on the parchment paper.
To get small, round macarons, think of Hershey's Kisses! Point the tip of your bag straight down, and let the batter flow out to form the cookie shape. Stop piping and lift straight up (like a Hershey's kiss! But flat...)
Step 7: Drying
After you're done piping, bang your tray on the table to get out air bubbles. This also helps smooth out the surface of your macarons!
Let your cookies dry (~10-30 minutes, depending on the weather and humidity of where you are). You'll know they're ready when you can touch them VERY lightly and the batter doesn't stick to your finger.
(I like using a cookie made from the tiny bit of batter left over at the end of the piping bag to test this, since it usually comes out slightly smaller than the rest, and is a bit misshapen)
Step 8: Baking
- Preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Once your cookies are dry, place them in the oven for 9 minutes.
- Admire the pretty little feet on your cookies, then flip the tray (if it was on a top rack, turn the tray around and place it on the bottom rack, and vice-versa).
- Bake for another 9 minutes, or until the cookies can come off the parchment paper cleanly.
Step 9: Cooling....
Allow your macaron shells to cool before filling them. Admire your cookie army!
It's okay if some of them aren't perfect. Those ones have more character!
(And if your cookies didn't turn out exactly as you wanted, that's okay! This was your practice batch; next time they'll turn out much better!)
Step 10: Filling....maybe?
I wanted to include this step because most of the pictures turned out decent, and it's the second major, near catastrophic failure I had while making this batch.
I originally wanted to make earl grey buttercream to fill these cookies, but then added too much tea (the recipe I used called for 4 tablespoons of tea as a substitute for milk, and it seems like buttercream recipes with milk usually call for only 1 teaspoon of liquid. Ohhh well...it was pretty while it lasted. This sad mixture will go towards making cupcakes.
You can follow any filling recipe you want (buttercream, jam, chocolate ganache, ice cream, etc.).
: just made cupcakes out of this. My taste tester finished one and asked for a second within minutes after.
Step 11: Filling...Nutella!
Nutella to the rescue!
- Pair up your macaron shells so that each half is roughly the same size
- Add your filling
- Make a sandwich using your top shell
Step 12: Enjoy!
Your macarons are finished! You can wait a few hours, to let the cookies soften a bit (I find that they don't crack and shatter everywhere as easily while you're eating them).
You've made a more or less successful batch of macarons! Now go show off to the world!
And if this time didn't go as well as you wanted it to, you now have more experience and will do better next time!