Don’t ask me how the macaron ever managed to attain its current status as a sort of foodie equivalent of the communion wafer, I only know that it has. So given that, it only seems fitting that we open this tutorial with a prayer. Oh Lord, as we prepare to undertake this mystery, let us acknowledge our failures, and ask that you grant us your pardon and strength. Amen.
Now then, to business. What I’m about to demonstrate is the classic French method for making macarons. There’s another method, called the “Italian” method because it employs Italian meringue. The French method, I think, is more straightforward if not as adaptable for incorporating exotic flavors.
Begin by arraying your ingredients. Those of you who are familiar with macarons will note that whereas most macaron recipes call for almond flour, I’m using slivered, blanched almonds. There are two reasons for this. First, because almond flour and/or meal aren’t commonly available in America, even in specialty shops. And second, even when you can find one or the other, you can never be sure how old they are. Nut oil is critical to the success of a macaron, but it can go rancid and/or solidify over time. The best way to ensure freshness is to grind your own in the food processor. As you can see above, the homemade stuff will give you a slightly knobbly texture, so if you’re really serious about macarons, order almond powder or flour or meal fresh from a good online resource. Here I have:
3.8 ounces blanched almonds
7 ounces powdered sugar
3.5 ounces egg whites (aged overnight at room temperature)
1.75 ounces granulated sugar
Start by grinding your almonds and powdered sugar together in a food processor. This is a good idea even if you’re using pre-ground almond meal or flour, since it’ll aerate it, mix it well with the sugar and reduce the particles to the smallest possible size.
This is about the best I can do with my machine:
Next, prepare a pastry bag, fitting it with just the coupler, no tip.
Stand it up in a tall glass for easy loading.
Now to make the batter. Put the egg whites in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whip. This is a good point to add a few drops of coloring if you want to.
Whip to about the soft peak stage.
With the machine running, add the granulated sugar and whip to stiff peaks: the “bird’s beak” stage, like this:
Next add your almond/sugar mixture…just dump it in.
Now, without regard to consequences, stir the mixture together. Don’t fold at this point — stir. Because remember, this isn’t spongecake. Part of the point is to break some of these bubbles. If the batter’s too light it’ll dry out in the oven and crack. That’ll let the steam out and bye bye feet. So don’t be delicate, stir for maybe 30 seconds. (Be sure to scrape the sides as you go).
When the batter is about to this point, you want to start folding (find instructions on how to fold under the Techniques menu). Fold four or five times, then start testing the batter for readiness.
How to do that? Why, with a spoon of course. You just scoop up a small portion of the batter and plop it onto a plate or sheet pan. What you’re after is a small mass that settles down into a nice disk after a few seconds, but with a subtle peak in the center. About like this:
If your batter mounds up too high, go back and fold a few more times. If you over-fold a little and the batter runs a bit, that won’t be the end of the world. Contrary to what you may have heard, a few extra strokes is unlikely to ruin your macarons. The biggest mistake most people make with macaron batter is that they baby it too much. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: pastries can smell fear. Confidence is key.
Once you’ve arrived at the right texture, spoon the batter into your pastry bag, and start piping onto a parchment-lined sheet.
You want small disks — smaller than you may imagine — only about an inch and a half in diameter. Now then, here’s perhaps the most important tip I have to pass on: let your macarons rest. For how long? About half an hour will suffice, though you can leave them up to about 50 minutes if you want. What will this do? It will allow the skins of the macarons to dry out. That will make them inflexible, constraining the rise as the macaron heats. With nowhere else to go, the expanding interior of the macaron will be forced downward, which will push the cap up, and the result will be feet. See?
You’ll want to bake your macarons on a lower-middle rack of a 300 oven (you can get it preheating while the piped macarons sit) for about twelve minutes. Let them cool for a minimum of half an hour, then gently peel the parchment off the backs.
Grasping one meringue, apply the filling of your choice. Nothing exotic here, just raspberry jam. But oh, I do love it so.
Apply the top and your task is complete. Repeat until all your sandwiches are assembled.
And with that, this tutorial is ended. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord, make macarons, and brag about it.