Tomorrow we’re doing a photoshoot for my little girl, complete with a cake smash! Despite her main birthday colors being pink, green, and gold, I decided to play with color and bring in a rainbow of sprinkles for her cake. I’m always drawn to cake pictures that have dimension, and I’ve seen several that include macarons on the top.
Fortunately for me, I took a macaron cooking class at Sur la table a couple of years ago and learned the techniques behind them. These delicate cookies take a little bit of practice, but they are fun to make, and I’m going to share some of my notes from class (that you don’t see when you look at a macaron recipe). Please note that weather can affect macarons. They are easier to make if it’s drier – I’m quite lucky living in the desert for this. If it’s been extremely rainy and humid, your macarons may not turn out.
I used the ingredients for a basic macaron from my Macaroons cookbook by Love Food. In my cooking class, we used the same ingredients, but we weighed everything. I thought it would be easier to list the ingredients in cups on here, rather than in ounces. Please note that the following recipe does not make very many macarons. You will want to double the recipe if you are taking them to a party. However, for practicing the technique, the smaller ingredients are perfect!
I began by measuring out almond flour and powdered sugar (confectioners’ sugar). I used Bob’s Red Mill finely ground almond meal/flour. Since it was very fine, I did not put it in the food processor. I placed it and the powdered sugar in my drum sieve and sifted it over parchment paper. Then I transferred the mixture to a bowl, used a fork to make sure it was mixed well, and set it aside.
Next, I separated the eggs, one at a time, and placed the egg whites in my KitchenAid mixer. I added a pinch of cream of tartar and then whipped them on a medium-low speed. You want it to get foamy (like beer foam) before adding the granulated sugar. Once the sugar is added, scrape down the sides of the bowl, add in a couple drops of food coloring, and then increase the speed to high. Let it whip until stiff peaks form and it gets glossy in appearance. To check if it’s done, you can stop the mixer, pull the whisk attachment out, and dip it in the whipped egg whites. Pull it straight up, and if there is a peak coming off the whisk (and it holds strong), then it’s ready. I really wish I had taken a picture of this step; I will try to get one and add it in later!
Now it’s time to add in the almond flour/powdered sugar mixture. You want to add in a third of it at a time. Don’t pour it all in at once! You’re going to fold it in, using a clock-wise motion. Go around the bowl once (“clean the bowl”), cut through the middle, and then around again. Keep doing this pattern until it’s all incorporated. Around – cut through – around; around – cut through – around…
Then I transferred the mixture into a pastry bag with a plain round tip. My class recommended a #12 tip, but I used a #10. It’s just one size smaller. (If you double the recipe, don’t overfill the bag! You can always add in more.) Get out a baking sheet and some parchment paper. Sur la table also sells silicone mats that have circles printed on them for macarons! (I traced circles on the back of my parchment paper but then decided not to use them.) To keep the parchment paper in place, “glue” the corners down with some of the filling.
Hold the bag straight up and down on the parchment paper and gently squeeze to let the filling come out. Use one hand to squeeze the bag and the other hand near the tip, as a guide. Don’t try to pipe circles. Just keep it in one place and count to 6. 1-2-3-4-5-6-stop. Keep doing this, leaving a space of 2 fingers between each circle. If you have a little swoosh in the middle, you can gently smooth it out with your finger (and a tiny bit of water).
Once the circles were completed, I hit the bottom of the pan on my table to release any trapped air. Then I walked away and let them sit for 30 minutes.
During this time, I made a unicorn shirt for a friend… random request! 🙂
After 30 minutes, I preheat the oven to 325 degrees and checked on the macarons. I let them sit another 10 and then they were ready to go in the oven. There should be a slight crust on them, and they should not stick to your finger when touched. They should almost seem hardened on the outside. I baked mine for 12 minutes, but I did check them after 10. Then I let them cool for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.
Later in the day, I made my buttercream filling. I beat the butter and vanilla extract, and then added in powdered sugar. Once it was smooth, I folded in some dehydrated strawberry pieces.
To assemble the macarons, you can pipe the filling on the cookie or just use a knife. I went the simple route and spread it on with a knife and then sandwiched the pairs together. (Kind of twist them together instead of smooshing them.) I tried to get a little extra filling in mine so I could roll the sides in sprinkles. Once you learn how to make the cookie part of the macaron, you can do all kinds of fillings. One of my favorites is a lemon macaron with a white chocolate ganache! Stay tuned and I’ll make that one soon!
Recipe for Macarons
(Ingredients from Macaroons by Love Food; Directions from Sur la table cooking school)
Ingredients (for the cookie):
¾ c ground almonds
1 c confectioners’ sugar
2 extra large egg whites
Pinch of cream of tartar (not in the book’s recipe; added in from my cooking class)
¼ c granulated sugar
Optional: gel food coloring
Ingredients (for buttercream filling):
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 c confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Optional: 4 strawberries, finely chopped ( I used a few pieces of dehydrated strawberries instead, chopped fine.)
(^This is a pretty standard buttercream frosting, just minus the milk. You want it to be thick for filling the cookie, instead of thinned out.)
Directions (for the cookie):
In a food processor, blend about a third of the confectioners’ sugar with the almond flour into a fine powder. Transfer to a mixing bowl with the remaining confectioners’ sugar. Using a drum sieve, sift mixture onto a sheet of parchment paper. Set aside.
To make the meringue: Using a mixer (fitted with a whisk attachment), whip egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until foamy. Gradually add granulated sugar. Once sugar is incorporated and mixture is thick, scrape down sides of bowl (add food coloring if desired) and increase speed to high. Whip until stiff, firm, glossy peaks form.
To complete the macaronnage step: Add 1/3 of the sifted almond flour mixture to the meringue and fold using a large spatula. Fold in the rest of the flour in two more additions, then check for correct consistency. The batter should be firm, have a glossy shine, and drip slowly from the spatula.
Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a ½ inch plain round tip. Pipe 1 1/3 inch rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Rap the bottom of each sheet on your table to release trapped air. Let stand at room temperature for 30-40 minutes. Check for a slight crust to form on the macaron. The macarons should not stick to your finger when lightly touched.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake macarons until crisp and firm, about 10-12 minutes. (If they are still soft inside, lower oven to 300, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for a few more minutes. If the top looks crinkled, your oven might be too hot!) Allow macarons to cool on baking sheets for 2-3 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before filling.
Directions (for the filling):
Beat the butter and vanilla extract until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth and creamy. Fold in the strawberries if desired. Pair up macarons and use the filling to sandwich them together. (Spread onto the bottom of one and sandwich flat sides together.)