12 April, 2015
The Sweet Life: My First Attempt at the French Macaron!
While I’ve been a baking and cake decorating hobbyist for several years, there are still a few desserts I haven’t yet attempted. One in particular is a gorgeous little beauty called the French Macaron. I’ve been noticing that these deliciously crunchy-on-the-outside-soft-in-the-middle cookies are showing up on wedding dessert tables and even used as party favors lately, so I decided to tackle a batch of these during Easter weekend. I heard they can be quite the temperamental little diva cookies, and had no clue what I was getting myself into. But there are some great recipes out there, so I decided to try them anyway. I started with this simple Martha Stewart recipe and made a few small changes. Below is my first go around, but I’ll definitely be trying these again!
2 1/2 TBSP granulated sugar
1 Cup powdered sugar
3/4 Cup almond flour
2 egg whites, room temperature
The directions stated to sift the powdered sugar and almond flour in a bowl ensuring that there were no lumps.
Next place the egg whites in a mixing bowl and whisk on low for about 3 to 4 minutes until they get foamy.
Begin slowly adding the granulated sugar into the egg whites, and turn your mixer up to medium for another 3 or 4 minutes. It should soon begin to form slightly firm peaks when you lift the mixer.
One of my favorite things about macarons is how cute you can make them look. If you decide you’d like to color them, add a few drops of food coloring. I wanted a nice lavender color for Easter, so I mixed a few drops of blue and red food coloring, then mixed on high for about 3 more minutes.
I scraped about half of the mixture into the bowl of almond flour and sugar and per the instructions I was following began to slowly fold the egg white mixture into the dry ingredients.
To do this, take a rubber spatula, and scrape around the edges and bottom of the bowl and flip the mixture until it is finally mixed together. All of the recipes I looked at stated not to over-mix or under-mix, so I made sure that once everything was evenly blended, I stopped mixing.
Next, since I was out of piping bags, I grabbed a freezer bag and cut the tip of one of the corners after I filled it with the batter. An easy way to fill a piping bag or a freezer bag with batter or frosting is to set the bag in a mug or cup to keep it steady while you use your spatula or spoon to fill the bag.
After placing parchment paper on my baking sheet, I began to pipe the macarons out of the bag in about 1 inch circles. My circles didn’t all look like circles, but hey…that’s what practice is for.
Once the cookie tray was filled, I tapped the tray to try to get any air bubbles out. I also let the tray sit out for 20 minutes per the recipe I was following, before putting it into the oven. This ensures that the cookies settle into their final shape and helps release any remaining air bubbles.
While the macarons were setting, I preheated the oven to 325 degrees, and started to clean up the kitchen. After 20 minutes passed, I turned down the oven to 300 degrees and placed the baking sheet in the oven for 10 minutes. After 8 minutes I took them out and rotated the tray, adding 5 more minutes onto the time (for a total time of 13 minutes).
Filling: While the cookies were in the oven, I was working on a small batch of buttercream icing for the filling. I didn’t want to make a huge batch, so I just took 1 stick of butter (room temperature), and poured powdered sugar in while the mixer was running until the texture seemed just right. I added a drop of vanilla extract and a few drops of strawberry extract. Finally I added the red and blue food coloring to get a lavender color to match the cookies.
By the time I was finished with the frosting, the cookies were ready to be taken out of the oven. One of the unique traits of the French macaron is the crust that seems to form around the cookies, also known as its feet. I’ve read this is can be difficult to achieve, but even on my not so perfect circles, the feet formed as expected, so that was a mini success!
I wasn’t extremely happy with how the light purple color turned out, so I decided to do something special to make them look cool. (Speaking of cool, don’t forget to let them cool for at least 10 minutes after taking them out of the oven).
I often use this trick when decorating cakes, and decided the same could be done for these cookies. Food coloring mixed with alcohol makes a great edible paint for decorating desserts. I used whipped vanilla vodka, and just poured a few drops on a plate. I chose to use some red, some green and some yellow food coloring to create designs on the cookies. Mix a drop of food coloring with the vodka using a clean paintbrush. This should be a paintbrush that is only used for baking. You can paint any designs you’d like on the cookies, and as it dries, the alcohol evaporates, leaving your gorgeous design behind on the pastry. I decided to do flowers on mine and really liked how they turned out.
Once that ‘paint’ dries, it’s time to assemble the cookies. Take your buttercream in a piping bag and pipe the frosting in the center of the cookie
Take the other side (another macaron of the same size) and place that on top and twist. Be careful not to push down too hard, or the cookie will crack. And voila. Not the most perfect (yet). But pretty darn delicious for my first go around.
What I will do differently next time:
1.) Use a template to create perfect circles. I’ve seen these at Michael’s craft store, but I’ve also seen recipes that suggest the baker draw perfect circles on the back of the parchment paper. The latter would be quite time-consuming, but either way, it will make the cookies more uniform than this first attempt of mine.
2.) Grind the almond flour so the texture is much smoother. Most of the beautiful macarons I’ve seen are very smooth, and I think that’s due to the almond flour being even finer, so I think grinding it with the powdered sugar and then sifting it more than once will do the trick next time.
3.) Try brighter colors. I was not a fan of the dull pinkish brownish color these turned out to be. But I love experimenting with color, so I have some cute ideas for my next batch.
I hope you all enjoyed this little adventure in baking. Most of the macaron recipes I’ve seen online are attached to pictures of the perfect cookies. So that’s what my next batch will look like, haha! This time, it was all about experimenting, and that’s my favorite part about being in the kitchen.
Happy Baking, my friends! Don’t forget to do something today that will make your life just a little bit sweeter 🙂