I challenged myself this weekend to make French Macarons. I thought they were Macaroons. I learned they are not. Would you like to know the difference? Well, I will tell you anyway. Macarons are French cookies made with almond and egg whites that are sandwiched around a cream-based filling. Macaroon is the American word for our version of a flourless egg-white-based cookie. Most often made with coconut and can also include nuts or a nut base. You learn something new everyday!!
I spent last evening watching videos and reading about French Macarons. It was quite enjoyable. I ended up using the recipe from America’s Test Kitchen. I had to run out this morning to get some almond flour for the macarons. That stuff is a bit expensive. I bought a large bag so I can make them a few more times. These were fun to make. I would not say they were simple but they are delicious. Here is the recipe I used;
French Style Macarons
(NOTE: I weighed both the flour and the confectioner’s sugar. It was recommended in all the videos and recipes to weigh your flour and sugar. When baking, weighing is the most accurate form of measurement. Did you know that?!)
3 3/4 cups (15 ounces) almond flour
3 1/3 cups (13 1/3 ounces) confectioner’s sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 large egg whites, at room temperature (take them out about 30 minutes before you will use them)
pinch cream of tarter
5 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract (YES, a Tablespoon)
2 cups of buttercream frosting. You can also use chocolate ganache, raspberry jam (or any jam), whatever works for you)
1. Spray 2 large baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment paper; set aside. Fit a large pastry bag with a 1/2-inch plain tip; set aside. Process half of the almond flour, confectioners’ sugar, and salt together in a food processor until the mixture is very finely ground, about 20 seconds. Transfer to a bowl and repeat with the remaining almond flour and confectioners sugar; stir together and set aside. (Next time I will also add sifting the flour and sugar after I processed in the food processor. My cookies could have been smoother.)
2. Using an electric mixer, whip the egg whites on medium-low speed until they are opaque and frothy, about 30 seconds. Add the cream of tartar, increase the speed to-high, and continue to whip, watching carefully, until they are white, thick, voluminous, and the consistency of shaving cream, about 90 seconds. Slowly sprinkle in the granulated sugar and continue to whip until stiff peaks form and the sugar is incorporated, about 60 seconds. (I would turn off the mixer when adding the sugar or be sure you do not put where the beater is whipping. The sugar will end up on the side of the bowl if it gets caught up in the beater. You want it mixed in with the egg whites.)
3. Transfer the egg whites to a large bowl in order to accommodate the remaining ingredients. (I used a large bowl. I did not transfer the egg whites.) Gently fold one quarter of the almond flour mixture into the whites, followed by the vanilla. Gradually fold in the remaining almond mixture until a thick, gloppy batter forms.
4. Fill the prepared pastry bag with the batter. Twisting the top of the bag to apply pressure, push the batter toward the bag tip and pipe onto the prepared baking sheets into forty 2-inch mounds, spaced about 1-inch apart. Use the back of a teaspoon or your finger dipped in a bowl of cold water to even out the shape and smooth the surface of the piped mounds. Let the macaroons rest at room temperature until the tops are dry and a smooth skin has formed, 1 to 2 hours.
**Ok, my experience with pastry bags is minimal. I had macaron batter all over the place. I over filled the bag. Next time I will fill with 1/2 the batter, not ALL of the batter. That was not a bright idea. Also, my first tray was all over the place, second was better, third tray I had it figured out. I put the tip on the cookie sheet and squeezed the bag, counted to 3 and that was the perfect size. Not scientific but it worked for me. Or just make the size of 2 inches across.**
5. Thirty minutes before baking, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 300 degrees. Bake the cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until lightly browned, about 20 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through the baking time. Directly after baking, carefully slide the parchment with cookies onto a wire rack and cool completely. (The unfilled cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 weeks; if frozen, let thaw at room temperature for 2 hours before filling.)
TO FILL THE COOKIES: Spread about 1 tablespoon of the buttercream over the flat sides of half the cookies and gently cover with the flat sides of the remaining cookies to form sandwiches. I filled half with raspberry jam frosting and the other half with chocolate ganache (oh, and a couple with raspberry jam). Recipes below;
Raspberry Jam Frosting (I made a small amount. I generally make too much and throw it away. This was a great amount.)
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 Tablespoons raspberry jam
1/2 teaspoon raspberry extract (you don’t need this but I wanted the raspberry flavor to “pop”)
2 teaspoons cream or milk
Place the butter and confectioner’s sugar in bowl. (I used my stand up mixer) Combine on low, after crumbs form, increase to medium high until creamy (3-4 minutes). Add rest of ingredients and mix on medium high until combined and creamier! That’s it!
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine (I used Ghiradelli Bittersweet Chocolate Bar)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
Place 1/4 cup heavy cream in pan and warm over medium heat. Put 2 ounces of chocolate and confectioner’s sugar in a medium sized bowl. When the cream is warm, pour over the chocolate and confectioner’s sugar. (You could also use your microwave to warm up all ingredients. I prefer to warm cream over heat.) Let set for 2-3 minutes. Whisk all together until smooth Place in fridge for 20-30 minutes to set. If you take out an hour later just let it set out for 5 minutes or so. It will get to room temperature and spread just fine.
That was it. It takes time but they are worth it. Give it a try!!