My affinity for macarons began when I was sixteen. One biteand I was in love. It was like heaven had descended in my mouth—the crackle of the crisp shell, the chewiness of the macaron cookie, held together with the richest, deepest caramel buttercream.
I’ve travelled far and wide in search of delicious macarons. Like croissants, they are of the impossibly-difficult-to-make-at-home variety. I’ve heard the horror stories: the lumps, the oil stains, the flat cookies.
French pastries and desserts, in my opinion, are best enjoyed over a cup of coffee with a friend, sitting on the patio of a bustling bakery in a quaint neighbourhood on a beautiful spring day. That was what I thought, anyways, until I actually tried making macarons at home.
I had avoided the inevitable for as long as possible. I had tried to stop making custards and crème brulee and other egg yolk based desserts. I had eaten rather flavourless egg white omelettes. I had used up leftover egg whites to make Swiss meringue buttercream.
But then then it happened. A couple Fridays ago, my younger brother attempted to make a custard for a chocolate ice cream base. I came home later to Kyle dejectedly standing over the stove, stirring an unsalvageable curdled chocolate custard.
“We can still use it, right?” he asked hopefully, as if the ice cream machine could turn the lumpy mixture into a light, smooth ice cream. I shook my head and told him that I would take care of throwing out the curdled custard if he would separate some more eggs to make a new one. With ten egg whites in my fridge, I knew it was time to attempt the infamous macaron.
My first tray of macarons ended up spreading and cracking, but surprisingly, my second tray of macarons, which had rested an additional twenty minutes on the counter, came out rather well. In the end, I was able to produce eight decent-looking macarons. Beginner’s luck, perhaps...?
Click below for the recipe.
I would definitely recommend reading the following websites about macarons. They were extremely informative and helpful.
Basic French Meringue Macaron Batter
- 200 grams powdered sugar
- 110 grams almonds, ground
- seeds of ½ vanilla bean
- 100g egg whites (about 3 medium eggs)
- 25 grams granulated sugar
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine the almonds, powdered sugar, and vanilla beans in a food processor until combined. Alternatively, sift the ingredients together into a bowl.
In a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites and granulated sugar to stiff peaks. Add then almond and sugar mixture to the meringue.
Give quick strokes at first to break up the dry ingredients and then slow down; the whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flatten after 10 seconds, then the meringue is ready.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a half-inch plain tip and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto the baking sheets. Let the macarons sit out for an hour to harden their shells a bit. Preheat the oven to 280 to 300F. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Let cool completely before filling.
- I added ½ teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon clove, ¼ teaspoon dried ginger, and freshly grated nutmeg to the sugar-almond mixture for spiced macarons.
- I tried counting how many strokes it took me to mix all the ingredients together, but I lost count. Honestly, it’s not about how many strokes; it’s about the consistency of the batter. I tested my batter on a plate and once it flattened, I assumed it to be ready.
- I popped my first tray of macarons into the oven after only 20 minutes on the counter and the cookies ended up cracking (which means I overmixed, I think). My second tray, which rested for a good 40 minutes, came out really nicely.
Pumpkin Brown Butter Cream Cheese Buttercream
- 2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- ¼ cup of unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup powdered sugar, sifted
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
Place 2 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter is brown and has a rich, nutty aroma. Pour into a heatproof bowl and let cool completely. Chill until firm.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the brown butter. Add the cream cheese and beat until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and beat for a couple minutes until fluffy. Add the pumpkin puree and whip to combine. Use immediately, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.