Mastering French Macarons [recipe]

A month ago I took a class at Sur La Table on Mastering French Macarons. It was such an exciting experience for me because one, I have never been in a non-home kitchen environment before, and two, I was finally going to learn how to make these difficult and time-consuming treats!

We learned four different recipes in class. 16 people in a class so we were divided up to 4 teams, each making one recipe. My team was in charge of the chocolate macarons with salted caramel filling. The other 3 recipes were: hazelnut macarons with praline buttercream, pistachio macarons with chocolate ganache filling, banana macarons with banana custard filling. You have already seen the banana custard in my Tea Party entry, where I made the same custard, fold in some whipped cream, and used it in the raspberry banana custard trifle.

It was a long class, very informative and the results tasted ah-mazing. They were not overly sweet and had the perfect texture, something that I look for in every macaron that I buy. The process itself was not as difficult as I imagined it’d be, but rather, it required patience and extreme meticulousness. One little thing goes wrong then the whole batch is ruined.

My very first post-class-batch on my own was not from one of the four flavors above. I found an espresso macaron recipe from Tish Boyle’s Sweet Dreams, a blog that I frequent often. I didn’t use the caramel buttercream filling, but rather, stuck to a simple chocolate ganache. I must have overwhipped my egg whites or may have added too much cream of tartar, anyway, something was not quite right as you can see in the following pictures. The batter was thick, and the tips on each of them did not go away even after rapping the baking sheets to release trapped air bubbles. It took 2+ hours to dry the piped macarons, but this may be due to the humidity of my house. Surprisingly, these deformed macarons still had the right texture and tasted awesome.

Chocolate Ganache Filling:

6 oz heavy cream
8 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 oz unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp cognac or brandy (optional)

In a small saucepan, heat cream over medium-high heat to a simmer. Place chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl and pour hot cream over the chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute.

Slowly stir chocolate mixture with a silicone spatula to combine. Add butter and whisk mixture until smooth. Add cognac or brandy is using. Let cool, stirring every 10 minutes. Once ganache cools, pipe between two macarons.

I made my second batch of macarons a week after. I decided to make the hazelnut ones that we learned in class. Turned out much better this time as I learned the mistakes I made from the espresso batch. It also took a little bit longer because I couldn’t find any hazelnut meal in the local markets, so I had to make my own. Such a hassle! Next time I will just order some from online well in advance.

To make hazelnut meal, roast 1 cup raw hazelnuts in a 400 degree oven for ~20 minutes. While the hazenults are still hot, put them in a clean towel and the skin will rub off very easily. (If you can find already toasted and skinned hazenuts, that’s even better! You can skip this torturous step.) Then put the nuts in a food processor or a nut meal, pulse until the texture is like cornmeal. (If you don’t pulse and just let the food processor run, it’ll most likely turn into hazelnut butter)

Hazelnut Macarons:

7 oz powdered sugar, divided
2.5 oz almond flour or meal
1.5 oz hazelnut flour or meal
4 large (4 oz) egg whites, room temperature
Pinch of cream of tartar
3.5 oz granulated sugar
Brown food coloring (optional)
* Use a digital scale to measure everything.

  • Prepare parchment paper macaron templates. Line baking sheets with silpat silicone mats and top with parchment paper templates. (I drew templates on two pieces of 8.5×11 paper, place them on a heavy baking tray, top with parchment paper. I piped the macarons on the parchment paper according to the circle templates below, and when I’m done, simply take out the template papers from both sides. Don’t bake with the templates!!! )
  • pulse 1/3 of the powdered sugar with all the almond flour and hazelnut flour in a food processor to form a fine powder. Sift sugar mixture 2 times. Sift remaining powdered sugar 2 times. In a medium mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Set aside.
  • In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a wire whip attachment, whisk whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until foamy. Gradually add granulated sugar. Once all sugar is incorporated, scrape down sides of bowl and increase speed to high, whisking until stiff, firm, glossy peaks form.
  • To complete the macaronnage step (macaronnage: the technique of mizing flour and meringue to make macarons), sift the almond flour mixture 1/3 at a time over the egg white mixture and fold using a large silicone spatula until mixture is smooth and shiny. Once all the almond flour mixture is incorporated, check to see that the batter is nicely firm and drips slowly from the spatula.
  • Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2″ plain round tip (#12) and pipe 1 1/3 inch rounds on the parchment-lined baking sheets. Rap bottom of each sheet on work surface to release any trapped air. Let macarons stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375 degrees while waiting for the macarons to dry. Place the rack in the lower thirds. Macarons are ready to bake when they no longer stick to a finger when lightly touched. (Mine took over 1 hour to dry. Be patient! If it still sticks to your finger that means your macarons will not have a good crust and pied. Pied, aka the feet, is the little ruffly edges around the macarons. As you can see, I haven’t quite perfected the pied yet. They look great in the oven during baking, but deflate after I take them out…)
  • Stack the baking sheet with the macarons on top of an empty baking sheet. Bake one sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until macarons are crips and firm, about 10-15 minutes. If the macarons are still soft inside, lower oven to 300 degrees, over with aluminum foil and bake for a few more minutes.
  • Let the macarons cool on baking sheets for 2-3 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before filling.

White Chocolate Hazelnut Filling

Follow the same recipe above for chocolate ganache, use white chocolate instead. Fold in finely chopped hazelnut at the end.

Tips:

  • Almond meal/flour: You can find almond meal at your local Trader Joe’s. These were ground with skins on. If you want almond flour that was ground without skin, a pure white color that will not affect the appearance of your final product, you can often find those in health food stores or online shops like KingArthurFlour.com
  • It’s important to weigh your ingredients with a digital scale.
  • Sift your ingredients multiple times to get the powdery texture with no lumps.
  • When piping macarons, keep the tip of the pastry bag about 1/2 inch above and in the middle of the circle guide since the batter will spread.
  • If the macarons stick to the parchment paper after baking, spray some water underneath the parchment and allow the steam to loosen the macarons.
  • You can keep the macarons sealed in an airtight container for a 3-4 days. Refrigerate them in the hot summer days, and let them come to room temperature before eating.
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