Recently a friend asked if I knew how to make French macarons, since she really wanted to learn. I can cook and bake anything so I was sure I could figure it out. When faced with the task, I was stumped. So off to Sur la Table I went, girlfriends in tow, aprons knotted tight and ready to bake. I am now in love with these small sweet treats!
The class focused on classic, almond flavored macaron cookies; the flavor came from the fillings. In class we made a Blackberry Jam and Ganache and Apricot buttercream fillings. The class was great but it only taught us the basics. I knew the cookies could have different flavors and the fillings were endless combinations. I mean these babies are meant to be customized. So, I put my own spin on their recipe and jazzed it up.
Traditionally macarons are made quarter sized. I recommend making them small, bite size, and make a lot! When they’re small, they can be popped in your mouth just like a small candy. I also made a full-sized “Lemon Macaron Tart”, that was out of this world. The lemon curd was extra tart and the macaron was sweet and almond flavored. Delicious!
I have just a few pieces of advice before you dive in.
Make sure you use Almond flour NOT almond meal. I found one , locally, that is called “ultra” fine almond flour.
Use gel colorings and flavorings. You don’t want any added moisture.
This recipe will get you started making macarons. I hope you will get creative and start adding different flavors and colors to the cookie and fillings.
Preheat oven to 300°. Place rack in lower third of oven.
Fit heavy duty baking sheets with parchment or silpats.
They make macaron silpats with circles already drawn.
In a food processor, fitted with the metal blade, put the confectioner's sugar in first then almond flour. Pulse into a fine powder. Do not over process or the powder will become sticky (from the natural oil).
Press (sift) the sugar/flour mixture through a fine mesh sieve. This process may be done up to three times. You are trying to get the smoothest blend possible. You can discard any coarse meal. Set flour mixture aside.
Make the Meringue:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a whisk, add the egg whites and cream of tartar. Start with a slow speed and whisk until eggs start to get foamy.
Gradually add your sugar and start to increase speed. You can add in vanilla or other flavoring, at this point, before peaks start to form.
Once all the sugar is added, watch closely until stiff, glossy peaks form. You DO NOT want to over beat the egg whites! Think shaving cream, not soap suds. When you have the consistency right, you can fold in gel food coloring. Again be sure not to over work the egg whites when folding in color.
Add the flour mixture, to meringue, in thirds. I find a silicone spatula works best. One more time, do not over blend. You should have the consistency of thick ribbons or lava. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip.
I like to trace my circles on parchment paper as a guide, or use the pre-drawn silpat. Hold the pastry bag straight up and down and pipe small circles.
If you are making one large macaron "top", use a 9" pie guide and work in a circular pattern.
Let the macarons stand at room temperature, until they are no longer tacky and the touch of a finger doesn't leave a dent, in the top. The is about 30 minutes.
Bake until crisp and firm, 14-16 minutes. Let cool completely before removing from pan and making sandwiches.
Fill with anything from chocolate ganache or jams to flavored cream cheese. Go crazy!
Lemon Curd Filling
Place all ingredients in a large heatproof bowl and put over a pan of simmering water. Make sure the bowl does not actually touch the water.
Stir constantly as the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. The mixture will heat and thicken in 10 - 15 minutes. Keep a close eye, to not overcook.
The perfect consistency is when the curds coats the back of the spoon without immediately running when a finger is run through it.
Pulse lemon cookies (enough to make 2 cups crushed) in food processor.
Toss butter and cookie crumbs together and press into a 9" pie dish.
Bake at 350° for 8 minutes.
Let cool completely before filling.
Fill crust with Lemon Curd and gently top with Macaron.