Introduction: No Fail French Macarons!
Oh, macarons. Every dessert lovers' dream and every bakers' horrible, horrible nightmare. These little cookies are my favorite ever since I had one from Disneyworld's Be Our Guest restaurant in Orlando but, as much as I love them for a while it seemed that they didn't like me much at all. If they weren't caving in they were cracking or melting all over the cookie sheet into a sad lump of eggy dough. Until recently that is. After more than a few botched attempts at making these, I decided to treat it like a chemistry project rather than a baking one so I hopped onto Google to see what some other bakers had to say about macaron troubleshooting. All of my issues seemed to be coming from the instability of the egg white in the meringue. No matter what I did I couldn't seem to solve all the issues so I thought to myself: "Self, what makes eggs solidify when they heat up?"
"Why Sophie that's a fantastic question! The proteins in the eggs are what makes it stabilize!" And then I thought:
"Ok, well is there a way to add more proteins without adding another egg and throwing off the amount of liquid in the batter?" And I didn't know so I Googled it again and I found something called meringue powder which is dried out egg whites and, as it turned out, this works incredibly well. Hallelujah.
These macrons have a lemon curd filling but you could fill them with anything sweet. This makes about 6 sandwich cookies but you can double or triple the recipe as needed.
To make these you will need:
- A kitchen scale. Trust me, don't try to use measuring cups.
- A large and a small pyrex, glass, or metal mixing bowl
- A hand mixer or stand mixer
- A baking sheet
- A sifter
- Parchment paper
- A rubber spatula
- 1 egg. Preferably at least a week old, at room temperature.
- 1 Tbsp meringue powder
- 2 drops vanilla extract
- 34 grams of almond flour
- 76 grams of powdered sugar
For the lemon curd filling:
- Medium saucepan
- Fine grater, zester, or Microplane
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 3 tbsp fresh lemon zest
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup butter
Step 1: The Egg Comes First
The very first thing you need to do is separate your egg yolk from the egg whites. Break the egg and pour the yolk from one half of the shell to the other, letting the whites drizzle into your bowl, (or in my case a ramekin,) You can toss out the yolk or you can save it to make the lemon curd later. It's very important that absolutely no egg yolk find it's way into the macaron batter. Even a trace amount can ruin the whole batch. Set the egg whites aside and make sure they reach room temperature before you incorporate them unless you're aiming for a baking sheet full of super flat macron brittle.
Step 2: Tokyo Sift
Next up you've got to measure your dry ingredients and sift them together. Turn on your scale, place a bowl on it, and tare. (When you tare your scale you're essentially telling it to disregard the weight that's already placed on it so that it doesn't read the mass of the bowl in addition to the ingredients.) Most kitchen scales have a tare function, I recommend checking the instruction manual for yours if it isn't labeled.
Using a spoon, carefully measure out 34 grams of almond flour. Pour it into another bowl, tare the scale again, and measure out your 76 grams of powdered sugar. stir them together and sift the powder at least twice from one bowl to another to make sure the flour and sugar are completely combined. When it's done it reminds me of the type of really dry snow you want when you go snowboarding.
Step 3: Whisky Business
This is the magic step where everything used to go terribly wrong for me. Luckily, you don't need to worry about any of that because as your friendly neighborhood baking nerd I'm here to help! Take that room temperature egg that you've been saving and put it in your clean mixing bowl. It's super important that there's no residue of anything at all in your bowl because meringue absolutely does not like roommates. It will pitch a fit if you make it share a bowl and nobody wants that.
Using your mixer, whisk the egg for about 10 seconds on medium until it's frothy. Measure out that tablespoon of meringue powder and, while mixing, slowly add it into the egg until it's fully incorporated. Continue beating for about 2-3 minutes until soft peaks form. Not sure what that is? Pull your mixer out of the batter and if the little peaks on the tines of the whisk attachments stay peaks but slump over like the picture above then you've got it right!
Add a drop of food coloring if you want one. If you want super bright vibrant macarons like the ones you see on Instagram and such you should use a gel food coloring that's made for baking. I was out of gel coloring so I used ordinary food coloring and had a sort of tan-yellow color which I was fine with. Beat your mixture on high for another 10 seconds.
Step 4: Into the Fold
Now that you've got your nice soft peaks, take those dry ingredients that you set aside earlier and pour 1/3rd of it in with your batter. It's very important that you fold the powder in instead of stirring it because if you stir it you pop all the bubbles and wind up with flat macarons. Instead, take your spatula and 'cut' the batter in half. Scrape the spatula underneath the batter and fold it up over the powder, pressing down slightly with the spatula. Keep rotating the bowl and repeating this folding method until the powder is incorporated, repeat with another 1/3rd of the powder and then repeat again.
Once it's fully folded together, add the two drops of vanilla and fold again until it's all mixed together. Pour this mixture into a Ziplock bag, (or a piping bag if you have one,) and snip off the corner with some scissors. Line your baking tray with parchment paper and use this to pipe 1.5-inch circles onto the tray. The circles will look a bit like fat Hershey's kisses at first but they'll settle into even shapes.
Once you have your cookies piped, you need to let them dry for 30-45 minutes. You'll know they're ready to go in the oven when you can touch one lightly with your fingertip and not dent it. While these are drying is a good time to make the filling.
Step 5: When Life Gives You Lemons
When you make the lemon curd you need to use fresh lemons. The bottles of lemon juice are no good for this and produce bitter curd. Fortunately, I'm writing this during a citrus crop season and yesterday the Dean of Math and Sciences came into my makerspace with a gigantic bag full of fresh lemons begging my coworkers and me to take them home. I was all too happy to oblige.
In the case that you don't have a generous but overwhelmed lemon farmer in your immediate circle of friends, you will only need about 4 lemons from the store depending on size and time of year. Any lemon variety will work but Myer lemons are a popular choice. Thoroughly wash and zest the lemons. When you're zesting you want to use the grater to take off only the outermost yellow on the rind. The white part underneath is called the pith and it's super bitter. Put three tablespoons of zest into a bowl and mix it with the half cup of sugar. Most methods have you mix the sugar into the lemon-juice-egg mix but this way allows more of the oils to be extracted from the zest. Beat the 3 eggs and stir in the sugar zest mixture. Add 1/3rd of a cup of fresh-squeezed lemon juice and you're in business. As a bonus, this will make your whole kitchen smell like sunshine and happiness.
Step 6: Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezey
By now your macarons are probably almost dry. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees Farenheight. Once the cookies are dry and the oven is heated, pop them in the very center of the oven for about 12 minutes. You'll know that they're doon when the tops are dry and the puffy little 'feet' are sticking out below.
Once you've checked your cookies, heat the lemon curd mixture in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes or until it thickens. If you notice it start to boil, immediately lower the temperature and continue stirring. Once it has the consistency of pudding, turn the heat to low and add the 1/2 cup of butter. Stir that in until it melts. Heat and stir about three minutes until the butter is mixed in and the curd thickens even more.
Strain the curd into a dish as pictured above and put plastic wrap over it. The plastic wrap should be touching the lemon curd so it doesn't form a skin while it cools. Put it in the fridge for an hour or the freezer for 20 minutes.
Once your meringues are done, take them out and let them cool completely.
Step 7: Let Cooler Cookies Prevail
When everything is sufficiently cooled, fill your cookies with the lemon curd and dust them with powdered sugar! Enjoy the filled cookie immediately.
If you want to eat your cookies later, worry not! Most experts agree that day-old macarons are actually superior! Simply keep the unfilled cookies in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. When you're ready to serve them, fill them with the lemon curd, (which has a shelf life of two weeks and can be frozen indefinitely,) and dust them with powdered sugar! Voilà!
These macarons can be made in almost any flavor with different fillings like buttercream, jam, Nutella, and more! Please don't hesitate to ask questions in the comment section as I usually respond within a day! If you like this 'ible please vote for me in the cookies contest! Happy holidays!
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