After weeks of recipe testing, I’m happy to report that my recipe for French macarons is ready to go! It took a lot of whipping, a lot of folding, and a heck of a lot of sitting around and doing nothing, but I finally got macarons that were fully baked with a flavor that actually came through. So let’s get to it!
Now the first thing to note is that there are a lot of macaron recipes out there. You’ll notice when you’re doing some research that they’re all different in some way. And let me tell you: it’s because they’re so. Darn. Particular. This cookie is made mostly with egg whites, and if you’ve seen my recipe for pavlova, you know that egg whites can be tricky to work with. Easy to curdle, easy to crack, difficult to dry out. Macarons have the added stability of ground almonds, so they won’t crack as easily, but there are plenty of other things to worry about.
Macarons are known for their smooth shells, crackled ring around the edge (called the “foot” of the cookie), and pillowy texture inside. A good macaron is the picture of a delicate dessert. And, because it’s French, you know it’s fiddly and takes time and dedication. Fortunately, macarons are not nearly as difficult as other aspects of French pâtisserie (you’re just filling a cookie, so no design background required). In fact, you can think of it as just a really fancy Oreo if it makes you feel better.
The texture of your ground almonds is super important. Don’t just buy a bag of almonds and grind them yourself in the blender; no home blender will get them as fine as you really need. Instead, head to the alternative flours section of your local grocery. You want almond flour – almonds ground so finely that they resemble the powdery texture of a flour. This will help them mix with the egg whites and will help you escape a lumpy batter.
The environment that you’re baking in will also factor into the success of your macarons. The unbaked shells need time to sit out on the counter and develop a skin so the finished shell is smooth and beautiful. Your kitchen needs to be a nice room temperature and have a good humidity level to allow the skin to form. Too wet, and the shells won’t dry out. Too warm, and you might get the same issue. A good rule of thumb is to keep your kitchen comfortable. If you’re too hot, then your macarons will be too!
These cookies are intimidating, but not that hard to handle once you try it a few times. And it’s fun to fiddle with it and try to perfect! I think I could get a better skin on mine, and I’m also wanting to try a few different flavors. If I find one I really love, I’ll update back here. Give them a shot, and impress all your friends and family with your fancy pâtisserie skills!
Raspberry Lemon Macarons
For the cookies
- 3 large egg whites
- 200 g powdered sugar
- 110 g almond flour
- 10 g freeze-dried raspberries (finely crushed or ground into a powder)
For the filling
- 1/2 cup butter (softened)
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- zest and juice of one lemon
- Sift the powdered sugar, almond flour, and raspberry powder together into a bowl. Make absolutely sure there are no lumps, as you want it to incorporate into the egg whites as easily as possible!
- Start whipping the egg whites on high speed in the bowl of a stand mixer until they are glossy and hold soft peaks (the stage where the whites will form a peak that droops a few seconds after you pull the whisk out of them). Watch them carefully, as this stage can happen quickly.
- Once the eggs have reached the soft peak stage, gently fold the dry ingredients into them. Don't overmix or undermix the batter; instead, fold about 30 turns of the spatula. until the dry ingredients are completely incorporated and the mixture is still stiff enough to pipe.
- On a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat, pipe 24 even discs of batter. They should be relatively flat, but not spread uncontrollably. Leave them to sit on the counter at room temperature for an hour, or until a skin forms on the top of the shells. It should be smooth to the touch, and no longer tacky.
- Heat your oven to 285 degrees F. Bake the macarons for 12-18 minutes, or until the shells have puffed well and dried out a bit. Once they leave the oven, let them cool for an hour to set up. If you try to remove them from the mat while warm, they will almost definitely crack.
- As the shells cool, beat the butter for 2 minutes on medium speed in the bowl of a stand mixer, until creamy. Add the powdered sugar and beat again until incorporated. Add the lemon zest and juice and beat one more time to combine. Once your cookies are cooled and the buttercream is made, pipe a small amount of icing onto half of the cookies and sandwich them together with an uniced cookie.
- The recipe is adapted from this one I found here.
- Make sure you're using weights, because they are much more precise than volume measurements. If you're feeling really frisky, you can even make sure that your egg whites weigh 100g (but honestly, who has time for perfection?).
- I prefer using a silicone mat rather than parchment paper, because the macarons come off of it easier. If they stick a bit, you can always lift the mat and peel them off like a sticker.
- The dried raspberries give it a pinkish color naturally, but you can enhance the color by adding a bit of pink gel food coloring. Make sure you use gel instead of liquid, because you don't want to alter the consistency of the batter too much!