Having arrived back from France just over three weeks ago, it’s only right for an obsessed baker like myself to give French macarons yet another shot, for the fiftieth time. Okay, not the fiftieth, but it certainly feels like it. Any seasoned baker knows that macarons–the French ones in particular–are no easy feat. From thinning batter to stuck shells to excessive browning, the possibilities of mess-ups are endless. I embarked on the quest to make macarons years back, but time after time, the attempts were never matched with success.
Two days after arriving back home from France and after reminiscing about the incredibly elegant macarons I found there, I decided to study a recipe from acclaimed food photographer, Helene Dujardin. I ran off to the market for yet another dozen of organic eggs and attempted to pay heed to her wisdom. “Practice, practice, practice” she says. And, as any persistent student knows, more often than not, practice actually does pay off.
French macaron making is all about practice, precision, and patience. Nothing less will be fully rewarded.
Do’s and Dont’s of French Macaron Making:
- AGE your egg whites for at least 3 hours and up to 5 days in the fridge with some air flow allowed
- BRING egg whites to room temperature before using
- UTILIZE the FRENCH MERINGUE method if you are a beginner
- BUY pre-ground almond flour
- MEASURE by weight on a scale for accuracy
- WEIGH egg whites after aging
- ADD dry powdered egg whites to your egg white base for extra protein structure
- ATTAIN a birds beak consistency for your whipped egg whites before adding the sugar-almond flour mixture
- PROCESS & SIFT your sugar-almond flour mixture
- PRINT OUT this template to use as a piping guide
- USE parchment paper to pipe on for easier cleanup and release
- PIPE with a gentle yet steady hand
- SLAM baking sheets 3 times over to release entrapped air in the piped macarons
- DRY OUT piped macarons for about 30 minutes prior to baking
- KNOW your oven and it’s tendencies
- SPRINKLE water under parchment for easier release
- PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!
- BUY egg whites from a carton expecting them to work for macarons- no, no, no!
- EXPECT that almond flour is cheap
- USE off-tasting confectioner’s sugar–if it isn’t a new bag or sealed airtight, taste it before using
- OVERMIX the batter
- STEP AWAY from your boiling sugar if you are using the ITALIAN MERINGUE method
- POUR boiling sugar syrup on top of the whisk beater when mixing sugar syrup into the egg whites–this will prevent the syrup from being splattered on to the sides of the bowl (ITALIAN MERINGUE)
- FREAK OUT if your macarons aren’t perfectly round, smooth, and/or shiny…they still taste yummy!
So after all the failed attempts and re-strategizing, one might ask why would someone go through all of this work to simply make a little cookie. At the end of the day, French macarons are coveted for their style, their taste, and because they transport us to the place where we would most like to be (France, of course!). For the baker who makes them, the most unique thing about French macarons is that this cute little confection has the power to make people stop to savor a very special moment in gastronomic time. Macarons aren’t just food, they are an art. So, the next time you are inspired to get baking, you might want to consider attempting the French macaron–a culinary tradition that hasn’t failed to impress for over 1oo years. At the very least, it will help to explain why your next mac run will likely cost you a pretty penny.