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These French macarons are flavored with slightly bitter almond and filled with a rich dark chocolate ganache. They have a crisp exterior that shatters into a soft, chewy interior. While macarons are usually a tea-side treat, the chocolate almond flavor begs for a cup of coffee.
French macarons may not exactly fall within the category of rustic European baking, but these delicate confections are so sought after, they deserve a feature and copious baking tips. Let’s be honest, not everyone visiting Paris can nonchalantly embrace the French word flâner, they’re often on the prowl for Ladurée and Pierre Hermé.
How to Make Macarons
Macarons are made by folding almond flour and confectioners’ sugar into meringue. They are piped, left to air dry, and then baked. They come in infinite flavors, colors, and fillings.
There are two main methods for the meringue used in macarons: a French meringue or an Italian meringue. In a French meringue, sugar is added directly to the egg whites as they are whipping. In an Italian meringue, a hot sugar syrup is whisked into the beaten egg whites. The French method is easier and more straight-forward to make, but the Italian method is more stable. This recipe uses a French meringue, even though it’s less stable, because it’s easier to prepare and not as sweet than the Italian method.
After folding the almond flour and confectioners’ sugar into the meringue, the batter needs to be mixed longer to deflate some of the air. The ideal consistency allows for the macarons to be piped but without spreading too thin. This process of folding and deflating the meringue is called macaronage.
Once the macarons are piped, they need to rest at room temperature to dry and form a skin. This skin is what creates the smooth, crisp shell once baked.
Macarons bake at a low temperature just long enough to crisp the exterior and set the meringue. They should not color, but they shouldn’t be soft or sticky either.
Essential Tips for Making Macarons
- Make sure to use blanched almond flour for the macarons, not almond meal. Almond meal is usually ground less finely and can include the skins. And if you can find it, use super-fine almond flour. The finer the almond flour, the smoother the macarons will be.
- If you can’t find super-fine almond flour, you can process the almond flour with the confectioners’ sugar in a food processor to grind it finer.
- These French macarons start with a French meringue. Many recipes use Swiss or Italian meringues, but I’ve had good results with this method and it’s the simplest. In a French meringue, sugar is gradually added directly to the whipping egg whites. While it’s not as stable as other types of meringue, it’s tender, light, and fragile, and tends to work well for cookies.
- The trickiest part of making macarons is getting to the right consistency after mixing in the almond flour. While I can give descriptions for the ideal consistency, unfortunately it might take practice and trial and error to get it perfect.
- Undermixing results in a batter that is too thick and the macarons will have peaks on them. Overmixing results in a runny batter that won’t hold its shape when piped.
- After adding the almond flour to the meringue, the batter will be very thick. Continue to gently fold with a wide rubber spatula to loosen the consistency of the batter. Test the consistency of the batter every few turns to avoid overmixing. The final batter should be smooth and glossy. It should fall slowly from the spatula in a thick ribbon that slowly disappears into the batter after about 30 seconds. Another test you can try is to try making a figure-eight. You should be able to make a figure-eight with the dripping batter without it breaking.
- To get perfectly round macarons, I like to use a pencil to trace circles on the parchment paper to use as guides. Be sure to flip the parchment over so the pencil-side is facing down. You don’t want graphite in your macarons. You could also use a baking mat with circles printed on it (they come in handy for piping choux pastry too).
- After piping the macarons, tap the baking trays on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles. Tapping the trays helps any large air bubbles trapped in the batter to rise to the top of the macarons and pop. Otherwise they will rise and expand while the macarons bake, either leaving empty pockets inside the cookies or cracking the smooth surfaces.
- The piped macarons also need to dry before baking. Drying the macarons helps them set and form a dry shell. If you don’t dry the macarons for long enough before baking, the shells may crack in the oven. Drying them also helps form the characteristic frilly feet along the bottom edge of the macarons. Because the top has formed a shell, the air escapes from the edges.
- The macarons should not brown much in the oven. You know they are ready when they have a crisp upper shell and the feet don’t wobble when you try to gently lift the macaron. If the bottoms are still soft or sticky, continue to bake them for a couple more minutes.
Yields 16 – 20 macarons
75g almond flour
115g confectioners’ sugar
2 large egg whites
50g granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
DARK CHOCOLATE GANACHE
115g chocolate (4 oz), finely chopped
120ml heavy cream
1 teaspoon honey
3/4 cup almond flour
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
DARK CHOCOLATE GANACHE
4 ounces chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon honey
1. Process or sift together almond flour and confectioners’ sugar:
Place the almond flour and confectioners’ sugar in a food processor and process until extra fine, about 15 seconds.
Alternatively, if you have super-fine almond flour, you can sift together the almond flour and confectioners’ sugar into a mixing bowl.
2. Beat the egg whites:
Whip the egg whites to soft peaks in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment.
Gradually beat in the granulated sugar and continue to whip to make a shiny meringue that holds stiff peaks.
Beat in the almond extract.
3. Fold in the almond mixture:
Gently fold a third of the almond mixture at a time into the meringue with a wide rubber spatula, mixing until fully combined after each addition.
After adding the almond flour, the batter will be quite firm. Continue to gently fold the batter to loosen it, until it’s shiny with a ribbonlike consistency.
When it’s the right consistency, the batter should slowly fall from the spatula in a thick ribbon. You should be able to make a figure-eight in the batter without it breaking.
4. Pipe the macarons:
Pour the macaron batter into a piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch (1cm) tip.
Pipe 1 1/4-inch (3cm) circles about 1 1/2 inches apart onto parchment-lined baking sheets. You should get at least 32 circles.
Tap the baking sheets firmly on the counter a few times to remove air bubbles.
5. Dry the macarons:
Let the macarons stand at room temperature for 30 minutes to dry the surface of the macarons, forming a slight crust. You should be able to gently poke them without the batter sticking to your finger.
6. Preheat the oven:
While the macarons are drying, preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F).
7. Bake the macarons:
Bake the macarons in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, one baking sheet at time. The tops should be crisp but not browned, the feet should have risen, and the macarons shouldn’t stick to the parchment paper.
8. Cool the macarons:
Cool the macarons on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then carefully peel them from the parchment paper and let them cool completely on a wire rack before filling.
Dark Chocolate Ganache
1. Bring the cream to a simmer:
Place the cream, honey, and butter in a small saucepan and bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat.
2. Add the chopped chocolate:
Remove the cream from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let sit for 2 to 3 minutes, then gently stir with a spatula or spoon until the chocolate has melted and the ganache is smooth and shiny.
3. Let the ganache cool
Let the ganache cool until it has set enough to pipe.
Fill the Macarons
Transfer the ganache to a piping bag fitted with with a round piping tip.
Pipe the ganache onto a macaron and sandwich with another macaron. Repeat with all the macarons.