While baking macarons may not be for the feint of heart, it’s entirely possible for the home chef to recreate the textures and tastes of the famous French cookies. When it comes to macarons, persistence pays off. A platter of colorful macarons makes an impressive and delightful appearance at parties.
You’ll want to start out with simple flavors and develop a good technique before moving onto the more experimental and complex varieties. It’s also important to adhere closely to the recipes and techniques presented by experienced bakers, in order to bake a successful batch.
You may need to prepare a few of the ingredients yourself, so make sure you have set aside time to prepare them properly. While some recipes call for purchased pre-ground almond flour, it is better to grind your own from whole almonds. The natural oils found in nuts can go rancid quickly, and by grinding your own flour you’ll have more control over its freshness and quality.
However, it may be beneficial to use commercially ground flour, as it usually has a finer texture and can produce a smoother shell. While some bakers stress that it’s necessary to “age” the egg whites before using them, others insists that there is no difference between using “aged” or fresh eggs.
Whether you chose to grind your own almond flour and age your eggs whites or not, you should still be able to produce a good batch of macarons if you are attentive when making the meringue and mixing the batter. You will need to reach a specific consistency when making the meringue, so that your cookies have the proper texture when baked.
A meringue that is not stiff enough will result in runny, flattened cookies. The proper meringue should be stiff enough that it does not drip from the whisk. You will also need to be patient when mixing the almond flour with the meringue. This step of the recipe is called the “macaronage” and serves to deflate the egg whites a bit so the batter will spread out to the perfect shape on the baking pan, and bake to the proper texture. If the batter is overmixed, it will become runny.
For these reasons, it is important to take your time when mixing the batter. Periodically checking that it has reached the proper consistency while mixing will help you find the right point at which to stop.
To make the perfect circles for your cookie halves, you will need to use a pastry bag or a clean plastic bag safe for food use. Do not fill the bag with all of your mixture, as this will cause too much to pour out at once and make it difficult to control. Most chefs recommend that you bake the macarons near the top part of your oven on parchment paper, and allow them to cool before peeling them from the baking pan.
Once you have baked and allowed your macarons to cool, you can fill them. Here is where you can get creative with the flavors. You can use buttercream, ganache, or jam to sandwich the macarons. Just be sure that whatever you use does not become runny at room temperature or you will find yourself serving a messy plate of macarons.
Do not worry about making these ahead of time if serving to guests, as they will keep up to a week in the refrigerator and even get better with age. Allowing the cookies to rest will improve their texture, as the moisture from the inside will moisten the crunchy exterior while keeping its shell intact.