Macarons are notorious for being finicky to make, and I’ve certainly made easier recipes in my life. If you fail at any one of the steps, you will have flat little wrinkled pancakes or empty balloons that crumble at a touch. What we want are nicely domed, slightly chewy, airy little cookies that have a little frilly ridge around the bottom that are known as “feet”. Here are some tips to help you make the perfect macaron, without whispering incantations to the baking gods or running around the house backward and clucking like a chicken. The rules are simple and not hard, there’s just a lot of them.
- Organize your space, clear the area and your head. You’ll want to work on a day without distractions because there are a fair number of steps and they take a while.
- Make sure all of your equipment is perfectly clean and free of any oily residues. You might want to give your mixing bowls, beaters and spatula a wipe with a vinegar solution and then a rinse. They should be absolutely dry before you begin.
- Get all your ingredients weighed, measured and lined up beforehand. This is a good rule no matter what you are cooking.
- Make sure your egg whites are at room temperature. I take mine from the fridge a few hours ahead of time and separate them right away. This speeds up the process.
- When you sift your dry ingredients together, make sure they are completely lump-free. You don’t want to be squishing out the lumps after they are in the egg whites or it’s guaranteed that you will over mix.
- Don’t overbeat your egg whites. They should be glossy, satiny and smooth with soft peaks. You’ll know they are ready if you tip the bowl and they don’t move. Check frequently early on so that you are sure they aren’t overworked. If they look like freshly fallen snow, you have gone too far! It would be better to start again.
- Add the dry ingredients one third at a time. Use a swooping, J-shaped motion to fold them into the beaten egg whites. Do this by cutting down the middle of the mixture with your spatula, scoop under the batter, and turn the bowl as you go.
- Here is the test for knowing that your batter is a perfect consistency. Let some batter run off the spatula in a ribbon. See if you can make a figure eight with the batter without it breaking the ribbon. Keep folding if necessary, a little at a time until you can do this. The ribbon will fall back into the batter and disappear in about 10 seconds. This will tell you that everything is perfect and ready for piping.
- Here’s a helpful tip for using a piping bag. Get a tall container and put the tip on the end of your bag securely. Set the bag into the container with the tip end folder upward. This will keep the batter from flowing out the end as you fill it. Fold the top of the bag back a few inches to make a cuff. This will help keep it open and make it easier to fill. We don’t want to be working the batter further as we load up the bag. Once filled, unfold the cuff. Grip the bag just above the filled part and squeeze down until the batter is at the tip.
- You can use a template to help space your cookies and to make them a nice even size, or you can hold the bag about 1/2 an inch above the sheet, keeping it perpendicular to the baking sheet. Gently squeeze until you have a circle of about 1 1/4 inches across. Keep a glass of water nearby with a table knife handy. Dip the knife in the water and use it to stop the flow if necessary.
- Space the cookies out. You are working with two sheets so they will have plenty of room. Tap the tray a few times right after they are piped, to let out any excess air bubbles. We want perfectly shiny smooth cookies!
- Let the unbaked cookies air dry to form a skin before you bake.
- Rotate the trays in the oven while they are baking to make sure they are evenly cooked. Don’t remove them from the sheets and till they are completely cooled! They are very fragile when warm and easily destroyed.
Okay, that’s all of my sage advice. I earned it the hard way, so don’t get discouraged. Follow these simple rules and you should be making gobsmackingly beautiful macarons to amaze all of your friends!
Chocolate Mocha Macarons
- digital scale, fine sieve, two metal mixing bowls, hand mixer, spatula, medium size piping bag with 1/4 inch straight tip, two baking sheets, parchment
Chocolate Macaron Shells
- 100 grams fine almond powder
- 100 grams powdered sugar
- 20 grams cocoa powder
- 3 large egg whites, room temperature
- 75 grams granulated sugar
- 5 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp powdered sugar
- 2 tsp instant coffee crystals
- 2 tsp hot water
- 1/4 tsp vanilla
- 2 tbsp heavy cream
- Separate your eggs and allow to warm up to room temperature. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Sift powdered sugar, almond flour and cocoa powder through a fine sieve, into a mixing bowl. Repeat until the dry ingredients are well blended and completely lump free.
- In a very clean metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites with a hand mixer on low speed until they are quite frothy - small bubbles are still visible, but the egg whites are still very liquid.
- Add granulated sugar and increase mixer speed to high. Beat eggs until soft peaks are just formed and until they are just stiff enough that they do not slide in the bowl if you tip it on its side. Do not overbeat.
- Add dry ingredients to the egg whites, one third at a time. Fold into the egg whites with a rubber spatula, using a J-shaped motion. Test the consistency of the batter by letting it flow from the end of the spatula.
- Load a piping bag with the batter.
- Pipe 1 1/4 inch rounds onto the two parchment lined baking sheets.
- Let macaron shells air dry for about 40 minutes, or until they have formed a skin that is dry when touched very gently.
- While macarons are drying, preheat oven to 325F. Bake each sheet for 15 minutes. Rotate the sheets every 5 minutes to make sure they are baking evenly. If you have a convection oven, make sure the fan is off.
- Allow shells to cool completely before removing them from the baking sheets as they are very fragile when they are still warm.
- Melt butter in a small pan until just about to turn brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool until set.
- Mix instant coffee with hot water to dissolve.
- When butter is cool, add to a mixing bowl and beat all ingredients together, until smooth and creamy.
- Spread about 3/4 tsp of buttercream on the flat side of one macaron shell. Spread it almost to the edges and set another macaron shell on top. Give the top shell a half twist to set it.
- Refrigerate until buttercream is completely firm.