Today Amy and I attempted our first batch of macarons. I have been waiting to attempt this allusive French cookie for a while now and finally took the plunge. The rumors floating around the internet are that this is incredibly difficult and there are many ways to fuck it up. There are also rumors floating around that Elvis is still alive and Madonna is a woman, but you can’t believe everything, now can you?
Whipping the egg whites to soft peaks.
Now macarons are difficult to make. They are not straightforward, simple, or quick. They are time consuming, require multiple steps, and you need to pay attention to what you are doing. They are more complicated than souffle, but I think a lot of things are more complicated than souffle, such as unlocking my front door after I’ve had a couple of beers. They are definitely worth the time and really it’s quite fun to make these little guys. Having a partner in crime definitely made the whole process more enjoyable.
My partner in debasing French food: Amy
We started with a journey to Safeway where they did not sell almond flour. They sell three million different brands of peanut butter and a package with three thousand boneless, skinless chicken breasts but they do not sell almond flour. Bummer. This meant we had to take an extra trip to Whole Foods on 41st Avenue to get almond flour. Before going to Whole Foods we bought a pastry bag (it was actually called a cake decorating bag) and an assortment of tips, which we ended up using none of. At Whole Foods we bought our almond flour which was ridiculously expensive. Seriously. They’re almonds. Ground up. Why do they cost twelve dollars for a pound? Sigh.
Our stiff peaks could have been stiffer.
When we got back to Amy’s apartment, we started the macaron making process. And yes it is definitely a process. We used Martha Stewart’s macaron recipe because we both find Martha to be an anal retentive, attention to detail kind of gal which is perfect for this sort of endeavor. We started with two egg whites in the stand up mixer on medium and mixed them until they were foamy. When they are foamy add a pinch of cream of tartar. Then beat some more until you achieve soft peaks. Soft peaks will fall over. Your eggs will look like marshmallow fluff. When your egg whites look like marshmallow fluff, then add a 1/4 of superfine sugar and beat on high until you achieve stiff peaks. To tell whether or not your peaks are stiff enough hold the bowl over your head for ten seconds upside down. If they do not come out then they are stiff enough. If they come out then well you need to start over again.
The mixture after the flour/sugar was added as well as food coloring.
*In the real world, stiff peaks will not fall over at all. They will look like stiff, puffy clouds. You do not need to hold a bowl upside down over your head. *
Now while this is going on, the other person should have been sifting the cup of confectioner’s sugar and 3/4 cup of liquid gold (almond flour). We did not sift it enough. IT WAS FINE. NOTHING BLEW UP. In retrospect we could sift it more.
When your peaks are stiff (ours could have been stiffer and STILL NOTHING BLEW UP), then begin to fold your sifted flour and sugar mixture in. You want to fold it gently in a figure eight pattern just like you would with a souffle or any other sort of meringue. Make sure that you are only adding in about a 1/4 cup of your flour/sugar mixture at a time as to not overload your egg whites. Once you have mixed in all your flour then add your food coloring. We decided on yellow. I used five drops of yellow and it came out a nice, light buttercup yellow.
Now you get to do the messy part or what for us was the messy part because our twelve inch pastry bag was too small. Scoop your mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a crescent moon tip or be like us and just go bareback. It worked fine. We got mostly circle shapes. We had a kidney shape. It was cute. There were also Mickey Mouse ears but we’re not going to talk about those. Now squirt out your mixture in a circular shape on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Oh by the way you should have pre-heated your oven to 375 at this point.
Once you have made your circles let them sit for about ten to fifteen minutes to develop a skin. Yes, they start growing organs. They are magical. During this time also decrease the temperature in your oven from 375 to 325. Once your macarons have grown skin, put them in the oven for five minutes. Then rotate the cookie sheet and cook for another five minutes. Then take them out of the oven and let them cool before removing them from the cookie sheet. Fill with buttercream frosting, ganache, a mixture of marscapone and jam, or coagulated blood.
We got feet and our tops were smooth. We achieved a lot this first batch, but we still need to work on it.
If you would like more exact instructions check out Martha Stewart’s recipe: http://www.marthastewart.com/318387/french-macaroons