We all know that the French Macaron is the most impressive cookie out there! I have been working feverishly to perfect it and make this famously difficult dessert attainable for the home cook, and I have some secrets to share!
Due to the famed difficulty of properly preparing these cookies, French pastry chefs would (and still do!) display them in their windows to show off their talent. See, a Macaron is not a Macaron without “Le pied” or the foot. Le pied is that fuzzy bit at the base of each cookie where the dough seems like it is escaping the beautiful dome above. That is exactly what is happening. The cookies are piped onto parchment and left for 10 minutes to form a crust. As the cookie bakes, the air expands and pushes some almond dough out to create the foot. When I first started making these 10 years ago, I read that you must smack the cookie sheet against the counter before letting the crust form. I have, without question, been following this advice and will require you to do the same!
I have been making different variants of my original Earl Grey Macaron recipe to see what elements are the most important and what you can play around with to vary up the flavors. The one thing I don’t love about the delicious almond pastry is all of the food coloring that goes into making those beautiful displays! For the most part, the different flavors come from the filling, but the shells themselves are generally just food coloring. I try to avoid food coloring, so I have been doing crazy experiments with alternative ways to flavor and color Macaron. Let me tell you, adding raspberry jam does not work! Do not add any liquid to your merengue, bad things happen. However, dry flavors like ground lavender, rosemary, rose petal, or Earl Grey tea do wonders!
I have also been experimenting with the quantity of sugar. If you are adding in cocoa, the best bet is to remove 4 tbsp. of confectioner’s sugar from the base recipe and replace that with 4 tbsp. of cocoa powder, once mixed with the merengue, the consistency will remain the same.
The most important secret I can share with you is to use fresh, just cracked eggs. I tried the recipe both with the Chocolate and Lavender Macaron shells with egg whites left over from another recipe, that had been sitting for a day in the fridge. The results were completely different. Compare the texture of the merengue and almond mixture in the image below. Old egg whites just don’t whip up to as large a quantity as fresh ones do.
Be careful about over-baking and under-baking the cookies. If they are under-baked, they will be incredibly delicious but a pain in the butt to remove from the parchment. If they are over-baked, they can usually be rescued with a softer buttercream and a longer period of time in the fridge to soak in, but 15 minutes does the trick in my oven. Do not be afraid of opening the door occasionally and testing on a few “tester” cookies until you get the timing right.
This recipe makes about 80 Macaron if they are all perfect, but for me it tends to make somewhere around 65-70 after I toss (shove in my mouth) the cracked and disfigured ones.
Make them a day ahead and store in the fridge between layers of parchment to let the flavors blend. You can store them for at least 3 days in the fridge. I heard they can last a week in the fridge or a month in the freezer, but we have never had any last that long.
We served these macaron along with a batch of Lavender Macaron with Lemon Buttercream filling for our Memorial Day Steak and Cake Cookout. Check out the recipe for Lavender Macaron and a guide to planning your own cookout with the links above!
Chocolate Macaron with Orange Blossom Buttercream
3 cups – 4 tbsp confectioners sugar
2 2/3 cup ground almonds
1/4 cup cocoa powder
6 large egg whites
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cream of tartar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Line 3 cookie sheets with parchment (or measure 3 sheets of parchment for your cookie sheet). Using a pencil, draw 1 1/4 inch rounds 1/2 inch apart on your cookie sheet. I used the smallest of my biscuit rounds as a tool, bottle caps work too. You need about 160 rounds.
- Mix confectioners sugar, almonds, and cocoa powder together and grind in a food processor until smooth. If chunks are formed, break them apart with your fingers in a bowl.
- Whisk egg whites with a pinch of salt and cream of tartar until soft peaks form.
- Carefully add the sugar and whisk until smooth and shiny (refer to photo).
- Fold half of the almond mixture into the merengue.
- Carefully fold the second half into the merengue.
- Fill pastry bag with thickest round piping attachment. Pipe into pre-drawn circles, one cookie sheet at a time.
- Whack the cookie sheet against the counter and leave uncovered for 10 minutes to allow a shell to form. Do not skip this step!
- Bake for 15 minutes and slide off of cookie sheet onto cooling rack.
- To assemble, sandwich about 1/4-1/2 tsp buttercream between each set of shells. Store in an airtight container between layers of parchment in the fridge. Bring out at least an hour before serving.
Orange Blossom Buttercream
few drops of orange blossom extract
2/3 cup confectioners sugar
7 tbsp butter, softened
- Beat butter with sugar.
- Add a few drops of orange blossom extract.
Total cooking time: with the piping and filling, about 3 hours, makes 60-80 Macaron
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