This small French cookie has basically become all the rage in the baking world, probably for two very good reasons. For one, they are often beautifully presented with vibrant colours and maybe some edible food dust has been delicately brushed onto the top shells. Despite being so small, they pack a punch with flavour. I think they're fab, and they really aren't too hard to make if you play your cards right.
Before we get to the recipe, I need to talk about my favourite part about macarons. Did you know that there is a specific French word used to describe the process of folding Italian meringue into the almond flour, icing sugar, egg white mix? As a verb: macaronner. As a noun, le macaronnage. If you've ever had a well-made macaron, you'll know why these cookies deserve their own terminology.
The other part to this is that le macaronnage is not an easy thing to do. And maybe that's the real reason for the macaron-specific terminology. The person who masters le macaronnage can produce the most beautiful of French delicacies. So basically all of this to say that there is a very specific point at which the batter is ready to be piped, and without recognizing this point, you risk undermixing or overmixing your batter. Some people say that the batter should be the consistency of molten lava, and that's how you know when it's ready. This comparison has just never worked for me. Maybe I am naive in my knowledge re: molten lava, but molten lava CAKES on the other hand, totally different story. Ignore all that though - this video is a lifesaver for showing you exactly how your batter should look and act when it's ready. Take two minutes to watch it, and you'll be prepared for macarons success.
Undermixed or overmixed?
How do I know if my batter undermixed or overmixed? If your batter is undermixed, your macarons may have little points from where you stopped piping or may not lay flat and even on the baking tray. If overmixed, your batter might be really runny and difficult to pipe without having the batter just completely running out from the piping tip. Ugh. Too real. These are warning signs. You can do something about an undermixed batter, that is, scoop that batter up and mix it until the batter runs off your spatula in a ribbon. Overmixed? You'll have to start again. Fold the batter together slowly so you don't miss your opportunity.
So this recipe calls for some ingredient prep two days before actually making the macarons.
First, you'll need to leave egg whites to age for two days prior. Macarons cannot be macarons without feet. And to get the classic macarons feet, you need to use aged egg whites! Age them in the fridge covered with plastic wrap poked with holes for two days so that some of the water from the whites evaporates. Alternatively follow the same steps but age them at room temperature for a day before using.
It's also important to dry out the almond flour. It is an extremely absorbent flour, and so in order for us to achieve that perfect macaron texture, the flour needs to be dried out so that it can absorb even more moisture from the filling once the macarons are assembled. Trust me on this one.
Macarons shells adapted from Jacquy Pfeiffer's The Art of French Pastry
Grapefruit buttercream adapted from Spoon Fork Bacon
Total active time: 1 hour
Total time before mass consumption: 3 hours to 3 days!
Servings: 60 macarons
250g almond flour, skinless
250g icing sugar
95g egg whites, aged and at room temperature
250g granulated sugar
50g corn syrup
2-3 drops red food colouring
95g egg whites, aged and at room temperature
Grapefruit buttercream filling
247ml fresh red grapefruit juice (~ 2 grapefruits)
zest of two grapefruits
227g salted butter, room temperature
250g - 625g icing sugar
Tools & equipment
2-4 baking trays prepared with silpat or parchment paper
pastry bag fitted with 3/8-inch nozzle
- Optional: Before making your macarons, sift together the icing sugar and almond flour onto two baking trays lined with a silpat or parchment. Leave uncovered in your kitchen for at least two days.
- Add 95g of egg whites into a small bowl, and the other 95g into another small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and poke holes into the top. Let sit in the fridge for at least two days or overnight at room temperature before making the macarons.
- Place the almond flour and icing sugar in a food processor and blend for 10 seconds. This is to get rid of any lumps that could interfere with the texture of the shells.
- Put the almond and icing sugar mix into a large bowl.
- Make the Italian meringue. Ensure that the bowl of your stand mixer is clean and dry. Remove one of your prepared bowls with 95g egg whites from the fridge and add them to the bowl. Make sure the stand mixer is fitted with the whisk attachment.
- To make the sugar syrup, in a small pot over medium heat, combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup. Use your candy thermometer to periodically check the temperature of the syrup.
- Once the syrup reaches 230°F, turn your mixer onto medium speed and whisk the egg whites until slightly foamy.
- When the syrup reaches 244°F, it is ready to be poured into your foamy egg whites. If your egg whites are foamy before your syrup reaches 244°F, turn the mixer off and wait for the syrup to be ready. If your syrup isn't increasing in temperature, increase the heat slightly.
- Turn the mixer onto high speed and slowly pour in the syrup, making sure that it's pouring in between the side of the bowl and the whisk.
- Once you've added all the syrup, keep whisking on high speed for two minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and whisk for three minutes.
- While the egg whites are whisking away, add the other 95g of egg whites to the bowl with your almond and icing sugar. Mix with a spatula to combine. The mixture will be quite thick.
- Just before the three minutes of whisking egg whites are up, add 2-3 drops of red food colouring to the meringue. The meringue should be glossy and smooth when ready.
- Using your spatula, fold the meringue into the almond mix. This step is known as the macaronnage. You want to fold gently so that you conserve the air that's been whisked into the meringue. It's possible to both undermix and overmix the batter (I know, welcome to the world of macarons). This is what makes macarons so tricky. But if you check out this video (start at 6:55), you'll know exactly when to stop mixing. It'll also show you how you should be folding the batter. You're looking for a ribbon of batter to gently fall off of your spatula when lifted out of the batter. That's how you know you're ready to pipe.
- Prepare a piping bag fitted with a 3/8-inch round tip. Fill the piping bag with the batter and pipe 1 1/2-inch macarons rounds. I find my silpat works much better here than parchment paper. If you do use parchment, make sure it is perfectly fitted to your baking tray. If there are any uneven parts, your macarons will notice and will warp in shape and size.
- Preheat your oven to 275°F convection. If you don't have a convection oven, preheat to 300°F.
- Let the macarons sit at room temperature for one hour to dry out or until a skin has developed on the shell. You can test this by gently touching the side of a macaron. If it's dry and nothing sticks to your finger, they are ready to be baked.
- Bake one tray at a time for 15 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through the bake.
- Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Allow to cool completely. They might stick to the silpat or parchment while they're still warm, so a little patience here is required!
- While they're cooling, make the buttercream.
- Zest the grapefruits over a small bowl.
- Cut open the grapefruit and juice completely.
- In a small pot, simmer the grapefruit juice for 8 minutes over medium heat. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter until pale. Add 100g of icing sugar at a time until desired sweetness.
- Add the grapefruit zest and juice. Mix until well combined. The buttercream may be slightly liquid after the addition of the juice, so add more icing sugar until it stiffens and has a spreadable consistency.
- Readjust the sweetness again now that the juice has been added, tasting as you go. I rarely use as much icing sugar as the original recipe calls for because I like a buttercream that isn't too sweet. The amount of icing sugar you add here is totally up to your own taste!
- Prepare a piping bag fitted with a 3/8-inch round tip. Fill the bag with the buttercream.
- Pair your macarons shells with another shell that is roughly the same shape and size (because let's be honest, they never are all completely even and round).
- Flip over one of the shells to prepare them for filling.
- Pipe buttercream onto the bottom of half of the shells, starting from the centre of the shell and working your way outwards. You want to be sure that the buttercream reaches the edges of the shell without going over so that when the top shell is added, the buttercream isn't overflowing.
- Once the macarons are filled, refrigerate for 48 hours before eating. For real. Monsieur Pfeiffer claims that the macarons shells will absorb moisture from the filling and will soften to exactly the right consistency. This is actually true, and I tested this. The macarons are just perfect after some chill time in the fridge.
- For sanity's sake though, refrigerate them but please enjoy whenever you like.
Macarons can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks and frozen up to one month in an airtight container.