You had to know it was coming. With a series called “Kitchen Challenge,” macarons were bound to be the subject sooner or later. So let’s just get it over with, shall we?
Technically I’ve attempted macarons before. I actually almost put a recipe for cookie dough-filled ones in the first book (but the fact that I could not get consistent results from my own recipe convinced me to take it out.) When in the company of my macaron making friend Tabitha, they look great, but I’ve yet to produce a truly successful batch on my own.
So this month, let’s roll up our sleeves and master Macarons, once and for all.
- Macarons vs. macaroons. We’re not talking about the rustic coconut kind, here.
- The time. You’ll probably want to set aside a good 4 hours from start to finish. Seems like a breeze compared to the total time involved in croissants, eh?
- The weather. Seriously. Don’t attempt these if it’s precipitating of any kind. Wait for a cool, dry day if you can. If you can’t, get out a fan and crank up the AC.
- The ingredients. I found some reasonably priced and beautifully fine almond flour from Nuts.com. Very finely ground almonds work too, but either way, be sure you sift it first. As for the egg whites, I’ve heard older egg whites work best, although BraveTart debunks this as a myth. I’ve got a boat load in my freezer, left from all those batches of ice cream and hollandaise, so I’m all set there.
- The method. French vs Italian. I’ll probably try the French this time, although I can say the Italian method, while more complicated, seems to produce more consistent results.
- Double up. Be sure you have a set of two identical baking sheets, and stack them one on top of the other. The double layer will help your macarons bake more evenly.
- Weigh it out. Most macaron recipes (you’ll notice), call for very specific quantities of things, measured in grams. My advice? Get an inexpensive kitchen scale and follow your recipe. There’s a reason they are so precise.
The great part of this challenge is the basic recipe is only the foundation, but the flavor combinations are endless. Experiment with different nut flours. Try adding powdered food coloring or freeze dried fruit or espresso powder to the shells. And the fillings? Well, the possibilities there are endless.
Needless to say, I cannot wait to see what you guys come up with!
I have not yet decided which recipe/method I’m going to follow. Anyone have a favorite? A recipe or technique or tutorial they swear by? Do share it in the comments! But here are some good starting points for those looking to tackle this challenge:
- I (heart) Macarons is a great book with step-by-step photographs, creative flavor variations and filling combinations. It’s got instructions for both the French and Italian methods.
- I’ve also heard the instructions in this book are good: Les Petits Macarons: Colorful French Confections to Make at Home (plus, hello adorable cover!)
- You absolutely have to read “Demystifying Macarons” by Helene of Tartelette
- A time-tested recipe for French macarons from BraveTart, with step by step photos of the recipe available at Eat. Live. Travel. Write (she’s also got videos!)
- Also from BraveTart? Macaron Myths. And The Macaron 10 Commandments. Heck, all of Stella’s in-depth posts on macarons are worth reading.
- Here’s a Serious Eats article on How to Make Macarons, with an extensive list of different recipes and tips.
Want to join me?
If you’re up for the challenge, attempt a batch of macarons by Sunday, April 21st. Send me a photo of yours results (good or bad). I’ll document my experience and also share the images/links to those who’ve taken the challenge as well. This challenge is simply about getting in the kitchen and challenging yourself to make something new; you aren’t required to have a blog to participate, nor are you required to post about it if you do. However, if you do have a blog and post about the challenge, you are more than welcome to use the above graphic if you’d like to spread the word! (Please upload it to your own server.)
Spatulas ready? Let’s go!