Preparing the macaron paste and piping and baking the shells all require a little practice. Start now and you'll become comfortable with the process and learn to move quickly and easily through the steps. Find the time to make the paste and bake the shells on several consecutive days and you'll soon wonder why you ever thought macarons were difficult to prepare.
Thanks to Priscilla Martel for sharing this recipe. She and Eddy Van Damme are the authors, along with Sarah Labensky, of On Baking (Prentice Hall, third edition 2012), a professional baking textbook.
Makes about 24 2-inch sandwiched macarons
200 grams almond flour (or hazelnut or pistachio flour)
170 grams confectioner’s sugar
70 grams aged egg whites
3 grams (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract (see the end of the recipe for other flavors)
1 gram (1/4 teaspoon) salt fine sea salt
Gel food coloring
50 grams water
180 grams granulated sugar
40 grams aged egg whites
2 half sheet pans covered with parchment that has been lightly coated with vegetable cooking spray and wiped with a paper towel
- Combine the almond flour and confectioners’ sugar in a food processor and pulse about 10 times at 1-second intervals to mix. Sift the mixture into a bowl through a medium-fine strainer. Reserve any large pieces of almond in the strainer for another use.
- Use a rubber spatula to mix in the egg whites, flavoring, salt, and coloring. Use plenty of coloring – it will become lighter when the meringue is added. Press plastic wrap against the surface of the almond mixture; wash the spatula.
- Stir the water and sugar together in a small saucepan and place on low heat. Meanwhile, place the egg whites in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk.
- Stir the syrup as it comes to a boil, then cease stirring. Wipe the side of the pan with a clean brush dipped in hot water to eliminate any sugar crystals stuck there.
- Once the syrup reaches 230 degrees, begin whipping the egg whites on medium speed; continue cooking the syrup to 244 degrees.
- Pour the syrup down the inside of the bowl into the egg whites while they’re whipping.
- Continue whipping until the meringue is lukewarm, about 105 degrees – the outside of the bowl should feel warm.
- Fold a third of the meringue into the almond mixture until smooth, then fold in the rest.
- Then, deflate the paste by continuing to fold until it becomes more liquid and suddenly appears shinier – this takes 20 to 30 seconds.
- Fit a disposable pastry bag with a 1/4- to 3/8-inch tube; twist the bag behind the tube and force the twisted part into the tube to seal the end of the bag and prevent the paste from leaking out while filling.
- Fill the bag with all the macaron paste and twist the top closed. Release the twisted area behind the tube. Pipe 1 1/2- to 2-inch macarons about an inch or more apart onto the prepared pans.
- Repeatedly drop each pan from a height of a foot back onto the work surface to flatten the macarons; let them dry for an hour at room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees with convection. Bake the macarons until well risen, smooth, and with a split “foot” at the bottom, about 10-12 minutes.
- Cool the shells on the pans. Detach and pair the cooled shells and pack them between layers of paper in a tin; refrigerate or freeze.
- To flavor and color the paste, see the instructions that follow.
Anise: Substitute 1 teaspoon anise extract for the vanilla; coarsely grind some aniseed in a spice grinder and lightly sprinkle the macaron shells with the crushed seeds immediately after piping.
Cinnamon: 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon; add along with the vanilla extract.
Coffee: Omit vanilla. Mix 2 tablespoons instant espresso with 2 teaspoons dark rum; use 2 teaspoons to flavor the paste.
Lemon: Substitute 1 teaspoon lemon extract for the vanilla and add 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest; yellow food coloring
Orange: Substitute 1 teaspoon orange extract for the vanilla and add 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest; orange food coloring
Pistachio: Substitute pistachio flour for the almond flour. Add a drop of green food coloring.
Raspberry: Color the paste with pink food coloring; fill with reduced, strained raspberry preserves.
Tomorrow: Filling and finishing the macarons