French Macarons

The sugar cookies and Stollen were delicious, but the true highlight of winter break was working on macarons. I spent days and days baking macarons, researching macaron recipes, buying supplies for macarons, and obsessing over macarons. I’m swear I’m not exaggerating; just ask anyone in my family.

I had made macarons once before, but I think I was a little too ambitious. I did spend a long time online comparing and compiling recipes (I rarely just pick a recipe online; I have to compare all of the best recipes and read all of the comments to create what seems to be the best possible combination), and saved my compiled recipe in a document called “Macarons!!!” I planned to make both Cardamom Macarons and Matcha Green Tea Macarons, and fill them with salted caramel, blood orange curd, and bittersweet chocolate ganache. The macarons tasted delicious, but they were all wrong. The feet were funny, the tops were cracked, and I had to wrest them from the baking sheets, which left me with a whole bunch of gutted macarons.

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I was disappointed, and planned to take a macaron class at the Institute of Culinary Education before trying again, but then I came across the blog Tartelette. I read her blog and other blogs that blog about her blog, and then chose a basic recipe for eggnog macarons. The eggnog only comes in when you make the filling, so I didn’t have to worry about things like cocoa powder or green tea powder messing up my delicate macaron balance. I followed Helene of Tartelette’s advice and ground my own sliced almonds.
The batter was still very thick after the recommended 50 strokes, but I transferred it to a plastic bag anyway and started to pipe. The tip of the plastic bag wasn’t perfectly round, so the first few macarons came out ovular, with little tips that wouldn’t settle. I decided to transfer my batter to a real piping bag, even though I was worried that squeezing and squirting the batter into another bag would be the equivalent of over-mixing. In the end, I think that transfer saved my macarons. The batter was really too thick originally, and the rounds I piped with the real piping bag were much better. They initially had little tips but within a few minutes they were perfect domes.

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I stuck them in the oven, turned on the oven light, and sat down on the floor in front of the oven. I’ll just say that I was very, very excited to see the macarons develop feet. Huge feet, in fact. I’m never quite sure what macaron feet should look like. Some macarons have low, delicate, fluffy-looking feet that stick out just a little like these, and other macarons have tall, straight feet, like these. People (I guess I mean food bloggers) are always talking about the perfect macaron, but what is the perfect macaron? I know it’s supposed to have a smooth, domed top and feet, but what kind of feet? And I know hollow macarons are bad, but are air bubbles really a no-no?
In any case, I was very happy with my feet, and I took a whole lot of pictures.
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You can see that the feet on my macarons were very straight and very tall (when I told my mom that they were sandwich cookies, she thought the filling was between the foot and the shell!) There was also a lot of empty space inside the shells, which made the macarons chewier and more meringue-y than they usually are in bakeries. But they were incredible delicious, especially with Helene’s Eggnog Buttercream:
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Stay tuned for more on french macarons!
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