All week long, the lovely Dorie Greenspan is serving as a Guest Editor here at Food52, sharing recipes and stories from her latest book, Baking Chez Moi. We're also giving away a copy each day! Because we want to give the gift of Dorie.
Today: Learn how to make a fanciful and iconic Parisian treat.
About twenty years ago my friend Anne Noblet brought me a box of beautiful chocolates from her home in Angers, in the Loire Valley, and told me that the chocolatier was also a pastry chef, a very good one. I quickly asked if he made wonderful macarons, and she just as quickly answered, “Macarons! Only Parisians care about them!” She was right then, but wouldn’t be at all right now. The macaron craze has spread across France and even jumped to America.
These are not double-O macaroons, not Passover macaroons, coconut macaroons, or even amaretti types. They are small, sweet almond meringue cookies that, when properly made, puff into a smooth-topped matte round with a craggy ring on the bottom, referred to as “the foot.” The foot is the grand prize of macaron making and, like the smooth, uncracked top, it’s a sign of a job well done. There’s one more sign, which only becomes visible when you break into the cookie: a chewy interior beneath that outer shell.
More: Try another transatlantic treat -- Les Whoopies.
The shells themselves -- made of confectioners’ sugar, almond flour, egg whites, and a sugar syrup -- are always beautifully and fancifully colored but never have much taste. Taste is not their primary job. They were created to look pretty, provide crunch, and sandwich a filling, the star of the show and an element that invites fantasy and fun. Some pâtissiers have dozens of flavors, and no matter how many there are, each week there are new ones. Go wild with these -- everyone else does.
This recipe is long, not because there’s so much to do or because what you have to do is difficult, but because there are so many things to look for. I’ve provided the best instructions I can, but you still might have to make these a couple of times to get them just right. You’ve got to learn about the batter and your oven. Much of what you have to do goes against established practice, so experience and trust are your best guides. Happily, most less-than-perfect macs still taste good.
A few things to take note of before you start making macarons:
Egg whites: Some pros leave their egg whites at room temperature for a few days before using them -- you get a better meringue with old (more liquidy) whites. I leave them out overnight. If that makes you uncomfortable, separate the eggs and leave the whites in the refrigerator for a day or two.
Almond flour: The almond flour has to be absolutely free of lumps, so you must sift it or press it through a sieve. Never skip this step -- it’s imperative.
Measuring: If you have a scale, use it to measure the ingredients for this recipe. You want equal weights of almond flour and confectioners’ sugar. You also want 150 milliliters of egg whites. That’s about 5 whites. Just turn your glass measuring cup around to the metric side, you’ll have an easy time of it. It’s also easier to use the metric measure should you have to divide the egg whites in half.
Tools: Because you have to beat the egg whites and, at the same time, pour hot sugar syrup into the bowl, it’s best to work in the bowl of a stand mixer. You’ll also need a candy thermometer. And while you can certainly bake the macarons on parchment-lined baking sheets, this is a case in which silicone baking mats do a better job.
- Timing: Filled macarons need to soften in the refrigerator for at least 1 day. Sorry, it’s the rule.
Makes 45 macarons
2 cups (200 grams) almond flour (made from blanched almonds)
1 2/3 cups (200 grams) confectioners' sugar
About 5 large egg whites (150 milliliters), at room temperature
Food coloring (optional)
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
1/4 cup (60 milliliters) water
10 ounces (283 grams) best quality white chocolate, finely chopped
2/3 cup (158 milliliter) heavy cream
1 1/2 tablespoons (3/4 ounce; 21 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 3 pieces
8 ounces (227 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup (240 milliliters) plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick; 2 ounces; 57 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
Scant 2/3 cup (140 milliliters) heavy cream
1 cup minus 2 tablespoons (175 grams) sugar
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks; 5 ounces; 142 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 10 pieces
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, or more to taste
Photo by Alan Richardson
We're giving away a copy of Baking Chez Moi every day this week! To win today's copy, tell us in the comments: Have you ever made macarons at home? Or do they totally freak you out? We'll choose winners this Friday, October 24th. (U.S. entrants only, please!)