Ah, le macaron. The iconic, airy, colorful sandwich cookie that evokes the tenants of all things French: chic, beautiful, delicious….and extremely temperamental. The macaron arguably elicits the very stereotype of the Parisian people that they often deny (or proudly uphold, depending on which one you talk to): complicated, meticulous, difficult to replicate, and exacting to the last detail.
And yes, I’m talking about a cookie here. The small kind of cookies my husband likes to pop into his mouth in one swift motion, chew three times without actually tasting, and then swallow down his throat without another thought. I’ve worked eight long years on getting him to enjoy the finer things in life, but even still he has his moments. But I digress.
You see, this cookie is a big part of my plans. My dreams. I’m being real here, at the expense of being laughed at. Isn’t it so hard to share your hopes and dreams with strangers? This is my way of keeping myself accountable, or tracking my progression into business ownership. And I will succeed. You see, macarons are going to be part of my empire. Maybe (definitely) not Ladurée style, but part of it nonetheless.
Do you recall my recent post in which I explained that I have several years until bringing said dreams into reality? Well, my husband really kind of lit a fire under me to start experimenting and (eventually) perfecting in the kitchen, so that I’m ready to pounce when my opportunity strikes. And so that very week I went out and bought a bulk-size bag of almond flour, a food scale, and some piping bags and tips (which turned out to be the totally wrong tips, but more on that later. I made it work). And that Friday, after doing lots of research online and understanding just how challenging macarons can be – particularly in humid climates – and feeling more determined than ever to do it anyway, I put that baby down for a nap, rolled up my sleeves, put on my apron and I got to work.
I should preface this by saying I scoured the internet looking for the Ladurée macaron recipe. I figured, if these are going to be a part of my empire, then I may as well learn how to make the absolute best type of macaron. So after comparing a few blogs who claimed to be using this recipe, and learning you can actually buy a Ladurée cookbook (which I promptly added to my Amazon wishlist and hinted to my husband it would be a perfect Mother’s Day gift), I settled on the recipe by A Bit of Bee’s Knees.
As The Pioneer Woman would say, here is the cast of characters:
So here are the things you will need that you might not already have in your kitchen arsenal:
ALMOND FLOUR: the key and essential ingredient to macarons. It makes them light and fluffy and gives them that nutty, airy taste. Can be found in the baking section of any grocery store, with the specialty flours (or gluten free section). I found this giant bag at Sam’s club.
A food scale: you can find several recipes that convert the measurements of dry ingredients in grams to cups, but from my research they are not extremely accurate, and said research also taught me that macarons are so temperamental that it really is worth investing in a scale and to just do it the right way. So I bought this one at Bed Bath & Beyond for like $6. You can spend a crap ton of money on scales it turns out, but since I’m just getting started I figured a cheapy will do for now.
Piping tips: Ok so I bought cake decorating tips which ARE NOT THE SAME as food piping tips, as the opening to the tips are so much smaller. The recipe calls for about a .5″ tip opening, and I discovered mine was microscopic. I made it work, but do yourself a favor and get the correct tools (your forearms will thank you).
A sifter. I had recently bought myself one as I never had one before, but this is also an essential tool because you must sift the flour and confectioner’s sugar together. This eliminates all lumps and turns the dry ingredients into a fine powder. WARNING: sifting takes forever. So put on some music and be patient.
Food processor. I note this only because up until about a year ago, I never had one. Just some crappy Oster blender that was a wedding gift, and couldn’t handle anything beyond a smoothie. Now I have a fantastic Ninja and ever since we bought it, it has come in handy SO MANY TIMES. You many not need one if your flour is fine enough- I didn’t actually need one (I realized after the fact), because I bought super fine almond flour, however the recipe technically calls for pulverized almonds, so if you must pulverize your own almonds, you will absolutely need a food processor.
LOTS OF EGGS. You need 6 egg whites + 1/2 extra (I told you they were meticulous, didn’t I?), AND they need to be room temperature, otherwise your meringue will not be, well, meringue. I was impatient and nuked mine for 10 seconds on half power, but I recommend planning ahead and just pulling them out well in advance. I saved the yolks in the fridge hoping to figure out something to do with them, as it felt wasteful to throw away 7 egg yolks. Sadly I never got around to making custard. Next time.
Also, I read another blog about using aged egg whites. According to Food Nouveau (my new Bible for all things macarons), this means separating the egg whites into a plastic sealed container and letting them sit in the fridge for 1-2 days before using them. Now, I didn’t know this beforehand, but I am going to try it next time and hope that my macarons raise a little bit more in the oven.
And my last bit of advice before you launch into this adventure, is to remember to let your piped beauties sit on their cookie sheets for a LONG TIME before putting them in the oven. The recipe I used says 10 minutes, or until they develop a bit of a dry shell so that if you very lightly brush them with your finger, you don’t get any batter on yourself. Well, this took WAY more than 10 minutes for me. More like 25 minutes until they achieved this consistency (I’m thinking living in humid Florida is the culprit, lucky me). However, it is an essential step, otherwise your cookies will not pop up in the oven and have a delicate “foot” on the bottom as they are supposed to.
And there you have it, things to consider before you attempt your first batch. You’ll notice I didn’t actually include the recipe here, or show you my step-by-step process. I had so many thoughts swirling around on this snarky little cookie, that I decided to write about my experiment in a few posts (otherwise this would be entirely too long and you would stop reading halfway through… If you haven’t already). So stay tuned, my next post will be the recipe and my experience trying these for the first time. If you just can’t wait for that, scroll up to access the recipe via the provided link.