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Making Macarons

  • December 14, 2012

You’re looking at a box of colorful macarons on a park bench. They didn’t come from a fancy shop. Mais non, I made them. In Paris. And I may never make them again. They are as fussy to make as you might imagine, and now I know why they cost nearly $4 each at the Lâdurée store in New York. 

 I signed up for a morning of macaron making at “Cook’n With Class,” a cooking school in Montmartre, only a couple of blocks from my friend’s apartment, where I was staying.
Macarons may actually be Italian by the way, not French, since some food historians believe that Catherine di Medici brought them to France as early as 1533. That’s when she married the man who would become the future King of France (Henry II), toting along her pastry chefs from Italy. It’s all still unsettled, but if the French want to claim macarons, that’s ok by me. Pretty as they are, they’re awfully sweet, and I’d much rather sink my teeth into some bonafide Italian biscotti any day.
Still, I wanted to learn how to make these ethereal confections and why not from a Frenchman in Paris?
The chef, Patrick Hebert, spent many years working and living in the U.S., and he showed us how to make macarons with three different classic fillings: white chocolate, raspberry jam, and salted caramel.
The fillings were made first. You’ll need a candy thermometer. Oh, and it’s best to make these on a day when it’s not raining or too humid.
 Lots of butter is added. Dieters might want to opt for a different cookie. (sorry for the strangely tinted photos. I had my camera on the wrong setting.)
 Don’t buy eggs from your local farmer and use them for macarons the same day. Older eggs work better. And you have to sift the powdered sugar and almond meal a couple of times so there aren’t any lumps.
 Every step is fraught with the prospect of failure. You’ve got to make a sugar syrup and let it reach a certain temperature before adding to the egg whites. That’s in preparation for the Italian meringue (See… more evidence that macarons are really Italian!) Then you beat the egg whites until they reach a certain consistency and temperature.
 Mix the almond meal/sugar with the meringue.
 Then beat the crap out of it. That’s right, the whites are supposed to deflate at this point. Go figure.
 Food coloring gets blended in – not liquid, but powdered or gel. The flavor comes from the filling — not the actual cookie.
 The mixture is put into a pastry bag and piped onto parchment paper. Some experimenting was going on with some odd color combinations, as you can see.
 Before baking, you’ve got to leave them out at room temperature to form a “skin.” If you’ve got a warm place, like resting on an oven top, that’s good. Sometimes people use a blow dryer to reach this stage sooner.
 Once they go into the oven, you’re still not home free. You’ve got to open and close the oven door a couple of times to let the moisture escape – or keep the door ajar with a spoon. (I told you they were fussy to make.) But if you’ve taken all the proper steps, you’ll end up with nicely shaped cookies, like these. They’ve got the requisite “feet” all around the edges — de rigeur for a proper macaron.
 For a final touch, you can brush a little finishing powder on top to give a nice glisten.
 Then pipe the fillings onto one half and sandwich two of them together.
And have a little fun while you’re at it.
For those of you still undaunted, here’s the recipe:
Macarons
(recipe from Cook’n With Class)
printable recipe hereMaking the macaron shells

yields about 70 macarons (140 shells)

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Ingredients
300g/10oz 300g/10oz 110g/4.5oz == 300g/10oz 75g/ 2.5oz 110g/4.5oz
Technique
almond meal/ground blanched almonds
sugar 10X (also called powdered or icing sugar) liquified egg whites
plain white sugar (not powdered) bottled water
liquified egg whites

page2image5592 page2image5752

Note : A few days before preparing macarons, start saving egg whites, keep them refrigerated.

  1. Strain the egg whites, weigh as indicated in each recipe and separate in two bowls.
  2. Weigh almond meal and powdered sugar separately, then sift them together. This is important! Repeat this twice. Do not add any
    large bits of almond powder. Weigh and replace this with same amount of fine almond meal.
  3. Pour one quantity of egg whites (110g) in the sugar-almond mix, do not mix.
  4. Weigh the sugar (plain white, not powdered) and water for the syrup.
  5. Put water and then sugar in a small pot, cook on medium heat until temperature reaches 110°C (230F). At this point start
    whipping the second bowl of egg whites (second quantity of egg whites – 110g).
  6. When the syrup reaches 115°C (239F) carefully pour it onto the whipping whites and keep going at high speed for about 1 minute.
  7. Reduce the speed of the mixer and keep whipping until the mixture reaches 50°C (122F)page2image16032
  1. Mix the meringue into the sugar/almond/eggs mixture until the mix starts to be shiny. Don’t worry about saving the volume of the meringue, it is supposed to deflate at this stage. When shiny it is then ready.
  2. Mix the food colouring into the mixture. Use either powdered or gel food colouring but not liquid.
  3. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a round tip and pipe rounds on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
  4. Tap gently the cookie sheet on the table lined with a towel to remove piping imperfections. Do this only if you have imperfections
    (i.e. bumps) in your piped macaron.
  5. Preheat the oven at 150°C (300F)
  6. Leave the piped macarons at room temperature for about 30 minutes or until the macaron has formed a ‘skin’.
  7. Total cooking time is approximately 12 minutes. Open the oven quickly to let moisture escape after 8 and then after 10 minutes of
    the baking process or leave the oven door ajar with the help of a spoon.
  8. When ready, slide the parchment paper off the cookie sheet and onto a cold surface (marble, steel, glass etc.) to stop the
    cooking. Let the macarons cool, then detach them from the paper one by one.

Top tips• •page3image11896

Macaron shells tend to crack more if there is a lot of moisture in the air. So try and make them on a day when it’s not raining and not too humid.
Use egg whites which have been stored in a jar/container for a couple of days or better for one week.Fillings: 

 

Raspberry jam filling

250g fresh or frozen raspberries
200g sugar
15g pectin
50g lemon juice

Purée the berries for several minutes until the seeds are broken and
almost entirely puréed. Put the purée, sugar and pectin in a pot, bring
to a boil. Stir and boil for 5 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and add
lemon juice, mix. Let the jam cool on large dish in the refrigerator
before filling a pastry bag to pipe the fillng in the macarons.

Pectin’s strength can vary, use more if you find the jam too runny to
be piped. 

Caramel beurre salée

page6image1928

300g/10oz
335g/11oz
sugar
heavy cream
a heavy pinch of fleur de sel
unsalted butter at room temperature.
290g/10oz
Pinch of fleur de sel or heavy sea salt
Make a dry caramel by melting the sugar one tablespoon at a time.
Shake the pan instead of using a spoon to stir it. When the sugar is a
dark amber colour carefully add the cream and salt. Cook until the
temperature reaches 108°C (226°F). At this point pour into a dish and
let it cool in the fridge with a film covering the bowl. Whip the butter
until fluffy, then incorporate the cold caramel. Transfer to a piping bag
and fill the macarons. 

White chocolate pistachio ganache

300g
300g
1 tbsp
120g
heavy cream
high quality white chocolate
pistachio paste

almond meal
Boil cream and pistachio. Then pour over chopped chocolate.
Let it sit a couple of minutes, then stir well and when
homogeneous incorporate the almond meal. Cool in the fridge
before using it.

Apple Tart, Miracle Crust and Mother Nature too

  • October 25, 2011
 OK, so it’s just another apple tart, you’re thinking. Well think again, because this tart dough is nothing short of miraculous. It’s made in a jiffy using melted butter – you read that right – no blending rock hard butter, ice water, flour and sugar together as all traditional doughs call for. This tart dough not only is a snap to make, it tastes buttery, flaky and even held up two days later without getting soggy. I owe this marvel to David Lebovitz, who wrote about it on his blog here. I changed the recipe slightly to allow for a larger tart shell, and I melted the butter on top of the stove, rather than in the oven. I may never use another tart recipe again. It’s that good and that easy.
Serve it with ice cream for a real treat. Eat it overlooking these almost primordial waterfalls in the Catskills as I did and you’ll think you’re dreaming. This is the phenomenal view I had for three days last week, when my kids and I gathered to commemorate a very special day.

 

It was hard to tear ourselves away from the view, enjoyed before dinner on our first evening there with a couple of bottles of wine, some guacamole and salsa.
We had gorgeous views from all our hikes too, including this one at the top of the mountain, overlooking the Hudson Valley.
We had fun exploring other towns nearby, including Woodstock and Saugerties.
And there were plenty of other waterfalls to discover on our hikes too, including Kaaterskill Falls, the longest one in the Catskills.

Not to mention brilliant fall foliage.
And wonderful food too, including this duck confit at Tamayo’s in the town of Saugerties. Thanks kids.
I can’t leave out these luscious macarons that my daughter brought to the feast from the new Laduree store in Manhattan. Merci beaucoup.
In the end, the waterfalls outside our door – Niobe Falls – kept luring us back like Ulysses to the sirens. We were just mesmerized all weekend by their beauty and proximity. It was like having a natural sound machine to lull you.
As hard as it was to leave the waterfall house and the wonderful hospitality of its owners, we softened the blow on the way home by stopping at our favorite New York State winery – Prospero Winery. We squeezed some space out of an already crammed car for some wine and prosecco to take home.
Back home – via Manhattan and Jersey City to drop off the kids at their own places – after a memorable weekend. Time to finish off that last slice of apple tart.

Tart Dough Recipe
fits a large tart pan, about 10 1/2 inches in diameter

Printable recipe here

5 ounces unsalted butter, cut into pieces
5 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour

Melt butter in a saucepan until bubbly. Add all the rest of the ingredients with a wooden spoon until it forms a ball and comes away from the side of the pan. Add more flour if necessary. Pat into a tart pan and fill with apples or other fruit.
Filling:
4 or 5 sliced apples,  depending of size – I used Granny Smith
sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon on top
2 T. butter
apricot preserves
Layer apple slices over uncooked dough in tart pan. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and dab with bits of butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on thickness of slices. Remove from oven  and heat apricot preserves until warm enough to spread. Brush a thin layer over the apples.