French Macaron ShellsSkip to the recipe
Less fuss, minimal muss.
I told you I’d be back once I got the hang of French-style macarons, and now here we are.
First of all, this is way easier than the Italian meringue method. Second of all, they seem a lot more reliable—though I can’t rule out that this is just a matter of my grinding some macaron experience points. I’ve been going hard on the macarons lately.
“Does it matter if you ‘age’ your egg whites,” revisited:
I tell you, I still have no idea.
I stopped using the carton egg whites, which did turn out to be pretty inconsistent compared to the out-of-the-shell deal. I guess the pasturization process does some kinda science to the proteins in the egg whites, making them less stretchy, and thus less likely to whip up into a firm, stable meringue. Your results may vary, here, of course–I occasionally got good results with the carton stuff, and I’ve heard rumors that using mostly carton egg whites and one or two fresh egg whites can give you the same results as a whole batch of fresh ones (give or take a dash of cream of tartar).
Here’s where I’m at, though: it’s not worth a little convenience in exchange for potentially botched results. Egg whites and yolks both freeze just fine. Crack a bunch of eggs, put a batch’s worth of egg whites in the fridge to “age” a couple days if you’re so inclined, and throw everything else in the freezer. Unfreeze the whites as needed, and make some lemon curd once you’ve got a ton of yolks saved up. Hell, fill the macarons with it—the macarons pictured on this page are “pink lemonade,” as a result of being pink and containing a dense lemon curd.
“How do I color them,” revisited:
I’m liking powdered dyes more and more these days. Gel food dye still does the job—just don’t get too wild with it.
“How many folds should I do for the macaronage step,” revisited:
You’ll notice this approach is missing the “incoporate the egg whites in three steps, spin in place twice, then spit on the ground for luck” process that the Italian ones used. On the one hand, this method shortens the incorporation step to “dump the meringue into the big bowl.” On the other, it involves a little more caution at the very start: the meringue is gonna go in real firm, and at first you’ll have dense clumps of egg white breaded in almond flour and sugar.
The trick is: don’t start folding-folding right away. Instead, scoop—work your spatula down the side and into the center, along the bottom of the bowl, then lift it straight upwards, shaking it. Give the bowl a quarter turn, and repeat.
This’ll break apart the egg whites without roughing them up too much. Once it starts to resemble the crust of a cobbler—still lumpy and rough, but semi-uniformly pebbly—you can start folding it all together the old-fashioned way: cut down the center, scoop around the side of the bowl, fold from one side of the surface to the other, rotate the bowl slightly, and repeat.
You can add the coloring and extract once you’ve started leaving long, slightly glossy trails, but before the mix is thin enough for those trails to fully reincorporate themselves. “Once you see the starfish,” they said in the class I took at Cambridge Culinary. From there, continue folding until the coloring is fully incorporated. All the notes on consistency from the Italian method still apply; likewise the piping routine.
Temperature and Time
Listen, I don’t want you to take “12 min @ 325°f” as the gospel truth, here. My oven is a flaky disaster, I assume due to years of donking it up by using it as a faux steam oven—not only does 325°f almost never actually mean 325°f, but the “done preheating” alarm is a lie. A long, long preheat with a heavy pizza stone at the bottom of the oven, beneath the racks, helps with the consistency—but even still, you might have to finesse the numbers a little bit before you’ve got macarons nailed. If the oven temp is too high, the feet might go wonky. If it’s too low, you might not get feet at all. If you leave them in there too long, you’ll get brittleness and browning. Not long enough, they’ll stick to your parchment. Bake one sheet at a time, on a rack about a third of the way up from the bottom of your oven. Start with 325°f and 12 minutes, but if that isn’t quite getting it done, don’t be afraid to play it by ear a little. A little overdone is better than a little underdone, in my experience.
Recipe: French Macarons
Adapted from a Cambridge School of Culinary Arts recipe.
170 G. Almond Flour
225 G. Confectioner’s Sugar
160 G. Egg Whites, About five
125 G. Granulated Sugar
1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
Put the confectioner’s sugar and almond flour in a food processor and run it to combine. Sift them into a large mixing bowl twice, discarding any larger bits.
In the very carefully washed bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites at high speed until they reach soft peaks. Turn the machine to low and add granulated sugar, then turn back up to medium and beat until the sugar is completely dissolved, the egg whites are shiny, and stiff peaks form.
Carefully fold the meringue into the dry ingredients, adding colorings/extract only once roughly incorporated.
Pipe into silver dollar sized discs on dark cookie sheets lined with parchment paper, leaving at least an inch or two between each shell—you can draw circle guides on the underside of the parchment with a Sharpie. You should be able to hold the piping bag still, centered, using a small round piping tip. The peak in the center should incorporate after a few seconds, and sit flat again. They’ll spread slightly, but should be rounded on the sides, rather than completely flat.
Give the cookie sheets a few sharp raps against the countertop to pop the bubbles on the tops of the shells; they might spread slightly, but not by much. If you’re feeling particularly fussy, you can carefully pop any remaining bubbles with a toothpick—getting rid of them will keep the domes from cracking in the oven.
Leave them to dry until you can gently touch the tops of them without any meringue sticking to your finger—from 30 min to an hour, depending on the humidity in your kitchen. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 325°f.
Bake at 325°f for twelve or so minutes. Wait at least ten minutes before rotating a cookie sheet, so they don’t collapse on you. Allow them to cool completely before removing from parchment/silicone mats.