Hoo boy, have I been waiting long to tell you all about these outstanding French macarons! It all started a year ago, just after my thesis and right before graduation, I was bored out of my mind. All I had going for me amidst the job and house hunting, was my job at the Dartmouth library. Everyday, I had a shift retrieving from the stacks, the books requested by patrons. It was early in the morning, which worked well for me as I’m a morning person, I could listen to music, it was just me and rows and rows of books. How could I possibly not love it?
But since it was only a two hour gig, that left me with a little too many hours for job searching. You’ve all been through this, by the end of the fourth hour you are cross-eyed and ready to fling the laptop. One evening, I was tired of writing cover letters and just wanted a break. I laid a mat on the fire escape in my old apartment and stepped outside with a cold beer. Just that, a couple of food blogs and I was ready to relax. As usual, I went from ‘What should I cook tonight?’ to ‘Ooh, how can I bite off more than I can chew?’ That’s how I ended up at French macarons.
That weekend, I did my research, bought the ingredients, and tried my very first batch. And failed miserably. I say miserably not because I couldn’t get them to rise, but because they remained a round clump which I had to spend hours scraping from my silicone sheet. It was like salt on wounds! This was getting personal.
The trick in French macarons is all about getting that meringue right, or in other words- whipping those egg whites. After a bit more research, I was sure I could get it. With some confidence, I pulled out another mat, made another batch of batter, used a cooler colour, and made myself a cup of tea, to succeed in style. I mean it’s whipping eggs, right? How many way could I possibly screw that up? Plus, I even saw a video!
Turns out, a lot! I got my ass whooped, again. It didn’t clump, thankfully, but it did become hard as a biscuit. At least, the results were changing.
In 2017, I lived in three different houses, and I’ve tried making French macarons at least twice in each house. I felt like I could be a meme, shaking my fists in the air, saying “Damn you, macarons!” In the entire year, I read so many different blogs on the subject, followed many discussions, trying to figure out what the regular pitfalls are. The more I failed, the funnier it became and I even started wagering with myself on when I’d finally get it right.
In truth, it’s just about finding a technique that works best for you. After half a dozen epic fails, I found mine, and it's one suggested by King Arthur Flour. The first time I tried this technique, I almost got it right. The macarons were light, but did not have that signature lift.
On New Years eve, I suddenly decided to give macarons one last shot. So in between the cake I was baking for the evening, I cracked open some eggs into the whipping bowl. The process doesn't have a lot of steps, actually. You whip the eggs, add sugar syrup and whip the mix until it is glossy and can hold up a stiff peak. At this point add colour, mix and then add the flour. Mix it until it comes to the right consistency and pipe out small circles. Allow this to rest for a minimum of two hours so that it can form a hard shell, before baking in the oven for 20 minutes.
Five hours later, when I pulled the French macarons out of the oven, I let out such a loud whoop of success, that my roommates came running!
In the last year, I finished my thesis, graduated, started my blog and business, but for some reason, getting the French macarons right felt like more of a victory than the others.
And nothing would be better than having people to share this feeling with.
So, here is everything I learnt:
Tip 1: Whip a lot of air into those egg whites before adding the sugar syrup. The eggs should be at least double in size and should be able to hold up a weak peak.
Tip 2: Try using sugar syrup instead of adding sugar. I’ve come to learn that this is a fool proof method for getting your meringue stiff and glossy.
Tip 3: When you mix almond flour to the meringue, it will become a bit watery and fall down in ribbons. Watch those ribbons. They should take at least 10 seconds to disappear back into the batter. This is the right consistency.
Tip 4: Unlike frosting, this batter is not going to sit in your piping bad. Prepare for a messy work space.
Tip 5: Listen to Buddha about patience. I think some of those fails could be attributed to my lack of patience. Once piped, the macarons have to rest for at least two hours. This is so that they can develop a shell on top. This is what allows for forming that lift you see in macarons. When in the oven, the shell remains intact, leaving no other place for expansion but for height. This builds a gap between the shell and bottom, making the macaron light as air, literally!
So who’s up for the challenge? Trust me, the result is absolutely worth it!! You can find the complete recipe here.