It was bound to happen, right? You had to have known it was coming. How could Trendy Tuesday be complete without a venture into the world of the adorable macaron? Ahhhh yes, the glorious Macarons! You had to have guessed that these beauties would eventually find their way onto the Zest blog!
Ok, I have told you before…I do not claim to be a “baker,” though typically I find that I CAN bake. It boils down to the age old question, “Are you a cook or a baker?” Both can be extremely creative and rewarding, but there are some implicit differences that cause individual personalities to lean more in one direction than the other.
As one who tends to align more with the “cook” camp, I have a natural aversion to following recipes. Yes, I genuinely adore reading recipes, but I typically read them more like novels (aka I am not in the kitchen and am very much at leisure). They inspire me and entertain me. What I do not like is having to refer back to a book or screen 10+ times while I am creating something in the kitchen.
Regardless of my likes or dislikes, following a recipe can be a necessary evil. Such is the case with the ever popular Macarons that have hit their popularity stride in part because they are delightfully gluten free and wholly due to the mesmerizing rainbow of colors and flavors that the basic recipe can showcase. They are like little jewels, dainty and showy at the same time.
Again, not a baker, but definitely a problem solver. I may not relish following and testing recipes…but when hit with a challenge I am prone to never throwing in the towel! I can be pig-headed and determined. Yep, just called myself a pig!
The key ingredient is almond flour. I keep it simple and use the almond meal I find at Trader Joe’s. I am not a purist in this case and kinda like the “speckles” that the skins leave in the meal. It gives your macarons a slightly rustic look. Actually, I have kind of fallen in love with the demystification and almost rebellious take that Stella of Brave Tart has taken on these little delights. (Side note: I think I have a new baker crush…unsanctimonious and fabulous!!)
2 cup almond flour
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup sugar
3 1/3 tbls water
5 egg whites, divided
1 1/2 c butter
2 c powdered sugar
8 tbls limoncello
1/2 – 3/4 c curd
Sift the dry ingredients together. In all honesty, I normally skip this step in most recipes. It seems a little obsessive to me…but for macarons it is imperative. These can be fussy little guys if the simple steps are not adhered to…trust me, I know from many fails! Just go ahead and sift….you will thank me later!
Separate your eggs, reserving yolks for making a curd or something later. You will simply divide your egg whites in half here. Half for creating your meringue, and half for moistening your dry ingredients.
Heat up your water and sugar mixture, so it is ready to add to your meringue once your whites have whipped up to stiff peaks.In the meantime, double stack two cookie sheets and line with Silpat or parchment. These two steps will help prevent over-browning and sticking…the two enemies of baking maracons.
Once my egg whites are whipped to a nice stiff peak, I add in the hot sugar water.
Combine the dry ingredients with the remaining egg whites. Mix into a rather stiff paste that you will slowly add your meringue to.
Mixing a little of the meringue into your paste at a time, allows for the dough to gradually lighten and becoming easier to mix. You do NOT need to be shy about mixing. You are looking for a nice lava-like flow to your batter, so mix away until this is achieved (otherwise you will have a dough that does not easily “fall” into the perfect smooth formation on the cookie sheet). Basically, you are looking to deflate your meringue until it behaves. You will note in the following pictures that not even mine had gotten to a good lava-flow consistency. Just keep folding!
Use a large ziplock to control the size of your macarons. SUPER important: make sure that when you pipe your macarons batter, you pipe with a straight downward motion (or you will have ski slopes when they finish baking, no matter how smooth they look when you load them into the oven!) Trust me, you do not want that frustration.
See how mine have a slight twirl in the below photo? Avoid that maneuver and you will be thankful in the long run. Again, I am not claiming any baking expertise here!
Last important step is to let your macarons sit for 15 minutes before putting them into the oven. This lets the tops dehydrate and helps develop their signature crisp exterior.
These can be sticky little buggers…so you will be thankful that you used Silpat or parchment paper.
Remember that Limoncello Buttercream? Well, every macaron has to have an over-the-top-delicious filling…so here we go!
1 1/2 c butter
2 c powdered sugar
8 tbls limoncello
1/2 – 3/4 c lemon curd
Phew! THAT was long-winded! I hope that helped break things down for you. Again, if you need more help in tackling these little buggers, head over to Brave Tart for some more pep talk.