Macarons: The 5 Pound Story

For the last couple years macarons have taken the dessert world and sat on it. Like a rather fat child sits on it's littler sibling so it can't move. (True story.)

I had some of these amazing sugar-filled 'cookies' at The Duchess bakery in December and have been wondering ever since how hard they really are to make (especially since they charge a $1.25 each). So I went online and found a couple recipes. The first one I decided to try was this, from yumsugar.com. It had very thorough instructions and included reasons why you beat down the batter and tap the baking sheets after you pipe out the macaron shells. So I went and bought some almond flour and a jar of maraschino cherries and set to work. 

 fig. 1 (aka Fail)

fig. 1 (aka Fail)

Whenever I make meringues I use pasteurized egg whites out of the carton (I don't necessarily trust my ability to cook meringue properly...) which takes away the annoying 'cracking and separating an egg' issue. No shells to worry about! Yay! First step was to whip the eggs into a meringue, then to add the sugar till the meringue was stiff (which totally went swimmingly - and by that I mean I added all the sugar at once). Now, in keeping to my desire to wing it, potentially messing up my baking (Re: first time I made drop meringue cookies in fig. 1), I promptly changed the recipe from its original by adding maraschino cherry syrup. 

All was not lost though. The batter was still pipeable so I attempted to pipe odd circular shapes onto my parchment paper covered bakeware. Obviously I had ignored all the preparation notes telling me to draw out 1 inch circles on the underside of my parchment paper. Because really, how hard could it be? (Famous last words.)

I ended up with a lot of very oblong macaron shells. But! They still were identifiable as macaron shells. Team Andrea Wings Baking: 1; Team Reality: 0. I made a quick ganache with chopped up maraschino bits, spooned and topped all the macarons, and called it a relative success! 

Blazoned with courage from not failing as hard as usual, I decided to make my friend Julia some lemon macarons for her birthday. I started with the filling first because I read the instructions this time! It needed to chill for 2 hours before I could use it. Go go gadget reading skills!

Lemon Macarons

(as seen on the Fine Cooking website)

7 3/8 oz (1 3/4 cups plus 2 TBS) confectioners’ sugar
4 3/8 oz (1 1/4 cups plus 2 TBS) almond flour
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar

  1. Prepare bakeware by lining 3 pans with parchment paper. On the underside of each piece of parchment paper draw 1 inch circles about 1 1/2 inches apart.
  2. Measure out and sift together confectioners' sugar and almond flour.
  3. Whip egg on med-high setting with an electric mixer until foamy. 
  4. Continue whipping eggs, adding 1 TBS of granulated sugar gradually till meringue is glossy and stiff peaks form. (If you can lift out a spoon and a straight peak comes out and doesn't fall, it's done.)
  5. Add half of shifted sugar mixture to meringue. Fold in ingredients till almost combined. Add remainder of sugar mixture. Continue to fold until combined. (The meringue will deflate a little, that's ok!)
  6. Using a piping bag with a 1/2 inch round tip (I used a litre food storage bag with a corner snipped off), fill half of batter into bag and pipe 1 inch circles holding the piping bag perpendicular to the baking sheet. 
  7. Once done, pick up the baking sheet and tap it down on the counter sharply. This will burst any air bubbles in the batter and give the shell its macaron bubbly base.
  8. Let the meringues sit in the open air for 20 - 30 minutes. This drys the outer shell. 
  9. Bake at 250F for 13 - 15 minutes. After the first 2 minutes, open the oven door to release any moisture. Also, rotate the baking sheet halfway through cooking time. 
  10. Take parchment off tray and let the shells cool completely. Fill, cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving. 

Lemon Curd

(as seen on the Fine Cooking website)

3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 oz (3 TBS) unsalted butter
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt

  1. In a heatproof bowl, combine eggs and egg yolk. Whisk together. Continue whisking while adding sugar gradually. Whisk until combined. Set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, heat lemon juice and butter over med-high heat until just about to boil. Remove from heat.
  3. Whisk hot lemon mixture into egg mixture gradually (one ladle scoop at a time) until all combined. (This is called tempering the eggs.)
  4. Return lemon/egg mixture to the saucepan. 
  5. Over medium heat, cook lemon/egg mixture until it starts to thicken. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon. When you can coat the back of the wooden spoon with the curd and draw a line through it without the trail running, the curd is done. Remove from heat.
  6. Strain the hot liquid to remove any overcooked egg bits. 
  7. Add vanilla and salt to strained curd. Stir to combine. 
  8. Refrigerate, covered, for 2 hours, before using. (Place plastic wrap directly on top of the liquid so no skin forms.)

It worked out very well the second time around. The shells came out perfect despite my defunct oven (it has constant menopause; sometimes it's too hot, sometimes it's too cold). Even the lemon curd, which ended up being runnier than I think was intended, absorbed into the meringue shells making them super soft and lovely. 

Needless to say, after sampling my work, multiple times, I seem to have gained a lot of sugar weight.... Blast. Team Reality is the winner.

For Now. 

-Andrea

The Half-Assed Hobbyist