So, I mentioned last week that I’d made some macarons for my sister’s wedding.
I want to share my tips (and the recipes I used) in the hopes that it might be helpful to another enthusiastic home cook/baker who may be interested in making large batches of this dainty, finicky, deliiiiicious treat. It is possible, and if I can do it, you can do it, too! (if you want to :) ) Also, because of the skill and time it takes to make these, they are quite expensive to buy. Most places charge $2-$3 per cookie. Crazy! Save yourself or your friends tons of money, practice a little, and don’t be intimidated!
The wedding was this weekend, and it was absolutely gorgeous. She chose shades of pale pink for the flowers, dresses, and other details. Everything came together so beautifully and was so very chic and elegant, just like her!
Knowing she wanted to have macarons at the wedding, I volunteered to make them as our gift to the couple. Truth be told, I didn’t really know what I was committing to. I’ve been baking the sweet treats for a few years now (this post explains more), but only in smaller batches here and there. Here I was committing to making 200. Eeek.
To give you perspective, one batch makes about 15 cookies (depending on the size you make the cookies). But, I knew I could do it if I planned well and got to work early. Macarons freeze very well, so about a month ago I got started. I decided it would be best to aim for four lots of 50 cookies. And it took four batches of the recipe to make those 50. So, in just four days of baking (spread out over the month) in my lil ole kitchen with no commercial equipment, I was able to do it.
I chose four flavors that would complement her pink palette: Vanilla Bean, Rosewater/Almond, Strawberry Creme (this is actually strawberry cream cheese, but “creme” just sounded so much more sophisticated!), and Lemon Zest/Bing Cherry. After much experimentation with macaron recipes in the past, I’ve found that Tartelette’s instructions are the best. Her article in Desserts Magazine is what finally got me the macarons I was aiming for. If you want to try to make these luscious French pastries, follow her instructions to the letter. Once you’ve got it down, you may be able to experiment a bit.
I have learned that most of the flavor in the treats comes from the filling. Often the shells (cookies) are simply dyed a complimentary color. Because they are so fickle, the batch can easily be ruined by adding ingredients. You are able to add a little bit of a dry ingredient (like cocoa powder or ground freeze dried fruits, or citrus zest, but options are limited. So, all four of my flavors were made with the basic macaron shell recipe below. I carefully added pink gel food coloring to change the color, and for one of the lots I added a little lemon zest.
I’ve listed the recipes I used for the four fillings below, too. You can fill them with practically anything…lemon curd, fruit jams, meringue, almost any kind of frosting.
As far as packaging and transport, the cookies fit perfectly into pie boxes, vertically (see photo below). About 25 fit in each box, so we had 8 pie boxes. Those went into coolers straight from the freezer, over dry ice. They sat in the coolers for about 24 hours while we traveled. When we finally opened the coolers on arrival, the macarons were still cold, and some were even still frozen.
Without further ado, here are the recipes for these delightful treats. They were a hit at the wedding! (Don’t forget to read Tartelette’s article too for all of the tips and tricks for making a successful macaron.)
Basic Macaron Shells
[Recipe adapted from Tartelette]200 gr powdered sugar110 gr almonds (slivered, blanched, sliced, ground, whatever you like)90 gr egg whites (use egg whites that have been preferably left 3-4 days in the fridge)50 gr granulated sugar
Place the powdered sugar and almonds in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Sift if desired (helps keep the shells smooth in appearance).
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, (think bubble bath foam) then gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue (think shaving cream). Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry.
Add the nuts and powdered sugar to the meringue, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that falls back on itself after counting to 10. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flatten on their own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds onto parchment paper or silicone mats lined baking sheets. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells.
When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 280F.
Bake the macarons for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool.
Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store the shells in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer for up to 2 weeks (longer and the sugar starts to seep out which makes them sticky). Fill the macarons and let them mature in the fridge at least 48 hours prior to eating them.
(For lemon shells, add the zest of ½ lemon when you combine the egg whites and sugar/nuts.)
(For pink shells, add a few drops of pink food coloring gel. To balance this extra moisture, add 1 teaspoon of powdered egg whites to the wet whites when whipping.)
[recipe from Tartelette]1/2 cup (100gr) sugar2 large egg whites1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Put the sugar and egg whites in a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like marshmallow cream. Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat the meringue on medium speed until it cools and forms a thick shiny meringue, about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment and add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes. Pipe into shells.
Vanilla Bean Buttercream: Fold 1 vanilla bean, split open and seeded (or 1Tablespoon “Pure Vanilla Bean Paste”) into the buttercream
Rosewater & Almond Buttercream: Stir in 2t Pure Rosewater Extract and 1t Almond Extract into the buttercream
Strawberry Cream Cheese Filling
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (10-ounce) package frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed and pureed
7 cups confectioners’ sugar
In a large bowl, beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in 1/4 cup of the strawberry puree and the vanilla extract. (The rest of the puree is leftover but can be used in smoothies or on ice cream for a delicious treat.) Gradually add confectioners’ sugar, beating until smooth.
Cherry Lemon Buttercream
[recipe from une gamine dans la cuisine
1 cup (that’s 2 sticks) of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon of salt
3 to 4 cups of confectioners sugar (you may only need 3, but have 4 on hand just in case)
1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup of clean, dry, pitted, and chopped cherries [Use fresh or frozen unsweetened]
In the bowl of your stand mixer, using the paddle attachment (you can use a hand-held mixer too, just be sure you have a large bowl to accommodate any flying sugar), beat the butter and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy.Slowly begin adding 3 cups of sugar (about 1/2 cup at a time.)
With each addition, start beating on low speed, and gradually increase as the sugar mixes into the butter.
Once 3 cups of the sugar have been added, beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest until well combined. Turn the mixer off and add the chopped cherries. Beat at medium-high speed, until the frosting becomes smooth and creamy.
[Note: There will be chunks of cherries that won't break up...and that's good! They will give the frosting a pretty, pebble-like texture.]
If the frosting is too runny, gradually add that remaining cup of sugar. You’re aiming for a thick, almost ice cream-like, consistency. If it’s extremely humid, you may want to cover the bowl and refrigerate the frosting for about 20 minutes.
On the flip side, if your frosting is too thick, add a few teaspoons of milk, or cream, but add it gradually…a little bit of liquid goes a long way in frosting.
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