I have become a bit obsessed with making macarons since taking a macaron class last summer. I had always been so intimidated with the thought of trying to make these beautiful, delicate french cookies. Funny as it may be, I was inspired to tackle the macaron after watching, “Grace Stirs Up Success,” with my daughter. I found a class at Sur La Table to learn the proper technique. I learned that there are two different methods to making macarons. There is the french, or common method, and there is the Italian meringue method. After mastering the common method, it was time to tackle the Italian meringue method which is the method used by most pastry chefs. In particular, Pierre Herme, a world renowned macaron master uses this method. And if HE uses it, then I needed to be using it! So, I bought his latest book, Pierre Herme Macarons:The Ultimate Recipes from the Master Patissier.” It comes with a wonderful detailed instruction pamphlet complete with photos.
My first attempt at this method was a salted caramel macaron. My shells did not turn out perfect, and I was so disappointed. I over mixed my batter and slightly over baked my shells. I had the intentions of sharing these cookies at a girls night out. But I could not show up with less than perfect macarons. The night of our outing, I decided to bring them anyways. And even though they weren’t perfect, the girls loved them! I sent some to work with my husband as well, and his co-workers also loved them. The encouragement and praise gave me confidence to try again. My next try yielded perfect macarons, crisp on the outside and delicately chewy in the middle. I have since been making macarons for every occasion!
I decided to try making heart shaped macarons as a Valentine gift for the teachers and staff at my children’s school. I love treating their teachers to something special. After all, they take care of my babies for 7 hours a day 5 days a week. And they do a darn good job! This has been the year of the macaron for them. This is our third year in the kids current school, and the teachers and staff are pretty used to receiving baked treats from me. I wondered if they were sick of getting macarons, since it is all I have been making for them since the fall. But I just had to try these pretty heart shaped cookies. So I went for it!
I practiced piping the heart shape a couple of weeks ago when I taught my daughter and her friends to make macarons. They came out perfect. Well, this time was a different story. The first mistake I made was shrinking the heart shaped template I found at ailovebaking.com. I wanted to make the cookies a little smaller than the template. The problem was that making them smaller made the piping more difficult. I kept having to stop in between piping each heart shape and use a toothpick to make the shape perfect. This caused the piping process to take much longer than usual which meant the batter was drying out for too long. So, some of the shells came out too crispy, and some were perfect. Ugh, I despise inconsistency. When I had practiced and piped the larger size, using the toothpick to adjust the shape was not as necessary. So, lesson learned! I also had trouble with my meringue not stiffening up as much as it usually does. I have no idea why this happened. I actually debated not giving the macarons out. As noted above, I hate to give out anything less than perfect. I tried really hard to make sure the teachers and staff received cookies from my first two trays I baked, as that batter had not sat out as long as the last three trays. I warned my recipients that the macarons may not be quite as good as ones they have received from me in the past. However, I think that they were all thrilled just to receive the packages of pretty heart shaped cookies. I just hope that the thought alone and show of appreciation over powered the less than perfect heart shaped macaron. Without further ado, the recipes….
I apologize for the lack of instructional photos in this post. I was in a bit of a rush while making this batch of macarons, and was already having issues with my meringue and piping which made it difficult to stop and take photos. I promise to post more detailed instructions with photos soon!
3 Cups (300 g) powdered sugar
2 Cups plus 2 TBS (300 g) almond meal
7 large (220 g) liquified egg whites
1 1/2 Cups (300 g) superfine sugar
1/4 Cup plus 1 TBS (75 g) water
red and pink food coloring
- Line baking pans with parchment paper or silpat. Put heart shaped template under parchment or silpat. Prepare piping bag fitted with a plain 1/2 in round pastry tip.
- Pulse the powdered sugar and almond flour in a food processor until very fine. Then sift together into a large bowl.
- Combine half of the egg whites (110 g) with the food coloring. I used about 10 drops of pink food coloring and 5 drops of red food coloring. Pour this into the powdered sugar/almond mixture without mixing.
- Add the remaining egg whites to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a wire whisk.
- In a saucepan, combine the water and superfine sugar and boil until it reaches 244 degrees F. As soon as the syrup reaches 239 degrees F, begin beating the egg white in your mixer on high speed.
- When the syrup reaches 244 degrees F, reduce the mixer speed to medium and pour the syrup in a steady stream down the side of the bowl into the beating egg whites. Beat until it cools to 122 degrees F. The meringue should look shiny and have peaks that slightly droop in a shape of a birds beak when the whisk is lifted.
- Add the meringue to the powdered sugar-almond flour mixture. Fold the mixture with a silicone spatula by lifting it up in the center of the bowl and around the edge of the bowl and over onto itself. At first the mixture will be very clumpy and grainy. Continue to fold until the batter is smooth and shiny and falls in a wide ribbon when the spatial is lifted. DO NOT OVERFOLD YOUR BATTER. If you overfold, your macarons will spread too thin and not have the pretty “feet” on the bottom. To test if my batter is ready, I let a small blob of batter fall into the bowl. Watch the blob to see if just the edges of the blob melt back into the batter. If they do not, continue to fold the batter. If they do, the batter is ready! If the entire blob melts back into the batter right away, you overfolded your batter. So test it often!
- Fill your pastry bag with batter half full. To pipe the heart shapes, start at the top of one side of the heart, gently pipe a round circle, keeping your piping bag perpendicular to your baking sheet, and move your tip down to the point of the heart. Release pressure on the bag and quickly but gently twist the tip a quarter turn to release it. Try not to pull up until the batter has released from the tip. Repeat on the other side of the heart.
- Gently tap the baking sheet on a work surface to gently smooth the hearts.
- Set the hearts aside for 30 minutes to allow a skin to form. Lightly touch the top of one disk to test if they are ready for the oven. The batter should not stick to your finger our make a dent in the heart.
- Preheat a convection oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the shells for 8 minutes then quickly open and close the oven door. Bake the shells an additional 2 minutes the open and close the oven door again. Bake again for 2 more minutes (for a total of 12 minutes).
- Remove from the oven and slide the parchment paper onto a work surface to cool. Let cool for several minutes before removing them from the paper.
- When shells are completely cool, pair same size shells together and pipe raspberry buttercream onto one shell. If you want a stronger raspberry flavor, put a small dot of raspberry jam in the center of a shell, then pipe the raspberry buttercream around the jam. Top with another shell.
- Refrigerate the macarons for 24 hours before serving. Remove them from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature before eating.
Raspberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream
1 1/2 pints (500 g) raspberries
1 TBS fresh lemon juice
1 lb Extra fine sugar
8 oz Egg (Whites)
24 oz unsalted butter,softened
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
- Puree raspberries in blender or food processor. Strain out seeds if desired
- Combine pureed raspberries and lemon juice in saucepan and bring to a boil. Let cool completely
- Place sugar and egg whites in a stainless steel mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and heat, whisking constantly, to 165 degrees.
- Transfer the mixture to an electric mixer with a wire whisk and whip on high speed until the meringue is at stiff peaks.
- With the mixer running at medium speed, gradually add the butter in small pieces until all the butter is incorporated. Mixture should be light and creamy. Blend in vanilla.
- Add raspberry puree to buttercream and mix until incorporated.
Cover with plastic wrap and store under refrigeration.
*to use after refrigeration, place into microwave approximately 45 seconds or until parts of Buttercream are becoming soft and then mix in an electric mixer with paddle. Continue mixing until mixture comes together.
*There are a lot of different “rules” to making macarons. For example, some people swear by letting macaron shells dry for 30 minute before baking and some say it is not necessary. Find what works for you and stick with it!
*”Liquified” egg whites refer to aged egg whites. Pierre Herme recommends aging the egg white for 3-7 days in the refrigerator. Separate the egg white into a bowl. Cover the bowl with saran wrap and poke a few holes in it. Place in the fridge. Be sure to let the egg whites come to room temperature before using. Some say using liquified egg whites is not necessary. I say if Pierre does it, I am doing it! I don’t always give the egg whites an entire 3-5 days. Sometimes I just do it overnight and sometimes I will just age them for the few hours I have time for.
*Practice, Practice, Practice! It took me a few tries to really figure out what the batter should look like before piping, and when it is ready. This just takes experience and practice. I recommend taking a class or watching a lot of youtube tutorials!
Bake and Share:
- Bake a batch and share with your children’s teachers as I did. I packaged the macarons in little boxes, placed them in bags, and added a tag with a little Valentine’s Day note.
2. Macarons make a wonderful gift for anyone. They are expensive to buy in a bakery, so when people receive these, they are always thrilled!!!!