I mentioned a while ago that I took a French Macaron class while I was in Paris last November. And although I had made macarons multiple times before my trip, I ended up learning a lot during the class. Hands on experience with a professional French pastry chef is a great way to learn and I am so grateful for the experience!
Although I took the class in France, I was taught the Italian meringue method since it is typically more reliable then the French method. Having used both methods at home, I suggest the Italian method as well. Here are some additional tips that I picked up in class:
• Age your egg whites! A couple of days before you actually want to make your macarons, separate your egg whites and set them in the fridge to age. This step really helps with your meringue.
• Sift your almond meal and powdered sugar. This is not my favorite tip as it takes a while and makes a mess! A lot of recipes also call for sifting up to 3 times. I only sift once but make sure that there are not large pieces of almond meal in the final batter.
• Only use powdered food coloring – I’ve made the mistake of using liquid food coloring as I mentioned in this post and it completely ruined my shells. Once I got back from Paris, I bought powdered food coloring and gel food coloring since both are recommended for coloring your shells. However, the gel did not work well for me, so I’m sticking with powdered from now on and suggest that you do too!
• Macaronage – this is the term used for folding your meringue into your almond meal/sugar mixture. I always thought it was a delicate process that had to be done a certain way. Some recipes even tell you a certain number of folds to do. But in class, we whipped the heck out of the batter at this stage. You’re just trying for the correct consistency. It should be shiny and run like a ribbon off the spatula. If it is the consistency of pancake batter, you’ve gone too far. It it breaks off in clumps and doesn’t incorporate back into the batter you need to keep mixing.
• Once you’ve piped the macarons onto the baking sheet, let them rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. This step creates a skin on the macaron which helps to produce the “feet”.
• Age your macarons – once your macs are baked, filled and sandwiched together, age them in the fridge for at least 24 hours before serving. This is a very important step that makes a huge difference in the final outcome. Macarons fresh out of the oven are crunchy. They need time for the filling* to seep into the shell, creating the soft and chewy texture of macarons we all know and love.
As you can see, French Macarons require a lot of time to make and take quite a bit of prep and planning. And with so many things that can go wrong, they are definitely not the easiest cookie to whip up. However when executed correctly, they are delicious little treats that are well received by all.
*Something interesting I learned during the class is that typically macaron shells are not flavored at all (except for chocolate and espresso), which is actually a good thing since the slightest amount of liquid can ruin a batch. Instead, the filling is used to flavor the macs, so make sure to use something tasty!