Parisian, Almond Macarons (Vanilla)
3 large egg whites (~100-110g)
200-220g confectioner’s sugar (6.7-7.8 ounces) (2x weight of the whites)
112g (4 ounces) almond meal, sifted
pinch of cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar (47 g)
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
Suggested filling: Chocolate Ganache
Lightly wipe three baking sheets with a block of cold butter. Line the sheets with parchment paper, pressing lightly, so the paper sticks to the sheet. Set aside.
Weigh the egg whites, in grams, and write down the weight. Multiply the number by two (2) and write that down: This is the amount of confectioner's sugar you will need. In a large bowl, sift the confectioner's sugar. Sift on the almond meal, reserving any brown husks that stay in the sieve for another use.
In a medium bowl, or stand mixer, whip the egg whites quickly until loose and foamy. Add the cream of tartar, and whip at medium speed, until loose peaks form. Gradually add the 1/4 cup sugar, and whip to stiff peaks.
Add the meringue to the confectioner’s sugar/almond meal mixture, in one mass. Add the vanilla, and fold together, until well combined.
When the mixture is combined, beat vigorously 6-10 quick strokes, this is called the macaronage. Wait 5-10 seconds. Look for a uniform, oily sheen across the entire surface of the batter, as the batter deflates slightly. Look for any dull spots that aren't shiny. If it isn’t evenly shiny, beat it again for 4-6 more strokes. Let it settle, and observe, again. The batter should now be ready for piping.
Warning: This is the critical stage in making macarons. If done improperly, it can ruin the entire batch. Beaten too much, the meringue will deflate completely, the batter will be too runny to pipe, and the cookies will not dry, set or bake correctly. Done too little, the batter will be too thick, producing macarons with rounded tops, and big hollows inside, instead of smooth, even tops with shallow air pockets. Be careful, but bold. Don't be shy. You will get the hang of it, with practice!
Fit a 16-inch piping bag with a plain, 1/2-inch tip. Fill the bag with the batter. Pipe the batter onto the parchment-lined baking sheets, piping rounds of about 1-inch in diameter (squeeze gently, and count: “One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three.”). To break the batter's “tail,” coming out of the tip, ease off the pressure as you move the tip in a quick quarter turn. This motion will break the tip without creating a “Hershey's Kisses”-like peak on top of the macarons. The cookies will only spread slightly, and not at all during baking, so they can be spaced fairly closely.
When you've finished piping a tray, gently use your fingers to smooth out any irregularities, such as: distorted rounds, or small peaks on top. If the batter is the proper consistency, the macarons will slowly settle into smooth, even rounds, about 3 mm thick, in about 3-5 minutes.
Note: Do not skip this step! To reduce cracking, let the piped cookies dry, in a draft-free area, uncovered, at room temperature, for 20-45 minutes, or longer (on very humid days, this can take an hour or more; be patient). The macarons are ready to bake, when they are dry to the touch, and feel slightly leathery. They should not stick to your fingers. Even if only a tiny amount of batter sticks to your finger, let the macarons continue to dry. Nothing should stick to your finger, or your macarons will crack, during baking.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake the cookies in the pre-heated oven 13-15 minutes, switching rack positions after about 9 minutes. Bake until the tops are firm and dry, the cookies are set, and about doubled (6 mm) in height. The top should not wiggle on the “foot,” the fringed bottom part, and the tops should just show a slight browning. Don’t over bake! The goal is to achieve a light, delicate crust on the outside, and a slightly chewy inside.
When done, remove the baking sheets from the oven. Lift the paper, and quickly pour about 1 Tbl. water under the paper. Tilt the pan so the water runs all the way under the paper. This will generate steam, and help loosen the cookies. Allow the cookies to rest on the sheet for a few minutes, then, peel the cookies from the parchment paper, by gently pushing them from below. Invert them on racks to cool completely (the bottoms of the cookies may be sticky, so inverting keeps them from sticking to the racks).
If you aren’t filling the cookies immediately, store the cooled cookies in an airtight container.
When the cookies are completely cool, spread about 3/4 tsp. of your desired filling, on the bottom of a cookie, then gently press the bottom of another cookie onto the filling, forming a sandwich. Do the same for all of the macarons. Store in an airtight plastic container, in the refrigerator, until ready to eat. Or freeze for longer storage.
Pairs Well With
Subtle, elegant, luxurious Parisian macarons are all the rage, and they're surprisingly easy to make at home! Here's the basic recipe. You can learn how to use this recipe to make over 100 macaron variations with my Cookbook Cafe cookbook: The Naked Macaron. Enjoy! (BTW: Macarons are also gluten free!)