Making Macarons

Yes, macarons. Not macaroons. And yes, they are different.

Lemon Macarons
The lovely lemon macaron from Bouchon Bakery, NYC

I have been eating macaroons since I was a kid. One of my most clear memories as a child was to eat one (or two, if I could sneak it) macaroon everyday before breakfast. These were almond macaroons, as I learnt later, when one day I ate a supposed macaroon, and realised it was not what I wanted, because it was made of dessicated coconut (and those were the days that I stayed as far away from it as possible).

On the other hand Macarons were something I was introduced very late in life. Long back, I saw a colourful array of macarons in a window at Paul's and at the time, was amused at the colours and the macarons sandwiched with some sort of a filling. The ones I knew were so simple, humongous cookies with a lovely browned top and no fillings. Why I never tried macarons then, I can't remember, but when they appeared on my screen a couple of years back, I was intrigued. It took me a long time to find the courage to make my first batch - the ingredients though limited, were not something I used regularly: almond meal, egg whites (only), gel colourings, etc.

Making macarons is not simple. It's not one bowl, mix, bake and eat. The ingredients are limited, but it's the technique that matters. It requires a lot of practice - to be able to get the perfect delicate macaron with it's perfectly aligned ruffled feet.

In my first attempt last year, I chose to make lemon macarons with a lemon curd filling. I read pages and pages of macaron technique, aged the egg whites overnight, ground the almonds as instructed, mixed the batter, piped it and let it sit out to dry for an hour, again, as instructed. They went into my oven - rose, seemingly perfect, until they burst forth, for no apparent reason. The top shells remained where they were, but the inside along with the feet spread out, everywhere. The phenomenon I now know as 'exploding' macaron feet.

lemon macarons
That's the remaining shell, stuck together with some lemon curd, for photographic purposes only.

This happened mostly due to a very high oven temperature; but hey I got some 'ruffled' feet on them, so...

I don't even have photos of my second attempt. The batter turned out to be too runny, it spread all over my baking sheet, and of the batch from the batter came out as one giant cookie rather than a dozen small cookies.

My third attempt some weeks ago was much better, and yet, I didn't get 'em perfect macarons. One batch had cracked shells, but one batch had perfect feet

'Feet' on Chocolate Macaron.
I chose to use the wrong pastry tip (because I really didn't think it would matter) and used a star tip (what was I thinking??)
chocolate macarons
Ready to bake - not sure about the use of a star pastry tip.

Despite that, some flattened out, but I had under mixed the batter, so they had air pockets in them. I also over baked one batch, so some of my macarons were cracked on top

Some cracked shells, but they sat together perfectly.
The ingredients can be expensive or difficult to procure, so I don't like a recipe failing. It breaks my heart to throw an entire day's worth of baking into the dustbin if the final outcome is inedible. In this case, so long as your cookies are not burnt, the mess can also be incredibly delicious. My second batch, the one that was a giant cookie, was one of the most delicious mess I have ever baked. I broke the giant cookie into several pieces and ate them up as tea time snacks. An entire batch of what would have been 24 macarons, lasted for a little more than a day.

The internet is full of good macaron advice, from trouble shooting guides to recipes. And picking a recipe was tricky. Every recipe has it's own proportions - of egg whites, almond meal and sugar. The third time I made macarons, I followed a recipe by David Lebovitz, and I followed it to the letter, making no changes. So if you are going to attempt chocolate macarons, take a look at the recipe. Pick a recipe that you feel comfortable with, but make sure you read a lot of advice, because you are going to need it.

Chocolate Macarons


Popular Posts