Mmmmm, macarons. I love them. Mostly, I'm in love with the way they look. It's one of those desserts you actually feel bad biting into because you don't want to destroy its beauty. That makes them perfect for Pinterest.
They're pricey, but after making them, I understand why. They're finicky little things. Everything has to be juuuuust right. That's why it's taken me so long to attempt them. I don't like failure, and I usually avoid anything I think I may fail at. It's a problem that goes way beyond the kitchen. But, it's time to tackle those fears! For me and for you. I made macarons, and you can, too!
There are many variables that compose a perfect macaron batch: They should be uniform in size and flat on the bottom and they should have "feet," no cracks on the shells, be chewy in the middle, and the filling must not be runny. So don't be discouraged if your first batch looks like crap, it's a lot to contend with. The first batch I attempted tasted great, but the "feet" stuck out beyond the shell. Unacceptable.
Like I said, my first attempt wasn't quite as successful as I would have liked, so I made the recipe twice. This is what I learned:
Tip one: The first hurdle in making macarons is having to plan ahead. I suck at planning ahead! I'm the worst. So again, I'm learning real-life lessons with these macarons. Plan ahead; it's critical.
Tip two: The very first part of the recipe involves aging three egg whites for 24 hours. Use real eggs, as in those found in shells, not boxes. Separate the whites from the yolks, place them in an airtight container and leave them on the counter overnight. Don't trip about leaving them out. It'll be fine. This reduces the moisture content in the egg, though I can't tell you why that's important. Just do it.
Tip three: After aging the egg whites, the recipe comes together rather quickly. Dry ingredients are run through a food processor and then sifted to be combined with a meringue made from the egg whites. The recipe says to fold the batter 10 times, but I found it took much more than that. Fold the batter until it's combined.
Tip four: Find a small, round object to use as a pattern and trace it onto the back side of a piece of parchment paper -- this will help you get uniform shapes. Parchment paper is a must. Turn the paper over before you pipe the batter onto it.
Tip five: Pipe the batter onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Put the pastry bag in a tall cup and fold the edges over. Then, you can spoon the batter into the bag without making a huge mess. The batter is super-sticky.
Tip six: Use two baking sheets. That is, place your sheet with the cookies on top of another sheet. This helps slow the baking so that they don't burn.
Tip seven: The recipe calls for 325 degrees but that actually is too hot, which is why my first batch spread out at the bottom -- they got too hot too fast. If you're not sure, know that it's better to cook them longer at a lower temperature. I went with 315 degrees for the second batch, and it was perfect!