Parisian Macarons

Prep Time: 1 hour minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes minutes

In her cookbook Baking Chez Moi, Dorie Greenspan shares this recipe for macarons, small almond meringue cookies that are sold in French pâtisseries with an almost endless variety of fillings. She points out that you might have to make these a few times to get them just right, but, happily, less-than-perfect macarons still taste great.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (6 1/2 oz./200 g) almond flour
  • 1 2/3 cups (6 1/2 oz./200 g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2/3 cup (150 ml) egg whites, at room temperature
  • Food coloring as desired (optional)
  • 1 cup (7 oz./200 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) water
  • Thick jam or chocolate ganache for filling

Directions:

Using a cookie cutter as your guide, trace circles about 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) in diameter on 2 pieces of parchment paper, leaving about 2 inches (5 cm) between each circle. Turn the paper over and use it to line 2 baking sheets. Fit a large pastry bag with a plain 1/2-inch (12-mm) tip.

Place a strainer over a large bowl and press the almond flour and confectioners’ sugar through the mesh. This is a tedious step but it’s imperative. Whisk the mixture to blend it.

Put half of the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. If desired, in a separate bowl, add food coloring to the remaining egg whites and stir. Pour the whites over the almond flour mixture. Using a flexible spatula, mix and mash the whites into the dry ingredients until you have a homogenous paste.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the granulated sugar and water to a boil. If there are spatters on the sides of the pan, wash them down with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Insert a candy thermometer and cook the syrup until it reaches 243° to 245°F (117° to 118°C). (This can take about 10 minutes.)

Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until they hold medium-firm peaks. Reduce the mixer speed to low and keep mixing until the sugar syrup comes up to temperature.

When the sugar reaches the right temperature, remove the pan from the heat and remove the thermometer. With the mixer on low speed, pour the hot syrup into the mixing bowl, trying to pour it between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Some of the syrup will spatter onto the sides of the bowl, but leave it; don’t try to incorporate it into the meringue. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat until the meringue cools to room temperature, about 10 minutes.

Give the almond mixture another turn with the spatula, then scrape the meringue over it and firmly fold everything together. Use your spatula to cut through the meringue and almond mixture, bring some of the batter from the bottom up over the top, and then press it against the sides of the bowl. The action is the same as the one you used to incorporate the egg whites into the almonds and sugar: mix and mash. Continue until, when you lift the spatula, the batter flows off it in a thick band.

Spoon half of the batter into the prepared pastry bag and, holding the bag vertically 1 inch (2.5 cm) above one of the baking sheets, pipe out 1 1/2-inch (4-cm) rounds, using the circles drawn on the parchment paper as a guide. Holding the baking sheet with both hands, lift it about 8 inches (20 cm) above the counter and drop it. (It’s unnerving but necessary to remove the bubbles from the batter.) Refill the bag, pipe the second sheet and drop it onto the counter.

Set the baking sheets aside in a cool, dry place to allow the batter to form a crust. When you can gingerly touch the top of the macarons without having the batter stick to your finger, you’re ready to bake. (Depending on temperature and humidity, this can take 15 to 30 minutes, or sometimes longer.)

Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the center of an oven and preheat to 350°F (180°C).

Bake the macarons, 1 baking sheet as a time, for 6 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for another 6 to 9 minutes, or until the macarons can be carefully peeled away from the paper. The bottoms will still feel just a little soft. Slide the parchment off the baking sheet onto a counter and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Repeat with the second baking sheet of batter.

Peel the macarons off the parchment and match them up for sandwiching.

To assemble the macarons, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a teaspoon or a piping bag to spoon or pipe some filling onto the flat side of a macaron and sandwich it with its mate, gently twisting the top macaron to spread the filling to the edges. (Some pastry chefs make the filling as tall as one of the shells while others use half as much.) Repeat with the remaining macarons and filling and put the macarons on the baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap.

Chill for at least 24 hours before serving. The macarons will keep for up to 4 days. Makes about 45 macarons.

Recipe adapted from Baking Chez Moi, © 2014 by Dorie Greenspan. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.