Sunday, December 25, 2011

Mastering the French Macaron - Part 1

Hello all!

You will never guess what I got for Christmas...

a macaron kit!

You're incredibly jealous; I know. But don't despair, because I plan on sharing with you all of the wonderful mishaps I encountered - kit or no kit.

For anyone out there who has not been fortunate enough to experience a macaron (not to be confused with a coconut macaroon - note the double oo) it is a wonderfully delicious French cookie sandwich that I have become quite addicted to after having tried at a French Patisserie near my parents' house.

So I found that mastering the art of the macaron is not a feat easily accomplished. Even after this post I have yet to do so, but the key is to be patient. Oh, and to question ambiguity in a recipe when it's appropriate.

The kit I received came with this adorable Macaron Recipe Book, and what I thought would be a fool-proof recipe. Think again. Sounding simple enough, I jumped right in. I aged my egg whites over three days; I ground my almonds as finely as I possibly could (only to realize that it's just easier and more efficient to buy Almond Flour) and got to work.

Now riddle me this Batman...if I buy a Macaron Kit it would suggest that I do not know anything about making the delicious petite French cookie, correct? Therefore the recipe should be detailed and quite explanatory so that I can learn, correct?

Not so my friends. Let's see...Recipe Oddity Number One: "add two unbeaten egg whites to the dry ingredient mixture"....and do what? Stir to combine? Leave it just plopped on top? Why am I doing that? It looks strange and wrong, but okay book. You know best. Recipe Oddity Number 2: "Whisk egg whites to a foam, add granulated sugar, then complete whisking." What on earth does complete whisking mean?

Thank goodness I have read other recipes on macarons to know you need to get the egg whites to stiff peaks, otherwise I'd have been totally in the dark here. How am I (a macaron novice) supposed to know what "complete" whisking should look like? If I just stopped after the granulated sugar was incorporated, I'd still have a runny egg white foam - which is definitely not desirable for macarons.

So - as my first attempt came out like so (note that there are no photos of these off of the silicone mat because they would not come off until I scraped them off):

and made me very sad, I decided to take a few, shall we say, liberties, with the recipe.

Look how much smoother they are! Who knew! True, the amond powder made a huge difference and that I do not pretend to blame on the recipe. But I omitted that weird thought of just adding egg whites to the dry mixture (maybe if I knew what they wanted me to do after's like someone fell asleep while writing these recipe instructions).

Did they come out perfect? Sadly no; they were no cute macaron "feet" to be seen and they were quite thin.

Was there improvement? Yes; they taste great and the consistency (although they are super thin) is there.

And frankly, that's all I can hope for. If French Macarons were easy to make, we would see them much more often like we do chocolate chip cookies or brownies. The difficulty is half the intrigue; the other half is that I can never get enough of them.

I will be attempting this once again in the near future, hopefully with positive results. In the meantime, I have recently acquired an Artisan Bread Book that has recipes for ciabatta, bagels, croissants and more. Perhaps we will encounter a few of these On Sugar Mountain in the New Year? We will have to wait and see. :)

As always, Happy Baking!


  1. The macaron mold is perfect for consistent size and shape! The art of making macaron is also well explained through video, check this 15 min macaron recipe video
    This post also shares a link to an amazing blog post that deals with the critical macaronnage technique and that shares other very interesting links (like that of Bravetart).
    Good luck!

  2. Oh this post is great but intimidating. I asked for, and got, a macaron book for Christmas, because I wanted a challenge, and it seems like this is what I am going to get. I can't wait to hear about your adventures in macaron and maybe I can learn from your misadventures and successes alike! Your second go-round look wonderful!

  3. I spent most of 2010 making macarons and not doing particularly well. I eventually got some that resembled macarons - feet and all. But to be honest I never got good enough that there weren't disasters!

    If found Tartelette's blog posts on how to make macarons the most helpful, so you should take a look at those. Also there are two different methods of making macarons, try both and see which works best for you.

    Good luck!

  4. Ooh I love macarons! I've never had trouble baking them before. You've got to let them set after they've been piped to form an outer layer, then the feet should happen on their own in the oven. Also, I learned that you really have to carefully fold the flour/sugar into the beaten eggwhite so as not to deflate it. Lastly, weigh the ingredients. I hope that helps. You're doing a great job being persistent. You'll get it eventually!! Great job!

  5. I - one day - hope to make macarons, they look so delicious! Good for you for persistence!