I love French macarons (who doesn’t, really). I you are not familiar with these God-sent delicacies, they are small and sweet almond-meringue cookies filled with a variety of options – from ganache, to buttercream, to fruit compotes – which yield a moist and chewy bite enclosed in a crusty top.
The distinctive signs of a proper macaron are the smooth top and the ring on the bottom, which is know as “the foot.” The problem is that it is very difficult to obtain a proper macaron. Success requires following mathematical proportions to the letter and measuring perfectly with a scale (no cups and other fancy measuring tools here!). You also need to make sure that your almond flour is super fine and you need to sieve it, or there will be lumps on the macarons’ shells. As for the egg whites, the best is to use whites that are 1 or 2 days old (keep them in the fridge and take them out one hour at least before using them).
The great thing about macarons, is that they are very versatile. Once you know the basic recipe, you can experiment a lot with the fillings. French macarons often come in a rainbow of different colours, which you can obtain by using a very small amount of food colouring in the first stage almond paste. In this version, I went for a white shell with a bright-red summer-like raspberry filling. The shells tend to be very sweet, so I kept the sugar in the filling to the minimum, to create a bit of contrast.
This version of the recipe for the shells comes from the website of a great Danish baker – Maja Vase – and it used to be my go-to when I was in Europe. I think it would be best to modify it a bit for American ovens though, because those oftentimes lack the convection baking option that is used in the original recipe. Anyway, I’ll keep experimenting on macarons, so more variations on the theme will follow!
Ingredients (from Maja Vase mint macarons):
- 150 grams fine almond flour
- 150 g powder sugar
- 55 g egg whites
- 150 g granulated sugar
- 50 g water
- 55 g egg whites
- 200 grams raspberries
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- grated zest of 1 lemon
Sift flour and almond flour in a bowl together and add 55g of egg white, stirring well until you obtain a paste.
Bring water and sugar to boil in a small saucepan and heat it up to 118°C (244°F) degrees. In a standing mixer, whip the remaining 55g of egg white in a bowl to medium peaks and pour the 118°C degree hot sugar syrup into the egg whites in a thin stream, during whipping. Keep whipping until the bowl of the mixer is cool and the meringue is shining.
Turn some of the meringue into the almond paste, mixing to make it smooth and more liquid. Then gently turn the rest in and keep folding until well incorporated. pour into a piping bag with a small round tip and pipe small circles on a baking sheet lined with baking paper, about 1 inch apart.
Tap the bottom of each sheet on the work surface to release trapped air bubbles. It is very important that you let the macaron sit on the baking sheet for at least half hour before baking them. This creates a crust on top of them, which helps them develop the characteristic “foot” when baking. While they rest, try to keep them away from drafts.
Heat the oven to 150°C (305°F) and bake the macarons for 15-16 minutes. Allow them to cool completely then peel them off the baking sheet.
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the raspberries, water, sugar, cornstarch and lemon zest. Bring to a boil and keep stirring until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and using a fork smash the raspberries as much as possible, then let cool completely.
When you are ready to assemble the macarons, match two shells by size and pipe a small amount of raspberry filling on the flat side of one shell in each pair. Sandwich with the remaining cookie, making sure that the filling is pushed to the edges. They are best if they spend a night in the fridge in an airtight container.