Happy Memorial Day!
In honor of America’s bravest who died serving us, I’ve stepped up my own game and finally attempted the ultimate cookie challenge. The French macaron. These light, airy, melt-in-your-mouth cookies have been on my bucket list ever since Christine introduced them to me through her Gossip Girl obsession.
Macarons aren’t actually my favorite cookie, but they are by far the prettiest, don’t you think? Those French are just so classy!
So why would they be on my bucket list if they aren’t even my favorite? Well it’s the technique, patience, and finesse of perfecting them that’s so addicting and stimulating. The concept is simple: two meringue based cookies sandwiched together with some kind of filling. But it isn’t your typical sandwich cookie. Nope, no Oreos here. The cookies have a moist and chewy inside, covered by a smooth and crisp shell.
You start by aging your egg whites 1-2 days prior to help them lose their humidity. Make sure there are no egg yolks left in them or they won’t whip up correctly. When ready to whip them, make sure they are at room temperature.
Beat in some granulated sugar until stiff, glossy peaks form and your meringue is ready. If you are coloring your shells, like I did, be sure to use a little more than usual because the colors fade as they bake.
The dry mixture is a finely grained and sifted mixture of almond flour/meal and confectioner’s sugar. After measuring out the correct amounts, process them in a food processor to grind them down into smaller bits and sift it through a sieve. This is uber-important if you want smooth macaron shells.
Once you have the flour and meringue parts done, it’s time to combine and create the macronnage. Fold the flour mixture in 3 additions into the meringue. It’ll take practice to “know” when to get the right consistency but when you do, the batter should fall in thick ribbons like lava. Overfolding will create a runny batter and flat shells, while underfolding will create cracked macarons or macarons with a pocket of air inside. Mine weren’t perfect and I just guessed (and prayed) that my batter was ready but I do think they were a bit underfolded. My shells did have air pockets in them, which may also be caused by under whipped egg whites.
Once the batter is done, you’re ready to pipe. I don’t have pastry bags so I made my own from those plastic bags you get when you’re bagging fruits and vegetables at the supermarket. Since this was my first time, I drew 1 1/2 inch circles on my parchment paper as a guide and piped them in. My piping needs to get better. I felt like a 5 year old trying to color within the lines – that’s saying something! Tap the baking sheets on a counter to remove any peaks and large air bubbles.
Now let. them. rest. This resting period is necessary to help the shells lose their humidity and form a thin layer on top. This layer helps the shell created the distinct “feet” to prevent the heat from escaping through the top. The time can range from 45 minutes to 2 hours depending on the humidity of the environment you’re in. You know when it’s ready for the oven when the surface no longer looks wet and you feel a layer when running your finger lightly along the surface.
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F and bake the shells for 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven. It’s done when you can easily remove the shell from the parchment paper with a spatula. Don’t let them brown (which I did for some of them). This means they’re overbaked and will be hard. Next time I’ll be more patient and not cook them at 350 degrees F.
Once cooled, feel free to fill them with any filling you want. In retrospect piping would be easier than spread a filling on since they are so delicate. I used a cream cheese frosting for today’s Memorial Day macarons, which I LOVE LOVE LOVE. I’ve shared the recipe for the frosting below too!
Enjoy, and Happy Memorial Day!
Red, White, and Blue Cheesecake Macarons
adapted from Baking A Moment
For the shells:
- 70 grams egg whites (about 2 large eggs)
- 100 grams almond meal (also called “almond flour”)
- 125 grams powdered sugar
- a pinch of kosher salt
- 40 grams granulated sugar
- red gel paste food coloring
- royal blue gel paste food coloring
- violet gel paste food coloring
For the filling:
- 6 ounces cream cheese, softened but cool (the kind in a brick)
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but cool
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon orange juice
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- a pinch of kosher salt
To make the shells:
- 1-2 days before making macarons separate egg whites in refrigerator. On day of baking, bring the egg whites to room temperature.
- Measure the almond meal, powdered sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Process the mixture finely, then sift, discarding any large bits. Using a kitchen scale to measure accurately, divide the mixture equally between two small bowls, and set aside.
- Measure the granulated sugar in a small bowl. Mix the egg whites on medium-high speed, using the whip attachment. When the whites hold soft peaks, start adding the granulated sugar, very slowly, while continuing to whip. When all the granulated sugar has been incorporated, continue to whip until stiff peaks form.
- Divide the meringue equally between two medium mixing bowls by using a kitchen scale. Tint one bowl of meringue with red gel paste food coloring, and the other with equal parts royal blue gel paste food coloring and violet gel paste food coloring.
- Add half the almond meal mixture to the red meringue, and fold together until the batter drops from the spatula in a long ribbon. Transfer to a piping bag and pipe 1 1/2-inch diameter rounds onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Repeat with the blue meringue. Allow to dry for 45-60 minutes, or until thin, dry membrane forms on the surface.
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F, and bake the macarons (one sheet at a time) until set (approximately 10-15 minutes). Do not brown. Allow to cool on the baking sheet, then carefully peel from the parchment and sandwich with filling.
To make the filling:
- Place the cream cheese and butter in a medium mixing bowl and beat together on medium speed until smooth and well incorporated. Stir in the powdered sugar, orange juice, almond extract, and salt, then increase the speed to medium-high and whip until fluffy.
- Spoon or pipe about 2 teaspoons of the cream cheese mixture onto half the macaron shells.