Monday, April 30, 2012


A long time ago, when I first started this blog, I set a personal goal for myself to have at least four posts a month. Most months I do end up having more but I told myself that four is the minimum. Well, this past weekend I was scrambling trying to figure out a recipe I could make, take pictures, and write about within a very short time frame. The challenge was made even more difficult by the fact that my parents went away for the weekend and borrowed my camera. Fortunately, they returned on Sunday in time for me to meet my month's end deadline and photograph the macarons I made.

Now about those macarons...let's just say I gave it my best effort, twice. It was my friend's birthday on Sunday and, as per usual, I wanted to bake something for her. I decided to make macarons because 1) I knew she loved them and would enjoy them 2) I had been wanting to try making them for quite some time and 3) she knows they are difficult to make and would appreciate the effort.

Macarons, not to be confused with macaroons (little fluffy coconut cookies) are the latest food trend along with cake pops. They come in a variety of flavors with and can be paired with virtually and filling. The challenge is to bake the shells with pristine tops and the coveted little "feet" at the bottom. I knew from reading many online blogs that macarons were no easy feat and that they can frustrate even the most accomplished of bakers. However I was determined to at least try it once, if only to be able to say I've done it.

I downloaded an excellent tutorial which is available for free here. The blogger wrote out a wonderful pdf, complete with step-by-step pictures, that explains how to make macarons. She also has a section devoted to troubleshooting, also with pictures of common problems, and then goes into detail on how to alter the basic macaron recipe to produce different types and flavors. I highly recommend downloading the document because it is very detailed and by far the best tutorial I have seen out there.

One of my few perfect macarons, complete with little "feet"
The first attempt I made was with the basic macaron recipe. Although the shells turned out with "feet", some of them were hollow inside. According to the tutorial this was a sign of over-mixing my batter. Normally it's hard to tell whether the macarons will turn out right until you bake them, but I had a feeling they weren't quite right because my batter was quite liquidy. My second attempt was with chocolate shells, but this one wasn't perfect either because only a few of the shells ended up with "feet" and most of them had cracked tops, also a sign of over-mixing.

Although my shells did not turn out perfect, I don't regret the experience or the results. I ended up filling the regular macarons with lemon curd and the chocolate ones with nutella. Both tasted good, though I preferred the regular ones because the almond taste was more noticeable in the shells compared to the strong chocolate taste of the other ones.

When my friend came over I presented her a nicely decorated box filled with both types as well as her other birthday gifts. I could tell she really enjoyed the macarons because she said they were delicious and she ate about three of each type while we sat and chatted. My parents and brother also tried them and agreed that they tasted great. Even though I want to eventually one day make perfect macarons, for now I will settle for less-than-perfect yet still yummy ones instead.

Note: This is the recipe on how to make basic shells. I highly recommend downloading the document described above as it gives great instructions and also variations. This recipe makes about 100 shells, or 50 filled macarons.
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3  large egg whites
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  1. In a large bowl, sift together the almond flour and powdered sugar and set aside.
  2. Using a whisk or hand-held electric mixer, whip the egg whites on low speed.
  3. Once the egg whites start to become frothy and meringue-like, add the granulated sugar.
  4. Continue to whisk/beat until stiff peaks form.
  5. Carefully take half of the dry ingredients and gently, slowly fold into the egg whites until mostly mixed in. It's important to do this slowly so as not to deflate the egg whites too much.
  6. Pour the mixture into the bowl with the remaining dry ingredients and gently fold in until evenly incorporated and no dry specks are left. Try to do this with minimal mixing as that can result in a too-liquid batter.
  7. Once done, fill a pastry bag, or large ziploc bag with the tip cut off, and pipe nickel-sized rounds onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. The batter will continue to spread after piping so make sure to leave about half an inch between each round.
  8. Depending on the moisture in the environment, it will take between 30-90 minutes for the shells to develop a "skin" before they can be baked. The shells are ready if you can touch your finger to them and have no batter stick to it.
  9. Once the "skins" have developed, bake the shells for 15-17 minutes, depending on how large they are, at 280 degrees Fahrenheit. You should see them puff up and form little "feet" on the bottom.
  10. Remove from the oven and allow the shells to cool completely before carefully peeling them off the paper. 
  11. Pipe any filling of your choice onto half of the shells and match with a similar sized shell to create a macaron.

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