My wedding is coming up soon. In early September, I’ll be marrying a man who, in my book, is the greatest thing since the standing mixer. Naturally, this has conjured lots of thoughts for me – love, longevity, partnership. And food.
In planning our small and very intimate wedding, my Mom and I teamed up for a our small “let’s celebrate with food and bubbly!” moment after the ceremony, and my mind keeps wandering back to one of my favorite dessert items: macarons. I adore this small dessert, packing with sweet flavor in a light, fluffy cookie unlike any other.
Ultimately, we didn’t elect macarons for the big day (thanks a lot, bakery that didn’t call us back!), but the planning certainly conjured in me a longing to make them myself. Having seen and devoured them in bakeries time and time again, I wondered why they were able to bring a price of up to $3.00 each. Sure, they are delicious, but $1.50 per bite delicious? Why, oh why?
Why? Because they require skill to make. We can all admit that whipping up a batch of chocolate chip cookies is not in itself a task demanding a great deal of skill. However, macarons take practice. They require a tolerance for failure. A try-and-try-again attitude. My first batch of these French delicacies was a disaster. Sure, they tasted great, but the shapes ranged from oval to square. See, the taste isn’t hard to master – it’s the presentation.
Nonetheless, my “little engine that could” approach to these desserts paid off, and after many experiments, I finally had the perfect macaron.
There are a few rules to making macarons, some of which I learned myself and some that I discovered in my reading:
- Don’t get frustrated. Macarons are temperamental. If your first batch doesn’t yield picture perfect results, eat them anyway and try again.
- Use the convection setting on your oven to help the cookies dry out evenly and not crumble.
- Be slow and deliberate. I, as a baker, like to rush to the finish line, but with these, you must be slow and deliberate. Make macarons with a glass of wine and relax. Enjoy the process as much as the result.
- Make macarons on a sunny, warm day. Oddly enough, a rainy day yields ugly macarons.
I think we all love an easy to the finish line recipe to allow us to flex our baking muscles in victory, but we also need those more difficult, practice-based recipes that really test our skills and yield a dessert that we can feel truly accomplished in making.
I encourage you to make your own macarons – even if it takes a few tries – and skip the bakery. You can do it, kitchen queen.
Chocolate Hazelnut Macarons
Makes 12 cookies with chocolate hazelnut filling
- 1/2 cup almond meal
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon Dutch processing cocoa powder
- 2 egg whites
- A pinch of fine sea salt
- A pinch of cream of tartar
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1/4 cup chocolate hazelnut spread
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line one baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Using your food processor, combine almond meal, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Pulse several times to mix and aerate. Process until very fine and combined. Once complete, pour through a flour sifter in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Using your standing mixer, place the egg whites in the bowl and begin your meringue. Using your whisk attachment, beat on medium speed until the egg whites are foamy and fairly clear. This should take 30 to 45 seconds. Add cream of tartar and beat on a higher setting for one minute. The egg whites should be white in color. Continue to beat at the same setting while adding the granulated sugar slowly. The whites will become shiny, and the mixture will stiffen and form soft peaks. This should take around one minute. Do not over beat.
- Fold the almond meal and sugar mixture into the meringue. Mix until just combined. Do not over mix. This will cause the meringue to deflate. The mix should look like cake batter.
- Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag. (If you don’t have a pastry bag, no problem! Simply pour the mixture into a gallon-size plastic storage bag and cut a small hole in one of the corners. Now you have your own improvised pastry bag!)
- On your lined baking sheet, pipe out one inch rounds no less than one inch apart. Should have about 24 rounds. Allow the baking sheets to sit on the counter for 30 to 45 minutes at room temperature. Tap the baking sheet on the counter three times before baking to release air bubbles.
- Bake for 14 minutes, rotating after seven minutes. Then, transfer the sheet to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely, approximately 25 minutes.
- While your macarons are cooling, make the filling by combining the melted butter, heavy cream, and chocolate hazelnut spread in a medium bowl. Mix until fully combined. Store in the refrigerator to allow to firm. The filling will be ready for spreading after approximately 25 minutes.
- Once the macarons have cooled, begin pairing them together based on appearance. Pick cookies that compliment each other in size and shape. Place a dime-sized portion of the filling on one cookie and press the two together. (You can use your pastry bag for this or a small spoon. I recommend a pastry bag for the best presentation.) Be gentle. Don’t allow the filling to ooze out the sides.
- Place your completed macarons in a sealed container in the refrigerator for a minimum of 24 to 36 hours before serving for further cooling and to allow them to “settle.” After this period has elapsed, devour your macarons and store any leftovers (as if!) in the refrigerator.