macarons

by Patricia on March 1, 2010 · 21 comments

Macarons

Is it just me or are macarons popping up everywhere? I’ve even seen some at Starbucks and the freezer section of Trader Joe’s. Macarons are the new cupcake. Or at least they seem to be from where I’m sitting.

Remember not too long ago when I gushed over dinner at Masa’s and their candy cart? It was my first taste of macarons and I fell hard. I became infatuated. Like that first magical kiss, it was all I could think about.

I wanted another kiss. I searched high and low until I found a bakery not quite nearby but close enough. Pamplemousse has over a dozen flavors of macarons and for a special birthday treat I took home a dozen little beauties just for me… and Dan. It was his birthday week too so I had to share.

Macarons

Alas, the birthday macarons only deepened my feelings. Infatuation turned into obsession. I wanted more. It was inevitable that I would give in and take the next step. Why fight it?

I was intimidated at first. What am I getting myself into? Am I ready for this? What if I don’t do it right?

Macarons

Anyway, I did it. Two ways.

I made sure I had protection. I invested in a kitchen scale (not only for precise measuring when making macarons. I got Ratio for Christmas and would like to use it to its full potential).

And to keep things complicated interesting I worked from two recipes: raspberry mascarpone macarons from Tartelette and French chocolate macarons from David Lebovitz.

I started out with the base for the raspberry mascarpone macarons and split the batter in half (by weight). Half became hot pink when I added rose gel food coloring and the other half became chocolate brown when I added cocoa powder. I didn’t have powdered food coloring and I’m not sure if the gel coloring made the batter runny or if I mis-measured something along the way, but my hot pink batter spread out into an illustration of the stages of mitosis and the cookies didn’t really puff up or grow “feet”.

The chocolate batter was thicker (but then it had more dry ingredients with the cocoa powder) and half of them came out looking pretty good (with feet and all). The other half of the chocolate ones stuck to the pan and had a gooey brownie texture.

The few that survived were filled: the pink ones with raspberry jam or raspberry mascarpone cream, the chocolate ones with ganache. Both tasted good.

For my first time it wasn’t too bad. There were a few uncomfortable moments but overall the experience was good. I plan to try making macarons again and expect it will be a little less painful next time. (Maybe I’ll even stick to one recipe from start to finish. It’s crazy enough it just might work.)

Have you made macarons? How did they turn out? Do you have any secrets to your success? Better yet, what’s your favorite flavor?

More information on macarons

  • Stephanie of Wasabimon dedicated an entire week in January to these delicate cookies. Check out her macaron week.
  • David Lebovitz has a plethora of information (instructions and recipes) about making French macarons.
  • Super cute macaron pops from Bakerella and Tartelette.
  • Helen Dujardin of Tartelette wrote a Macarons 101 tutorial for Desserts magazine. (look for the pdf link)

{ 20 comments }

1 allison March 1, 2010 at 5:32 pm

I’ve made – or rather tried making – these the last 2 weekends. The first batch were the David Lebovitz recipe. They all cracked. The second batch were the basic vanilla ones from “I Love Macarons”. They didn’t crack, but they didn’t have “feet” either. I keep reading conflicting info about what I might have done wrong. Oh well. I am determined now! (Catgirl72)

2 Patricia March 3, 2010 at 10:31 am

Hi Allison,

How long did you let the cookies sit before baking? I think that’s what give it the feet (unless the cookies are runny or something). Not that I’m an expert. I don’t even sit near an expert :) The link to Not So Humble Pie that Shannon shared is pretty helpful (http://notsohumblepie.blogspot.com/2010/02/macaron-101-italian-meringue-part-1.html).

3 allison March 9, 2010 at 5:00 pm

The David Lebovitz ones I don’t think I let sit long enough. The “I love Macarons” I let sit for a while. She said it’s ready when it doesn’t stick to your finger – and that took an hour. I’m going to try the Lebovitz recipe again and let them sit longer. And thanks for the link :)

4 Clive March 1, 2010 at 5:50 pm

I haven’t tried to make them yet but yours look very professional and you make it sound like it’s not that hard. I’ll give it a try.

5 Patricia March 3, 2010 at 10:29 am

Thanks Clive,
I don’t want to give the impression that they are “easy” but they are doable especially if you are adventurous or familiar with meringues. Besides, as Julia Child said: “The grand thing about cooking is you can eat your mistakes.” :)

6 Joie de vivre March 1, 2010 at 8:20 pm

For your first time, these look amazing. So macaroons are the new cupcake? Will we start to see macaroon cafes next?

7 Patricia March 3, 2010 at 10:25 am

Hi Joie de vivre :)

Thanks! I had plenty of botched macarons I couldn’t bear to photograph, but I was happy to have a few to use as my models. I’m not sure if we’ll see full-on macaron cafes, but I do think they’ll become more ever-present. (Apparently they’ve even started popping up at McCafe’s in France: http://bit.ly/cxtsut)

8 Shannon Henry March 1, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Brave soul, attempting your own macarons!

The blog Not So Humble Pie ran a series last week where she looked at how little variations in cooking could have big differences in finished macarons. I found it fascinating, even though I’m not much of a baker. Her top piece of advice – check your pans. You’d probably enjoy reading it yourself… it starts here: http://notsohumblepie.blogspot.com/2010/02/macaron-101-italian-meringue-part-1.html.

9 Patricia March 3, 2010 at 10:21 am

Hi Shannon!
Thanks for the link. There’s some great information in that series. I love that she ruined some of her macarons on purpose to illustrate the things that can go wrong. Very helpful.

10 Penny March 1, 2010 at 10:15 pm

I’ve heard good things about the Macaroons at Starbucks, but haven’t found any around me yet. :(
I’ve been a little obsessed with them since having some at Sucre in New Orleans about a year and a half ago. They are SO cute! One day, I will go to Laduree and purchase and ENORMOUS assortment of them!!…and probably a bunch of their other pastries! MAGICAL!
I want to try making some, but I worry about the almond powder not being fine enough since I don’t have a food processor-Ur feet problem with the food coloring seems to be a pretty common problem. I don’t have any powder food coloring either…the David Lebovitz recipe seems to be a gold standard tho! I’m gonna have to finally go for this in the next couple of weeks!
I just love those little macs! THey have their own personality! AND- YOURS look SO wonderful!!! BRAVO!

11 Patricia March 3, 2010 at 10:19 am

Hi Penny,
I didn’t try the macarons at Starbucks, but did see them there once. I don’t go very often though so who knows if it’s a regular thing :)

I have a confession: I didn’t use a food processor for my macarons. Instead I cheated and used Bob’s Red Mill Finely Ground Almond Meal/Flour. The bumps in my chocolate macarons are from that I think, but it worked pretty well. (I found it at Whole Foods but you can probably find almond flour in other places too).

Ah, Laduree… and Paris. I’ve never been but dream of it :)

12 Dan March 1, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Hi, Patricia. I just came across your blog, and I quite like it (I have some similarities to your work “sea change”, but, for me, it was from full-time not-for-profit management – I’m in the Gulf Islands, off of Vancouver, BC…).

You did very well with your initial macaron-making session! Macarons are not quite the new cupcake, as they’re harder to make and more fussy. It’s the sort of thing that only dedicated home-bakers or pastry chefs would stick with until they achieve perfection.

I ate macarons frequently, when I lived in Paris 25 years ago for grad school. When I returned to the US, I made an authentic version from the recipe in Patricia Wells’s first edition of “The Food Lover’s Guide To Paris”. This recipe worked well for me back then (a mocha macaron called “creole”, but I don’t have the book anymore, unfortunately. I just tried again, with another recipe last year, but it did not turn out with the proper “feet”.

Thanks for the fun blog,

Dan

13 Danielle March 1, 2010 at 10:59 pm

Welcome to the macaron bandwagon – it’s like a black hole, trying to get it right! :) I had a few batches that turned out like your raspberry ones (without feet), and that was because I had overmixed the batter, making it too runny and flat to rise in the oven. Other tricks include using the Italian meringue method (where you add a hot sugar/water mixture to the egg whites) or a few grains of egg white powder to stabilize the meringue, as well as paying attention to the folding technique. And knowing your oven’s sweet spots is crucial too.

Good luck for your next try – judging from your Chocolate macarons, you’re off to a great start! :)

14 Patricia March 3, 2010 at 10:06 am

Thanks Danielle. I have hope for the next batch :)

15 Stephanie - Wasabimon March 2, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Girrrrrrrrl, I’ve made over 300 macarons in the past month. If you need any help, give me a call!

16 Patricia March 3, 2010 at 9:27 am

I might take you up on the help, but first I want to try one more batch on my own (stubborn, who me?) :)

17 Beth March 3, 2010 at 8:42 pm

They are CRAZY hard to make, but then again I’ve only made one batch so far (with DL’s chocolate recipe) and they turned out like this http://bit.ly/bSFSPx (i.e. little turds). Yours were MUCH prettier, so bravo! I’m determined to give them another go, just haven’t had the time lately. I also only had liquid food coloring so will need to make a trip to the store. They ARE delicious though, no? Even if they look like something that came out of my dog ;)

18 Mrs. L March 4, 2010 at 12:15 pm

I tried the macarons at Starbucks and liked them enough to want to find better ones elsewhere. I would never think to try to make them myself. They look great and even if you didn’t photograph the not so photogenic ones, I’m still very impressed!

19 Eliana March 8, 2010 at 7:02 am

These two macaroons look absolutely delightful :) Wish I had one of each right now.

20 Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets March 10, 2010 at 11:03 am

I had no idea they’d gotten so mainstream (Starbucks?!) and have trouble believing those could be any good. But made right, macarons are amazing little treats and I’m glad they’re getting the attention they deserve. I think cute and little treats in general are popular these days. I certainly hope cupcakes don’t go out of style 8).

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