Macarons are a traditional French confection made with sugar, almond flour, and meringue, and sandwiched over a variety of tasty fillings. They're famous for being tricky to make. Just check out this tutorial (PDF WARNING) from Tartelette. I like to have step-by-step instructions-for-dummies, so it's intimidating to read things like, "Even the seasoned macaron maker flops once in a while.... Much of the success of making a 'good' macaron does not lie in what is written in the recipe but in your reading beyond it, your touch, your instinct, and the more you make them, the more you understand their finicky nature."
Her tutorial was very helpful, though, nice and detailed. So I dared to try her recipe for raspberry macarons, and...
Pictures ad nauseum will now follow. (First you may wish to click the above photo, then right-click and select "Set as Desktop Background..." It's entirely up to you.)
First, I weighed out the almonds-- most macaron recipes are by weight because it's important to get the proportions right. I don't think I'd have tried macarons at all if I didn't already own a little scale.
Next some granulated sugar...
And some powdered sugar (by the way, this strongly reminds me of weighing out chemicals in the lab).
Oh, and egg whites. Weighing these out is tricky because they look liquid but an egg white really wants to hang together. I had jumbo eggs and needed less than three whites.
Almonds in a food processor...
Add powdered sugar...
Check this out: deep cherry pink powdered food coloring, a whole tablespoon of it, about to be dumped on the pristine white powdered sugar. Do you want to see it? Do you?
There you go!
And now it's all ready to be pulverized! Do you want to see that? Do you?
There you go!
Now to whip the egg whites with the granulated sugar.
I beat for some minutes, and here I'm holding the bowl nearly upside down to see if the meringue will defy gravity. It does-- that means it's done.
Now to sift the almond/sugar mixture on top of the meringue. I want you to know that this was my grandmother's sifter. :)
At first my meringue seemed awfully chunky and dry...
But it started to come together...
You're supposed to mix it until it "flows like magma".
Now for the pastry bag with a big half-inch piping tip. I've never used one of these before. In case you're wondering, my mom in the background was making apple burgers and they were scrumptious. This is why I weigh a hundred and sixty pounds... I'm sure it's her fault and not all my desserts....
Okay, like I said, I'd never used a pastry bag before and I didn't realize the batter would get between the bag and the tip if I didn't pull the bag very, very tight.
But it worked out pretty well anyway. I piped them much bigger than the recipe called for because I had a hard time controlling the process, but I'll learn.
I let the piped batter sit for an hour, so a shell could form on top. While we're waiting, I'll explain that these are definitely a Catholic dessert because I made them on June 24, the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. And if you think that shouldn't count because macarons are totally unrelated to St. John the Baptist, perhaps these cookies will satisfy you instead.
After an hour, I stuck the trays in the oven and waited anxiously. During baking the heat forces the batter to expand, which is supposed to lift up the shell on top and create a "foot" beneath it. Your macarons are a pathetic failure unless they have feet. So I paced up and down the driveway until it was nearly time, and then checked the oven and found...
Feet! I have feet on my macarons! Perfect rows of them!
I was so happy to see it. Bless their little hearts, and their sweet little feet!
Now time for the filling: raspberry jam and mascarpone.
After all the effort that goes into the macaron shells, the simple filling is a joy to make.
Okay, now here's the underside of a macaron shell:
And you just put some filling on-- hey! What happened to it!
It's the weirdest thing, but whenever I hold cookies up to the camera, they suddenly get bites taken out of them. Anyway, see how the shell cracks neatly and the inside is chewy goodness? That's just what we want.
So I slapped some filling on what was left of it...
I then managed to assemble a whole macaron:
This is it suddenly moving closer to the camera...
Aaaauugh! It happened again!
That's so weird! Anyway, now it's all over but the assembly, photography and consumption of a bunch of macarons. The convention is to stack them:
Mine are a much deeper pink than Tartlette's; I think the tablespoon of food color was supposed to be a teaspoon. :) I like color, though, so bring it on! I also think it's nicer to photograph food outside. I seriously didn't notice the artistically-placed purple flower in this shot till after I'd taken it.
Look at this single cookie right here... a picture of perfection! I'll just hold it a bit closer to the camera...
Aaaaaack! Unbelievable! That happens every time!