Although I’ve never really understood the hype, I have a coworker who is COMPLETELY obsessed with French Macarons. She knows every bakery in the Los Angeles area that sells them, and her boyfriend buys her a box of macarons for her Birthday gift. So I thought I’d attempt them for her for a little office pick-me-up. She had told me her favorite flavor was coffee and I already had a jar of hazelnut spread in the refrigerator that I wasn’t going to be eating myself–how perfect. Besides, while the brightly colored macarons in magazines are pretty adorable, I hate to use all that artificial food dye. And I have always been a fan of coffee flavored desserts.
Before I started doing some research, I had no idea how temperamental these little airy sandwiches were. But I should have known I’d be dealing with a fussy meringue batter. Actually, for a first pass, the recipe I ended up using was relatively forgiving. I started to take a few off the pan and realized I didn’t allow them to cool long enough and the bottoms caved in, but once I gathered some patience, they held up quite well, resulting in a shiny sleek flat bottom, perfect for sandwiching. Like all macaron cookies, I found them much too sugary, but my coworker loved them, so much that she refused to share ANY with her boyfriend. So if you too are a french macaron fanatic or looking for a good recipe, here it is. Be ready to spend a good couple hours with this recipe. There will be notes below on techniques, but generally speaking, it is very important to stick closely to the directions in regards to timing and temperature, as with any egg-white based batter, it is annoyingly sensitive. It is recommended that you use a scale for more accurately measured ingredients, but I actually used standard measuring cups and spoons and had no problems with this recipe adapted from David Lebovitz. If you have a scale though, might as well put it to use.
Aged Egg Whites: One of the most important keys to a French Meringue is aging the egg whites at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. As with most baking, all ingredients should be at room temperature, but this is ESPECIALLY important when it comes to making a meringue based batter. If you have ever made an egg-white based batter, you know that cold egg whites are much more difficult to transform into stiff peaks. The scientific explanation behind this is that at room temperature, the egg whites retain less moisture and their protein bonds are less tightly formed, making it easier to ‘de-nature’ or unfold the protein structures (ovalbumin) in the egg whites. Thus, any excess moisture or fats (e.g. water drops, oils, butter left in your mixing bowl) will also weigh down the egg white-sugar mixture and weaken your peaks. It is also important to use a metal bowl to whip the egg whites (this goes for fresh whipped cream as well). Many people also prefer copper bowls.
Parchment or Silicon? When I made this recipe I used silicon baking sheets to line the baking pan, but I actually recently came across this great guide on Not So Humble Pie. According to her baking tests, she found that parchment paper in general produced better results, though both are viable options.
Don’t Overbeat! As I said before, egg whites are very temperamental. Once they have become stiff peaks, it is important not to beat them too much more or the peaks will begin to loosen and you will end up with a sloppy, liquidy mess. When it is time to fold in the almond meal, fold with a spatula until it is well incorporated. It should not take more than fifty strokes. Test the batter by piping onto the pan; the surface of the batter should settle smoothly on its own. If a little curl forms at the top, fold the batter a few more times.
Resting the piped batter: After you have piped even 1″ circles onto the baking sheet, tap the sheet lightly against the counter or hard surface to release any air bubbles that may be trapped in the batter. At this point, the batter needs to rest at room temperature for about an hour, or until the macarons develop a skin on the surface.
Lastly, use a thermometer to make sure your oven temperature is accurate.
French Coffee Macarons with Hazelnut Ganache Filling (slightly adapted from My Diverse Kitchen) (Difficulty-Advanced; Makes ~15 macarons)
For the Macaron shells:
- 1 c. powdered sugar
- ½ c. almond meal
- 1 tsp instant coffee powder
- 2 egg whites, at room temperature (aged for 2 days)
- 5 Tbsp. granulated sugar
For the Ganache Filling:
- 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate, chips or finely chopped
- 1/4 c. heavy cream
- 1/4 c. Nutella or other Hazelnut spread
Make the shells: Line two baking sheets with silpat liners or parchment paper and have a pastry bag with a plain tip (about 1/2-inch) ready. You may also use a Ziploc bag with the tip cut off, for piping. Pulse the powdered sugar, almond meal and coffee powder in a small chopper or food processor until incorporated.
With a hand held electric mixer or stand mixer, beat the egg whites until they begin to rise and hold their shape. While whipping, beat in the granulated sugar until very stiff and firm (about 2 minutes).
Carefully fold the dry ingredients, in two batches, into the beaten egg whites with a flexible rubber spatula. When the mixture is just smooth and there are no streaks of egg white, stop folding and scrape the batter into the pastry bag.
Pipe the batter on the lined baking sheets in 1-inch circles (about 1 tablespoon each of batter), evenly spaced one-inch (3 cm) apart. Tap the baking sheet a few times firmly on the counter top to flatten the macarons. Keep them at room temperature for about an hour until a thin film forms on the macaron batter. If you lightly touch a macron and the batter doesn’t stick to your finger, then it is ready.
Bake at 315-325 degrees F for 15-18 minutes. Allow to cool completely, at least 30 minutes, before peeling off the lined pan. Transfer to a wire rack until ready to fill.
Make the ganache: Heat the cream in a small saucepan. When the cream just begins to boil at the edges, remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let sit one minute, then stir until smooth. Add the Nutella and mix well. Let cool completely before using. When ready to fill the macarons, spoon the ganache into a piping bag with a plain large tip.
Assemble: Pipe a bit of ganache on the inside of the macarons, then sandwich them together. Be careful not to use too much filling or it will weigh down the delicate shells and possibly crush them. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days-if they last that long.