As American As...
baseball, bald eagles, and apple pie? It seems the birthplace of jazz, ice cream, fast food and big box stores has a new favorite. Bye-bye apple pie. Johnnie Appleseed’s treasured fruit is no longer the dessert de jour.
We are a nation of fickle foodies. Twenty years ago we had a crush on glazed donuts, but soon after Krispy Kreme popped up in every mall and shopping center, the Adkins diet caused us to pause and hit the reset button. Frozen yogurt became the new splurge of choice. But as dedicated carb junkies, we could not keep our urges stifled forever. Exit fro-yo, and enter the cupcake; oh so sweet, so pretty it almost erases the self reproach.
However, obscurity quickly follows fame when one moves from clever to cliché. Brush the cupcake crumbs from your chin and greet the newest dessert sensation, the macaron—delicate, sweet, and so petite it promises to be (almost) guilt free.
But They Weren't Invented Here
The sound of the name “macaron” [mah-kuh-rohn] might lead you to believe these little confections are French; well, they are, and they aren’t. They were first made by French bakers…in Italy. Here’s the story:
Catherine de Medicis was the only child of Lorenzo de' Medici, duke of Urbino, Italy and Madeleine de la Tour d'Auvergne, the countess of Boulogne. Her noble parentage placed her (of course) in line for a royal marriage. In 1533, at the age of 14, she married the Duc d'Orleans. (In 1547 he would be named Henry II, King of France). It was her chef who created the famous ethereal almond flour-sugar-egg white cookie.
Fables and Folklore
The Nibble, an online magazine for foodies, presents a totally different story on how and when the macaron was first created:
While origins can be murky, some culinary historians claim that that macaroons can be traced to an Italian monastery—where they were modeled after the monks’ belly buttons!
TheCultureTrip.com has yet another interesting bit of folklore about macarons:
In 1792, two Carmelite nuns in Nancy baked and sold macarons in order to survive during the French Revolution. They became known as the ‘Macaron Sisters.’ In 1952, the city of Nancy honored the two nuns by naming the spot where they produced the macarons after them. With time, different regions in France adopted the recipe as a local specialty dish.
You Can Do This!
Whatever story you choose, you no doubt have been led to believe that macarons should only be made by an experienced professional baker because they are haughty, huffy, and high maintenance (the Kim Kardashian of confections).
Not true! They do take a bit of time, but I will give you step-by-step instructions. I believe in you. You can do this!
Equipment You Will Need
- Food processor
- Fine-mesh sieve
- Wire whisk
- Stand mixer with bowl and whisk attachment
- Pastry bag with 3/8-inch round tip
- Tall drinking glass
- Two heavy baking sheets
This recipe is from Martha Stewart's website:
- 2/3 cup sliced blanched almonds
- 2 large egg whites (at room temperature)
- 1 cup confectioners sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- gel paste food coloring of your choice
- jam or other filling of your choice (see suggestions below)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in lower third. Place almonds in a food processor; process until as fine as possible, about 1 minute. Add confectioners' sugar; process until combined, about 1 minute.
2. Pass almond mixture through a fine-mesh sieve. Transfer solids in sieve to food processor; grind and sift again, pressing down on clumps. Repeat until less than 2 tablespoons of solids remains in sieve.
3. Whisk egg whites and granulated sugar by hand to combine. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high and beat 2 minutes. Then beat on high 2 minutes more.
4. The beaten egg whites will hold stiff, glossy peaks when you lift the whisk out of the bowl. Add flavoring and food coloring, if desired, and beat on highest speed 30 seconds.
5. Add dry ingredients all at once. Fold with a spatula from bottom of bowl upward, then press flat side of spatula firmly through middle of mixture. Repeat just until batter flows like lava, 35 to 40 complete strokes.
6. Rest a pastry bag fitted with a 3/8-inch round tip (Ateco #804) inside a glass. Transfer batter to bag; secure top. Dab some batter remaining in bowl onto corners of 2 heavy baking sheets; line with parchment.
How to Prepare the Parchment Paper for Baking
To insure that all of the cookies are round, evenly spaced, and of the correct size, I draw 3/4-inch circles on one side of the parchment. Flip the parchment ink-side down (you don't want ink touching your pretty French cookies).
Here's How to Pipe Perfect Macarons
7. With piping tip 1/2 inch above sheet, pipe batter into a 3/4-inch round. Repeat, spacing rounds 1 inch apart. Tap sheets firmly against counter 2 or 3 times to release air bubbles.
NOTE: Martha does not explain this, but I recommend that you allow the piped macarons to sit 20-25 minutes before baking. This will allow a "skin" to form on the unbaked dough. Why is this important? It insures a crisp outside and a creamy, melt-in-the-mouth interior.
8. Bake 1 sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until risen and just set, 13 minutes. Let cool. Pipe or spread filling on flat sides of half of cookies; top with remaining half. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate.
Suggested Macaron Colors and Fillings
Color of Macaron
White (no gel paste needed)
Vanilla butter cream filling (see below)
Lemon curd (available in the jam/jelly aisle)
Minty white chocolate ganache (see below)
Dark chocolate ganache (see below)
Vanilla Butter Cream Filling
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup and 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon milk
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Using a hand or stand mixer, cream butter until soft and smooth.
- Add powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla and mix until light and fluffy.
Minty White Chocolate Ganache
- Mint French Macarons
Refreshing mint French macarons with minty white chocolate ganache filling
Dark Chocolate Ganache
- 8 ounces of semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (for this recipe I suggest a cacao content of about 60%)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Chop the chocolate--I break my chocolate into small pieces with a knife and then pulverize them in a food processor with on/off pulses.
2. Warm the cream in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring it to almost a boil and then transfer to a round-bottomed metal bowl.
NOTE: Let's take a moment to talk about the fat content of the cream. Heavy cream is 36-40 percent butterfat. A ganache made with a chocolate lower in cocoa butter will benefit from the fat in heavy cream. Alternatively, a ganache made with chocolate high in cocoa butter may taste too oily if made with heavy cream. If that is the case, you can reduce the amount of total butterfat by combining one part half and half--which has 11 percent butterfat--with two parts heavy cream; this would result in a total butterfat content of about 30 percent.)
3. Pour the pulverized chocolate into the warmed cream...and then wait. Let the fine chocolate bits float for a moment on the cream.
4. When you see that it is starting to melt at the edges begin to mix gently. Use a plastic or rubber spatula (rather than a metal spoon). Begin stirring at the center, and then widen your circles until all of the chocolate is captured and the mix is homogeneous. The mixture should now be smooth, glossy, and tepid.
Troubleshooting Macaron Problems
© 2017 Linda Lum