Mad About Macarons

I recently became obsessed with learning how to make French Macarons after reading an article in the newspaper about how these delicate cookies are all the rage for 2012. The article featured a few local companies that make and sell macaroons including one woman who offers classes. I seriously considered taking the class but then I decided that the fees would be better spent elsewhere such as ingredients and supplies and who knows what else I could squeeze out of $100.

I consulted with my sister in law who has a passion for all things food related and happen to beat me to French Macaron Making 101. Already having taken a class last year, she happily dispensed advice and lent me a handy little how to book : Macarons – Authentic French Cookie Recipes from the MacarON Cafe by Cecile Cannone.

Thanks to Cannone’s detailed instructions and tips from my sister in law, my first attempt at making French Macarons was somewhat of a success.

Pretty cute looking cookies eh? Let me tell you, as good as they look and taste, French macarons are a lot of work and require patience! You have been warned.

Making the batter was fairly easy, especially if you’re using the French recipe that Cannone provides. If you have experience beating egg whites (eg. mastered the art of baking chiffon cake), you will not have trouble making the macaron batter. The Italian version is more difficult as it involves mixing hot, temperature sensitive sugar syrup into the egg whites. That just spells disaster in my book.

While not overly challenging, I did find it tedious cutting my parchment paper to fit my pans (so it stays flat) and tracing evenly spaced circles on a sheet  of paper to use as a template. Cannone suggests drawing 2 1/4 inch circles but that seemed large to me so I went with 2 inch circles spaced 1 inch apart.

I don’t have much experience with using pastry bags. Piping out the macaron batter is something I need to work on. I didn’t have a #8 tip (as suggested by Cannone) so I used a #12. As you can see, I have a problem with air bubbles.

After piping out the macarons, Cannone suggests letting them sit and rest for 15-30 minutes. Doing this helps the macarons develop high “feet” during the first few minutes of baking.

Once your macarons have “rested”, it’s time for baking. Apparently, gas stoves are macarons worst enemies but I did not find mine to be a problem. I know my stove runs on the hotter side, therefore I adjusted the baking time from 14 minutes to 12 minutes.

Because I was only able to throw in one batch of cookies at a time, the baking time alone was about 1 hour and 15 minutes! This is what I meant by needing patience. If you are a multi-tasker you can prepare the batter for the buttercream filling in between baking and checking on the macaron shells.

After the shells are cooled and the filling is prepared (which of course being buttercream requires time to chill), you can finally put your macarons together. Along with the two basic French and Italian macaron recipes, Cannone also provides several different filling recipes including chocolate ganache and variations of buttercream. I chose to make the more basic vanilla buttercream filling. From experience, my tip would be to make the filling one day ahead or before you start the macaron shells.

Despite spending hours preparing, baking and filling the macarons,  you won’t be able to indulge and taste them right away. Although it is extremely difficult, you should pack your cookies in an air tight container and place in the fridge overnight (minimum). Taste better that way? I can’t remember why but I did wait until the next day to sink my teeth into one of the cookies.

While I enjoyed my foray in baking French Macarons, it’s safe to say I won’t be making these again anytime soon. These are beautiful cookies and they certainly did not disappoint in taste but I must reiterate that they are a lot of work. My obsession about learning to make macarons is now out of my system (for the time being).

If you want to try your hand at making French Style macarons, I highly recommend purchasing Cannone’s book. Before my sister in law lent me the recipe book, I was planning to try Martha Stewart’s recipe which is available for online for free (always a good thing). While I can’t attest to the results of the MS recipe, it has received positive feedback by other bakeaholics.

Have fun!

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