Earlier this year – before I had ever attempted to make macarons – I did literally hours of online research on how not to ruin them. Use old eggs. Leave the whites out at room temperature for 3 days. Dry out the piped shells on the counter before putting them in the oven — be sure to measure the humidity in your home with a hygrometer to determine appropriate length of time the shells will need to dry. Open the oven every 192 seconds to let moisture out. Pray to the macaron gods each morning for at least a week before baking.
And then I came across this post at BraveTart that listed her Top 10 Macaron Myths. Life changing. OK, that’s a little extreme. But it was very informative and inspiring. It made me decide to stop reading about macaron rules and just try making them. I followed her steps and they turned out fine – she does have some rules, but I love that her rules aren’t things that inconvenience me or prolong the prep time. I could decide on a whim on a weekday night to make a batch of these babies, without worrying about egg whites or staying up past my bedtime (which is 9pm, FYI).
I decided to attempt a batch of macarons for Chelsea’s combination book club and cookie exchange. Since the cookie exchange was holiday themed, I felt I needed a seasonal macaron flavor. I went with peppermint, because I love peppermint, and it’s rare to come across baked goods that are mint but NOT chocolate. I am part of a small sect of humanity that believes mint and chocolate should not be combined. Which means that if I want a minty but chocolate-free holiday cookie, I probably have to make it myself.
So I followed this recipe from Stella at BraveTart. And when I say followed, I really mean it. Most of the time I have a weird, overwhelming need to change parts of recipes, just to be different. But I truly did everything she says. Well, I added some red food coloring and peppermint extract, but other than that I followed it exactly. Even down to the number of minutes to whip the egg whites on each specified KitchenAid speed.
Now one of the totally legit rules to macaron making is that you must sift your almond flour and powdered sugar. This is by far my least favorite part, because it’s tedious. And it’s the most time consuming step… rivaled only by the initial step of drawing a bajillion 1.5 inch circles on pieces of parchment paper.
But sifting is worse. There are always so many stubborn little almond meal pieces that don’t want to go through the sifter. My trick for this is to measure about an extra half ounce of almond meal so that I can discard the stubborn bits and still have the correct weights of ingredients.
“OK, moneybags, what if I can’t afford to be tossing extra ounces of expensive almond meal in the trash?” I see what you’re saying. If you are less lazy than me, then you can put that tiny bit of almond meal in a food processor and then try to resift it. But how much is your time worth? Ten minutes of my time is worth more than a half ounce of almond flour. Consider it.
So once you’ve gotten past the circle-drawing and the sifting, I daresay the rest of the rest of the recipe is easier than most other baked goods. Yes. I said it. They aren’t that hard. Or maybe I’ve just found favor with the macaron gods. ???
After you’ve sifted your flour and sugar together (or during if you’re a great multi-tasker) you will mix granulated sugar with egg whites and salt and whip it into a meringue with your stand mixer. Stella gives prescribed mixing times and speeds, meaning I really can make macarons on a weekday night when my brain has run out of battery for the day. You still have to use a bit of your own judgement to ensure that you’ve got stiff meringue peaks, but you can handle that.
Approximately 10 minutes later, when the meringue is ready, it’s time to combine your dry ingredients with the wet. So you literally just plop the powdery almond/sugar mixture in there all at once and stir to combine. You’re not treating it like a babe in arms, guys. You’re mixing it like you mean it. Thoughtfully, but not necessarily carefully. It’s called macaronage, and it’s the most important step of all.
Stella uses some very helpful descriptive language to let you know when your batter is perfectly mixed. (Can you guys tell how much I love her macaron tips? Is it coming across?) Then you can put it in a bag and start piping all your cute little guys.
And then you can put them in the oven and open it frequently to check on their progress and Snapchat them to your friends. (Note to future self: remove Snapchat reference when Snapchat app is no longer “hip” with the young kids.)
I let them cool completely before piping a bit of a simple buttercream between the shells: butter, powdered sugar, little bit of cream, and peppermint extract. The finished cookies should be stored in the fridge, where they will get even better with age.
I hope you are all inspired to try these. They’re so cute and fun. And honestly, even if they are weirdly puffy or cracked or imperfect in some other way, they’re still going to taste delicious. So give it a try.
My advice to you all: don’t waste time praying to the macaron gods. Just read the wise words of this macaron goddess.