The first time I had a true French macaron was while sitting at the now shuttered WD50 in New York City. It was the wild child restaurant of chef Wylie Dufresne, who was one of the first American chefs to deconstruct ingredients and synthesize them into new forms. It was all very mysterious and pretty tasty, but the most memorable thing we ate that night came out of my cousin’s purse. Samira works in the fashion industry and lives an impossibly global and glamorous life, which includes frequent trips to Paris. She and her brother, Riad, who was sitting with us, had a tradition of sharing a particular pastry from Paris every time she went. She pulled out the box and nonchalantly pushed it to Riad. This was so normal to them, that they barely acknowledged the act or the beautiful box as anything special. I, on the other hand, was near crazy with anticipation and finally told them to “open the &%$#ing box.” Inside were perfect, and I do mean perfect, macarons. They were like jewels. All different colors. Pink, gold, lavender and jade. They were delicate to the point of brittle on the outside and like a cloud on the inside, with a layer of super rich ganache or buttercream. I’ve made macarons, but they were never as ethereal as the one’s Samira brought home from Ladurée. This is no surprise. I was happy enough with mine and they were cheaper than a trip to Paris, but still not perfect. Then I watched Colette Christian’s Craftsy class on miniature French pastries and I figured out the small tricks I’d been missing. Turns out they are much easier than I thought. I’ve been making them constantly ever since.
This last batch I made for Passover and colored them purple to honor Prince. His passing has struck me in a deep way, deeper than I would have ever expected. His music was the sound track to my entire high school life and that was long before I moved to his home town. Back in the day I choreographed a dance to Little Red Corvette to audition for the dance program at my school. I danced my heart out to that song and got into the group. We were hardly Alvin Ailey, but it was my whole life at the time. I remember that audition like it was yesterday. I just hope Prince had even an inkling of his profound influence over so many people, not just musicians, but all of us who loved his music. I wish he could see how the world has exploded into a party to honor his legacy. Purple macarons and dancing in my kitchen are what I have to offer the celebration.
Macaron shells – the following is a recipe I’ve used for years, but I have to say that I tried the one in Colette’s Craftsy class and I do like her proportions a bit better. I can’t print her version, but if you decide to sign up for the class you will have access to lots of her recipes. This recipe does require a Scale, otherwise there is too much variability in the measurements to come out well.
125g Almond Meal – (you want to use a blanched almond meal. I found a big bag at my local Costco. I tried the kind at Trader Joe’s, that still had some skin on it and the macarons were not as pretty with the brown flecks and they were a bit denser.) Store the leftover almond meal in the freezer to prevent it from going rancid.
225g confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar)
130g egg whites (about 4 large egg whites) – you need to use real egg, pasteurized egg whites will not work.
Food Color – I like the gel colors for ease and intensity
Here is a video I made that may help:
To make the macarons:
In a Food Processor, mix together the almond meal and the confectioners’ sugar until it is well mixed and very fine. You may need to scrape down the sides.
Beat the egg whites until they are foamy. Sprinkle the sugar over them in a steady stream and then turn up the speed and beat the whites until soft peaks. At this point you’ll add any color and extracts. Continue beating until you’ve reached stiff peaks.
In three additions you will now fold in the almond meal mixture.
Use a rubber spatula to fold them in.
Once you have repeated this two more times with the remaining almond mixture, your batter will be quite thick.
Collette has a fail safe way of knowing when your batter is ready. Here is a close approximation…first you press it up on the side of the bowl, and it will cling onto the sides without slumping into the middle. You want to continue folding the batter and repeat testing it on the side of the bowl, until it…
Slumps down when you press it onto the sides of the bowl. Then you are ready to pipe. (see her video for more tips and greater details – which is the beauty of video)
Using a Pastry Bag, fitted with a Round Tip, pipe the batter onto a flat baking sheet lined with a piece of parchment paper. In Collette’s class she has circle templates to print out as a guide of how large to make the dots and how far apart. If you are new to piping this template is a fantastic tool.
Once you have piped out a full tray, you will bang the tray on the counter to work out some of the bubbles and flatten the macarons. Repeat with another tray until all of the batter is used up.
Now you let them sit at room temperature until the tops are dry to the touch, about 30 minutes, but it will depend on the environment.
While you are waiting, you will preheat your oven to 330°F.
Bake the trays one at a time for 11 minutes. If they are not set, then rotate the tray and bake for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. This may be slightly different depending on your oven. Let them cool before filling.
I posted a picture of the macarons cooling on instagram and got a bunch of comments and questions about the set up. When I redid my kitchen I based the entire design on having a Rolling Sheet Pan Rack. I’d always used them at work and knew how convenient it is to have a spot to put hot trays somewhere out of the way. I didn’t want it blocking traffic in the house, so we came up with this garage for it to sit in under the counter. Pro tip: The rack is taller than a standard counter, so my husband cut it down by a few inches to fit under the counter. If you are interested in doing this, let me know and I’ll ask him how he went about it. Pet tip: If you have a puppy (as I do), you may need a garage door or baby gate to keep them out of it.
Once they are cooled. Flip over every other shell. Try to match up same sized shells. Unless they are all exactly the same size. 😉 Collette’s template will help with this, but they are never exactly the same size.
These are filled with a raspberry-white chocolate ganache. Think raspberry berets! Heat 4 ounces heavy cream in a sauce pan to a simmer, turn off heat and add 8 ounces finely chopped White Chocolate (Do Not use coating chocolate, it doesn’t melt the same and it is very waxy.)
Top the macarons and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. They last for a few days.
I decorated them with an Food-grade Luster Dust. A little extra flair to honor Prince.