Perfecting the Macaron at Home

Though it has delighted pastry aficionados since its invention in 1930 at the famed Laduree tearoom, the Parisian macaron has only recently conquered Austin’s taste buds. The rise of French bakeries including La Boite, Baguette et Chocolat, and La Patisserie has the city craving for these bite-sized delicacies. Its crisp, airy meringue shells sandwiching a creamy filling, the macaron is a play on textures and flavor – pure decadence in a seemingly modest cookie.

Macaron recipes call for only a handful of ingredients, but mastering the proper technique can be a challenge. David Lebovitz’s chocolate macaron recipe is a great place to begin, though perfecting the macaron will require some experimentation, as oven temperatures may vary. Here are a few techniques for making macarons at home:

1. Egg whites are the foundation of the macaron. Separate the eggs and let the egg whites sit for 24 hours at room temperature (French bakeries will age egg whites for five days!). The leftover yolks are perfect for making ice cream or custards. 

2. Beating the meringue to just the right stage is essential to perfecting the macaron. A clean, dry bowl is a must - water will prevent the egg whites from forming a meringue. It is not quite beaten enough if you can turn the bowl over and the egg whites move. When the meringue is at the correct stiff white peak stage, an uncooked egg set on top of the egg whites will sink only slightly. If it does not sink at all, the meringue is overbeaten.

3. A good macaron shell is distinguished by a slightly crisp, melt-in-your mouth texture and ruffles along the edge called “feet.” These ruffles should, for the most part, not extend beyond the top part of the shell. After piping the macaron batter onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, be sure to let it rest for at least half an hour. This will allow the feet to develop.

4. If you find that the bottoms of the macarons are browning too quickly, consider stacking two baking sheets.

5. Unlike other cookies, there is no need to transfer the macarons from the baking sheet to a cooling rack. Let them cool completely on the parchment paper before filling.

- by Lisa Siva

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