I won’t lie to you, I had no intention of writing a macaron recipe when I started this little Christmas-mac experiment. So many of my mac bakes over the years have resulted in me in the fetal postition beside the oven quietly singing the bridge to Fontine’s big number from Les Miz (“but the tigers come at night / and they turn your dream to shame”) that it seems completely ludicrous that I would try to tell other people how to make them. BUT… these macs turned out to be such delicious little bundles of Christmas joy that I had to share.
Macarons are, in fact, my nemesis bake. Every time I go to make them Lyndon asks me to reconsider. “Does this activity actually make you happy?” He asks. “You know, we can’t succeed at everything we do,” he points out. “Do you remember that time you spent the entire day sitting in front of the oven with an instant-read thermometer jammed in the door while you baked macarons measuring the temperature swing of our brand-new oven because you were convinced the temperature gauge was faulty and then when the repair man came he told you that our temperature gauge was as tightly calibrated as you could ever get in a non-professional kitchen appliance?”
Anyway, macarons are my holy grail. 🏆
But like that eternal search for the grail, I search for the ability to consistently turn out a macaron. I have read so many blogs on macs. I have watched really unhelpful YouTube videos on macs. I have talked to pastry chefs. Know what? It ultimately just takes some practice, and a detailed set of instructions.
Have your ingredients at room temperature before you start. Be gentle when you start folding the macaronage. We’re dealing with eggs here, not concrete. And don’t short-change the step where you air-dry your macs. 5 minutes of extra drying time can make the difference between expensive little volcanos of regret and the pièce de résistance of your Holiday cookie tray.
Alright, let’s do some Macaron-101:
TPT. “Tant pour tant.” It’s French. And it means “this for that.” It’s shorthand for equal parts almond flour and confectioner’s sugar. It’s the base of many many many French confections. You’ll be making a TPT when you make your macs.
Italian Meringue. This is actually a Swiss invention. It doesn’t make sense, but what in the English language does? Italian Meringue just means you’re going to whip REALLY HOT SUGAR into your egg whites. I’m not sure why people shy away from this method — it’s not hard. If you can pour something into your stand mixer you’ve got the technique down already. And you likely burned yourself on the stove as a child and from then on you learned the lesson to BE REALLY CAREFUL AROUND VERY HOT THINGS so the boiling sugar shouldn’t be an issue.
BUY A KITCHEN SCALE. You simply cannot make macs by eyeballing your ingredients or by hoping and against hope that 47 tablespoons of this and 23 tablespoons of that are going to come out weighing the same.
Meringue Powder. This is by no means traditional, but it’s a little cheat that’s going to seriously up your mac game. The idea was given to me by a woman named Athena, a pastry chef I sat beside one time on a Delta flight to North Carolina. There is a big debate in the macaron world over “aging” your egg whites or using fresh egg whites for macs. This essentially boils down to the control of moisture content / the amount of protein you’re getting into the little guys. A teaspoon of meringue powder is the great equalizer here because it instantly ups the protein content of your egg whites. Bonus, you don’t have to wait two days for a few milliliters of water to evaporate from your egg whites.
These macs are filled with my Whipped White Chocolate Ganache, topped with my Less Sweet Royal Icing and sprinkled with crushed candy canes. Christmas. Is. Coming.
I’ve developed my very own recipe for macs after YEARS of disappointments, discouragements, and full-on fails. It’s a heavy lift, but I promise you: You can turn out macs using this recipe.
I’ve broken the ingredients out differently than most do, but that’s because it really helps me to keep things organized. These ingredients go into this bowl, and these go into that one.
Anything in bold in the instructions are key points for you not to miss. Why did I bold them? Because I’ve missed them in the past.
for the Tant Pour Tant:
- 165g powdered sugar
- 165g almond flour
- 60g (2) egg whites
- a pinch of salt
for the sugar syrup:
- 165g granulated sugar
- 40g water
for the Italian Meringue:
- 60g (2) egg whites
- 1 tsp (2.5g) meringue powder
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
for the joy of making macs:
- 4 drops true red gel food coloring
for the Less Sweet Royal Icing:
- 300 grams confectioner’s sugar
- 60 grams egg whites (from 2 eggs)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- a pinch of salt
for the White Chocolate Ganache
- 1 bag white chocolate chips (300 grams)
- 100 grams of heavy cream
- a large pinch of salt
for the decoration:
- 3 or 4 small candy canes, crushed
- Bring all ingredients to room temperature.
- Preheat your oven to 300°F/150°C + convection (or 325°F without fan).
- Grind together powdered sugar, almonds, and salt in a food processor (this is called, in French pastry, a “tant pour tant,” “this for that,” or “TPT” for short). Move your TPT into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add 60g of egg whites. Fold until well combined. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap so the mixture doesn’t dry out and get hard.
- Place your remaining 60g egg whites, cream of tartar, and meringue powder in a second mixer bowl. Fit your mixer with the whisk attachment.
- Combine granulated sugar and water in a saucepan and cook over medium high heat.
- When sugar mixture reaches 220°F/104°C start whipping the egg whites on medium speed (4 on a Kitchen Aid) to soft peaks.
- When sugar syrup hits 244°F/118°C pour the sugar syrup into the bowl with the egg whites while your mixer is still mixing. AIM FOR THE SPACE BETWEEN THE SIDE OF THE BOWL AND THE WHISK. You don’t want the sugar to run down the side of the bowl, and you don’t want the whisk to fling hot sugar everywhere. Increase the speed of your mixer and whip until meringue cools to 104°F/40°C (this alway takes 3 or 4 minutes with a Kitchen Aid, setting 6).
- Swap mixing bowls, and place the bowl with the TPT onto the mixer. Swap the whisk for the paddle attachment. Add 20% of the meringue into the TPT. Add 4 drops of true-red gel color. Beat with the paddle attachment until incorporated, about 10 seconds.
- Folding by hand, add the remaining meringue to the TPT in two batches, using 20 folds each, and then folding to the ribbon stage. You should be able to lift the spatula and form several figure-8’s without the macaronage breaking from the spatula as you do it. Also, you can watch your figure-8’s disappear back into the batter: they should reincorporate in about 30 seconds. This is called the “ribbon” stage, and the traditional way to tell if your batter is ready is to watch it “ribbon” off the spatula. Trust me, looking at your figure-8’s is the way to go.
- Pipe rounds onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Wrap each sheet 6-8 times on the counter. I mean WRAP them. Like a man. Then knock on the bottom of each pan four times. Pop any remaining air bubbles with a toothpick. Let sit uncovered until surface of each macaron is dry to the touch, and looks dull. 15 minutes to one hour (this routinely takes 40+ minutes here in Boston). Your macs should look quite dull (matte finish) and should not be at all tacky.
- Bake for 11 to 15 minutes or until done. Cool completely on baking sheets, then remove to racks.
- Crush your candy canes into small pieces.
- Prepare your Less Sweet Royal Icing.
- Go through your macs and find matched sets (there will — inexplicably — always be perfectly matched sets for you to work with). Using a small tip, pipe three lines of royal icing across the top of 50% of your mac shells (these will be the tops of the cookies, and their unfrosted mates will be the bottoms). Sprinkle candy cane dust across the frosted macs. Let harden.
- Place your white chocolate chips and pinch of salt in the bowl of your stand mixer. Bring the heavy cream to a simmer on the stove and, once simmering, pour the cream over the white chocolate and salt. Let the heat of the cream melt the chocolate. Stir until completely combined, then set aside to cool to room temperature, stirring every 10 minutes.
- Whip your ganache on medium high speed for 3 to 4 minutes or until light and fluffy. If the mixture looks too thick / gloppy you may need to drizzle more heavy cream into the mixing bowl as you mix.
- Using a pastry bag with a medium-sized tip, pipe your ganache onto the undecorated shells. Sandwich the shells together to make macs. The perfect mac has a ratio of shell-to-ganache-to-shell of 1-1-1. Meaning you want each layer to be the same height. AND IF YOU’VE MADE IT THIS FAR WHY WOULD YOU EVER SCREW THE POOCH NOW?
- Freeze filled macarons for 24 hours before eating. Thaw for 3 hours in the fridge, then bring to room temperature to eat.
About that salt: A real pastry chef will tell you that salt doesn’t belong in a mac because the addition of salt casts a “shadow” on the shell. Listen: that healthy pinch of salt in the shells really helps to tame the sweetness of the macs. In my book that’s worth it. Also if you are able to pick out “shadows” on the shells of your macs than you are probably ready to go judge French pastry in Paris. If that’s you, send photos of your trip!
If you mac shells stick to the parchment paper / silpat after baking stick them in the freezer for about 30 minutes. Insane release.
Keywords: macarons, macs, Christmas, chocolate