On my list of “things to tackle”, French Macarons were high on my list (not to be confused with the American macroon – with 2 ‘Os’ and chock full of coconut). French Macarons along with souffles are a bit of the plumb line by which good bakers (in my mind anyway) are measured. They are like the holy grail of pastry chefs. So, tackle the macarons I did, along with my two sou chef’s – mom and sister. So glad they were up for the challenge! It was great to have a third pair of hands and lots of talking, laughing and double-checking to make sure I was doing it right. Also, I don’t know if I’d have ever got the macarons perfectly round without my sister there. She has much finer piping skills than I. The other great thing about having more hands is that I could actually capture some of the work being done with my camera. Yay.
After lots of research and browsing the internet to learn the typical hang-ups when making macarons, I finally felt armed with enough education to tackle a recipe. My personal favorite (and just so happens to be my sou chef’s favorites as well), I decided to make lemon macarons filled with lemon curd and vanilla bean buttercream – inspired by Bouchon’s lemon macarons.
But before we begin. What are those ‘key’ ingredients, you ask? It seems like there are a few of important steps to making a good macaron:
- Aging the egg whites. What is the purpose of this? According to the French Pastry School Experience, aging egg whites allows some of the moisture to evaporate and losens the protein coils. (protein coils? huh? yeah, I don’t really get it either, but I did it and it worked, so I’m not asking. he’s the pastry chef – not me)
- Letting the macarons rest for 1 hour before baking them, creating what is known as the “foot” of the macaron. (This one I mainly got from David Lebovitz. He tried one batch with the rest and one without the rest. The first batch didn’t have feet. The second did. I’ll learn from his experience and let mine rest!)
- Use your food scale. This one is just because over the years, I’ve learned that weighing is a much more accurate measurement of ingredients than volume (hey, flour can get ‘packed’ or have air pockets – trust me, use your scale).
I did both these crucial steps and… success! Not only did my macarons have ‘feet’, but they were also delicious. I think even more delicious than a lot of the cheap and wannabe macarons that can be found at wannabe bakeries. They don’t quite live up to Bouchon’s amazingly fabulous perfection of a macaron. But really, who am I to even try to compete with Bouchon?
They were ultimately delicious morsels of crunchy, soft, creamy, lemony goodness. And oh so addicting. I could have kept eating them forever. I highly recommend. I’m so glad I took the challenge.
Here is the journey of the macaron… (and recipe at the very end)
Here’s the batter all ready for piping.
See the circle guide? It works! (I talk more about the guide in the recipe)
Meticulous piping skills combined with the guide = perfect circles! (thanks, sis!)
Resting… For one hour. So hard to wait!
Look! Feet! They have feet!!!
Starting the curd
The swiss meringue butter cream is piped (I did these. See? My piping skills aren’t nearly as neat as my sister’s)
In goes the lemon curd! (Don’t let the fact that they look like little eggs detour you)
Done! They were so addicting, we couldn’t stop eating them. I cannot wait to make them again. I will. Trust me, I will.
Lemon French Macarons
From Use Real Butter
- 110g almond flour (such as Bob’s Red Mill Almond Flour)
- 200g powdered sugar
- 1 small lemon (preferably meyer), grated peel of
- 100g egg whites, aged for day and brought to room temperature
- 50g sugar
- 2 drops yellow food coloring (optional)
- Lemon curd
- Swiss meringue buttercream
- 2 meyer lemons, zest of
- 1/2 cup meyer lemon juice (about 3+ lemons)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 egg yolks
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- 3 egg whites, room temperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tea vanilla bean paste
- 1 cup unsalted butter, slightly soft (but slightly cooler than room temperature), cut into 12 pieces
Make the Lemon Curd:
- Stir together the lemon zest, juice, and sugar in a small saucepan.
- Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
- Beat the yolks together in a medium bowl and very very slowly add a little hot lemon mixture at a time while quickly whisking until combined. Continue to add hot liquid slowly until completely combined.
- Pour the egg mixture into the sauce pan and stir constantly over medium heat until the liquid thickens (about 5 minutes). It should hold a path when you run your finger down the back of a spoon.
- Remove from heat. Strain the curd through a mesh sieve to remove the zest. Let cool completely.
Make the Macarons:
- Combine almond flour, powdered sugar and lemon zest in a food processor. Pulse until well-blended.
- In a small bowl, mix the sugar and food coloring together until well blended (i.e the sugar turns yellow).
- Whip the egg whites until foamy and gradually add the granulated sugar while whipping until a shiny meringue forms (but not too dry).
- Add the almond mixture to the meringue and quickly incorporate the mixture into the meringue while taking care not to overbeat. You want to achieve a batter that flows and “ribbons” for at least 5 seconds.
- Pour the batter into a piping bag fitted with a large plain piping tip and pipe small rounds onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. The rounds should be about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and at least an inch apart. (Helpful Hint: I made up a circle guide that I slipped under the parchment to help make even rounds. Download my PDF here – french_macaron_circle_patterns – to help you make perfect circles.)
- Let the macarons sit for an hour to develop a hard shell. (This is a good time to start on your swiss meringue buttercream.)
- Preheat oven to 300°F and bake for 8-10 minutes. (Note: If they aren’t completely done, they won’t lift off the parchment. It’s a delicate balance. You don’t want them brown, but they have to be completely done with dry bottoms). Remove from oven and let cool completely (if you don’t wait til they are completely cool, they will likely separate tops from ‘feet’). Remove from parchment.
Make the Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- Heat egg whites and sugar in a double boiler over simmering water, whisking constantly. Continue to whisk until they are 160 F.
- Transfer the egg and sugar mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer and whip on high until the egg whites form stiff peaks. They should not look dry.
- Add the vanilla, then the butter a bit at a time, mixing until fully combined and has the desired texture.
- Pipe small circles of buttercream around the edge of the macaroon
- Spoon a tiny bit of lemon curd into the hole and sandwich with a second macaron. Makes about 2 dozen.