Ahhh Macarons. That little French cookie I had been hearing about for years, but never got to try….until recently that is. Where I live (which is in NJ, but the part of NJ that is primarily full of cows and farms) there aren’t many bakeries, let alone one that would serve such a unique cookie like a macaron. Instead I got to try my first macaron this past January when my husband and I decided to get away from the cold and took a trip to Los Angeles. It’s funny how many of the trips we take end up focusing on food :O)
This is especially true since I’ve become vegetarian (about three years now) since finding a place with a good selection of veggie options is often a challenge. Not in LA though! One of the places we visited repeatedly was the Original Los Angeles Farmers Market. This was not a typical farmers market that I was used to. It was clusters of small buildings that were primarily restaurants with a few produce stands and other specialty shops thrown in. There was a such a huge variety of food options, plus a big parking lot with validation (not easy to find in LA) so we went there for lunch almost every day. Long story short one of my favorite shops there was Mr. Marcel’s Gourmet Market. They had such a wonderful selection of international gourmet foods and cooking supplies, and of course, Macarons! There were so many great flavors to try, but my favorites were definitely the Lavender and Earl Grey. After the trip I decided I really wanted to try making my own macarons at home. I was pleasantly surprised that they were not nearly as difficult to make as I always heard, so I thought I would document and share what I did!
First off, macarons use very few ingredients. To start off you need two egg whites, superfine sugar and cream of tartar.
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer) whip the egg whites along with the sugar and cream of tartar. You want to get it to the stiff peak stage which can take up to 10 minutes. While it’s mixing work on processing the “flour”. Macarons are made using finely ground almonds, but in this case some of the almonds are replaced with ground hazelnuts. Also, rather than getting whole nuts and trying to grind them down I decided to start with nut “flour”. I love Bob’s Red Mill so I got their Almond Meal and Hazelnut Meal to use for this recipe. They still aren’t quite finely ground enough, so into the food processor they went along with some confectioners sugar.
After processing for 15-30 seconds use a sifter (or a fine mesh strainer like I did) to sift the ground nuts into a bowl. This helps remove any large pieces, which I then threw back into the food processor for some more time to get as much as possible through the sieve.
Gradually fold about 1/3 of the nut mixture into the egg whites. I actually used the same mesh strainer to sift the nut mixture into the bowl with the egg whites so that I made sure I was getting only the finest ground nuts in there. Any leftovers I would again run through the processor real quick and try sending them through the sifter again. Any little bit of remaining that doesn’t make it through the sifter can be saved and used to top each macaron after it’s been piped onto the baking sheet.
To pipe out my circles I lined a few baking sheets with parchment paper and then used a round cookie cutter dipped in a little powdered sugar to leave an outline on the baking sheet. I’ve also seen people use the cookie cutter and a pencil to draw the outline directly onto the parchment, but I figured this would be much quicker. As for the size of the circle that is really up to you if you want to make small macarons they can be 3/4 inch in diameter, but I wanted a medium size macaron so I used a 1 1/4 inch circle.
Now that my guides were ready I could pipe my circles. To pipe the circle I would hold the pastry bag at 90 degrees, just about the surface of the baking sheet. Squeeze out the batter allowing it to spread to the edge of your guide. Stop the pressure on the bag and pull it off to the side so that you don’t get a little Hershey kiss like top. Once your tray is full pick it up and bang on the bottom of it gently to vibrate the batter. This will help release any air bubbles as well as settle any peaks you have on top. You can also sprinkle the tops with a little bit of reserved nut mixture that didn’t make it through the sifter.
Before baking the macarons you have to let them sit out for about 30 minutes. This will allow them to crust over a bit before baking. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 325F. After they have rested bake for 10-15 minutes then allow to cool for 10 minutes on the pan before gently removing them to a cooling rack. Once they are completely cool you can add your filling, in this case I used good ole Nutella filling (yum-O).
Hazelnut Macarons with Nutella Filling
- 2 extra large egg whites (3 oz)
- 1/4 cup (1.8 oz) superfine sugar
- a pinch of cream of tartar
- 1/2 cup (2 oz) ground almonds
- 1/4 cup (1 oz) ground hazelnuts
- 1 cup (4 oz) confectioners sugar
- 1/3 cup hazelnut spread (like Nutella)
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and use a 1 1/4 inch circle cutter to make 16 guides on each sheet. You can dip the cutter in powdered sugar to stamp the guide onto the baking sheet, or just use a pencil to trace the circles (be sure to flip the parchment over so the pencil markings are facing down).
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until soft peaks form. Add the superfine sugar and a pinch of cream of tartar, then whip on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form (about 8-10 minutes).
While the egg whites are whipping place the ground almonds, ground hazelnuts and confectioners sugar into a food processor. Process for about 15 seconds, scrap down the sides of the food processor bowl and stir a little, then process for another 15 seconds.
Sift the nut mixture into a bowl using a sifter or a mesh strainer. Any nuts that do not pass through the sifter can be processed for another 15 seconds to further break them down, then try to sift them again.
Once the egg whites have reached stiff peaks add the nut mixture to them in thirds, passing the nut mixture through the sifter a second time into the bowl with the egg whites. Gently fold the nut mixture into the egg whites using a spatula. Once fully incorporated sift in the remaining nut mixture, folding gently between each addition. Any nuts that do not make it through the sifter the second time can be saved to sprinkle on top after the macarons have been piped (should be no more than 1/2 an ounce).
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round tip with the batter. Pipe circles of batter onto the prepared baking sheet. Hold the piping bag vertically (90 degrees) just above the surface of the pan, squeeze the batter out until it reaches the edges of the circle, stop pressure and gently pull the piping bag off to the side to eliminate any peaks. You should get about 30-32 circles depending on how big you pipe them.
Once all your circles have been piped tap the bottom of each sheet, either with your hand or against the counter, to eliminate air bubbles and settle any peaks. You can also top each macaron with some leftover nut mixture.
Allow the macarons to rest for 30 minutes, meanwhile preheat the oven to 325°F.
Bake the macarons for 10-15 minutes (they should have a nice frilly edge), then allow to cool on the pan for 10 minutes before gently removing onto a cooling rack.
Once the macarons have cooled completely spread the flat part of one with a little hazelnut spread, then top with another.