But wait, what is a Macaron anyway?
I somehow feel a need to answer this question first! Not everyone knows what a macaron is, right? How to explain? Well, it's a specialty cookie that apparently has roots in Italy but it is definitely a "Paris thing", and the macaron madness is quickly spreading around the world. Simply put, it is a small round almond cookie sandwich with a filling (often a ganache, but confitures and other fillings can be used, such as caramel butter cream which is explained here). The original macaron is small in size, but they can also be made large, stuffed with fruit and used in a multitude of ways. And a french macaron is not to be confused with what we call in the States a macarOON (the latter being the coconut cookie).
This is a macaron...List of special materials & ingredients you need:
And now, let's get started.
- Piping bag & tip size 11 mm
- Copper pan or other solid pan for making a good caramel
- A Kitchen Aid or other mixer. This piece of equipment will get you the most professional results, but good old-fashioned whisking will do as a substitute (be prepared for an intense work-out!).
- Poudre d'amande (ground almonds) - you can't make these without it.
- A tamis, or sift, for sifting the ground almonds & powdered sugar.
- The cookies themselves are colored and flavored with two ingredients: yellow food color and coffee extract. If you can't buy the coffe extract, I would take a couple of double espressos & reduce it until it's thickened. Then, it's "winging it" as far as quantity goes. You can do without these, of course, and end up with a nice macaron but the color will be dull and that "je ne sais quoi" taste will be missing (the coffee enhances the caramel but you don't taste it per se...)
There are 3 parts to this recipe: The cookie, the filling, the assembly. You can do these in stages over a couple of days, if you don't feel like spending 2-3 hours at a time to do it all at once. Yes, these are labor intensive & time consuming...but oooohhhh so worth it!
Yield: 70 - 90 macarons (depending on the size you make)
The Cookie Recipe & Instructions
I've also broken down the cookie recipe into 3 parts:
Part A - Almonds & Egg Whites
Part B - The Italian Meringue
Part C - Mixing A+B and Cooking the cookies
Mis-en-Place: (1) Line cookie sheet with either parchment paper or Silpat, (2) Put piping tip into piping bag (3) Pre-heat oven to 180°C.
Part A - Almonds & Egg Whites
300 g ground almonds
300g powdered sugar
Sift these & put into a large bowl. Mix well. Set aside.
110g egg whites
15 g yellow food color
15 g coffee extract
Weigh & stir these in another bowl. Set aside & proceed to Part B.
Part B - The Italian Meringue
300g sugar (castor)
90 g egg whites
Weigh the whites into the bowl of your KitchenAid with whisk attachment. Heat sugar & water in a pan ultimately to 118°C. However, when the temp reaches 115°C, you will turn on your KitchenAid to start whisking the whites on medium speed. When you reach 118°C back in the pan, the whites should be at a medium peak stage. S-l-o-w-l-y (I mean slowly!) pour the hot sugar/water mixture into the bowl of the KitchenAid while it is whisking. Continue whisking until the temperature comes down to 50°C. While the KitchenAid is mixing proceed to Part C.
Part C - Mixing A+B & Cooking them
From Part A, add your egg whites to the ground almond & powdered sugar bowl & stir.
Once the Italian Meringue from Part B is ready, fold it gently into the mixture from Part A (shown above). Put into a piping bag & pipe out small circles (not too close because they spread a little while cooking). You can cook them immediately 12-14 minutes. Remove to cooling rack. Can be frozen like this for later use. The size of my cooked cookie is between 3.5-4cm (around 1.5 inches).
The Filling Recipe & Instructions
Mis-en-place: (1) Put tip into piping bag, (2) Take butter & cream cheese out of the fridge hours before you will use them for the filling.
300 g castor sugar (or as fine as you have), weighed directly into copper pan
335 g crème liquide (called whipping cream in the USA), weighed directly in another pan
65 g beurre demi-sel (salted butter)
170g regular butter
120g cream cheese (Philedelphia)
- Make a good caramel with the first 3 ingredients: caramelize the sugar "dry", ie, pour about 50g of sugar into a copper pan (or other pan) & heat until completely melted. It'll turn a light brown color. Add another dose of 50g sugar & stir with a wood spoon (or heat-proof spoon) until melted. Repeat until all of the sugar is used. Careful not to overcook & burn the caramel -- it happens fast. For beginners, I think it's best to take it slowly & to cook on lower heat. It takes longer to do but it's almost fail-proof this way. And you need to stay at the stove the entire time...it's too sensitive.
- Towards end of the caramel cooking, heat the cream to a boil.
- Remove pan with caramel from the heat & add the butter, taking care not to get burned from any bubbling projections that may arise here. (Seriously.) Add the hot whipping cream & stir. (Again,be careful - it gets bubbly). Put back on stove & heat to 108°C. Pour into a flat pan (brownie sheet or something like this). Let cool slightly & then put a layer of film on top of the caramel & let cool completely; put in fridge until it is cold, or store in fridge until ready to use.
- Weigh softened butter & cream cheese in the bowl of your KitchenAid with whisk attachment. Whisk on med speed 4-8 minutes. The texture will become light & fluffy yet will hold its form. The butter lightens in color. Add half the caramel & whisk until incorporated. Add the rest of the caramel & whisk. Careful not to over whisk it.
- Immediately put the filling into piping bag with tip #11. Either use immediately or refrigerate for later use.
Mis en place: (1) If you have stored the caramel butter cream filling in the fridge, bring it to almost room temperature before using (1-2 hours).
Now, the fun part! Pipe a generous amount of the caramel butter cream filling into one cookie (the inside part). Top with the other cookie shell.
The assembly is the best part, because after that, it's time to test...
Just as it should be: a cookie with a slight hardness that gives into a moistness, with an explosion of caramel in the middle. Enjoy!