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I hope my notes here about making French macarons for the first time help you out. I’d love to hear how it turns out.
I’ve had a hankering to make macarons for some time. I love basic recipes for simple foods that are all about getting the technique right. Plus macarons are such estimable little desserts, and they freeze so well, that they are great to make in advance for a party or for friends who will appreciate them.
I found the process of making macarons to be every bit as delicate as I expected, but doable. It is a thrill to get a batch come out of the oven with a pretty dome and that perfect foot, it feels like sinking a perfect putt or hitting a perfect shot. So even though I went to bed exhausted, I woke up thinking of little alterations I could make next time to get the perfect batch.
And once you have macarons down, you will be a whiz at turning out a beautiful souffle. It uses all the same tricks (get a favorite chocolate souffle recipe of mine and tutorial here).
After my day of experimenting with different batches, here are some lessons learned. Martha has two recipes online, and I went with her recipe from the June 2008 issue of Living, written by NYC cooking instructor Gail Monaghan
makes about 35 macaron shells
Before you begin:
Choose a nice, cool, dry day to make these. Humidity is not your friend. Because whipped whites are mostly air, if the air is too moist it can flatten your macarons. A hot kitchen can also deflate whites.
Separate your eggs in advance. Eggs are easier to separate when they’re cold, so separate them at least an hour and up to a day before, then cover with plastic wrap so it touches the surface of the egg, and just leave the whites on the counter.
Mis en place. Have everything you need in place so you don’t have anything to slow you down once your eggs are whipped.
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, 4.5 oz
3/4 cup almond flour, 2.5 oz. (
2 large egg whites, room temperature (no farm fresh eggs! older eggs hold air better, and take them from the fridge the day before or the morning of and let them sit there happily on the counter and warm to room temp)
Pinch of cream of tartar
1/4 cup superfine sugar, 1.5 oz. (also called baker’s sugar, I’ve read you can make your own by processing granulated sugar, but have never tried it)
3/4 cup seedless raspberry jam, for filling
See MACAROON VARIATIONS and SUGGESTED FILLINGS on Martha’s website, including chocolate, coconut, peanut, pistachio, raspberry, and vanilla bean. UPDATE: Or see the comments below! Some of you have come up with amazing flavor ideas.
1. Pulse confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a food processor until combined. Sift mixture 2 times. (I found sifting with my usual flour sifter near impossible. The almond flour caked under the sifting hand and balled up over it. Instead I sifted with a simple bowl-shaped sieve.)
2. Whisk whites with a mixer on medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and whisk until soft peaks form. Reduce speed to low, then add superfine sugar. Increase speed to high, and whisk until stiff peaks form (the recipe suggests 8 minutes, for me it took only 3 to 4 minutes, take care not to over-whip). If you’re going to add color, I added food coloring towards the end of whipping my whites. I found I could use standard, water-based food coloring. Several of the recipes I saw recommended paste food coloring, but I didn’t have any at the time, so I went out on a limb! The water-based colors worked just fine.
3. Sift flour mixture over whites, and fold until mixture is smooth and shiny. I found the amount of folding to be crucial. Fold too little, and your macaron shells will have peaks instead of nice rounded caps. Fold too much, and your meringue will drip into a mess of wafer-thin blobs. Tartlette recommends about 50 folds, until your batter has a magma-like flow. For me about 65 folds was just right. I find the batter has a little of a soft-toffee like sheen when it is ready. (UPDATE 02.10: stop by here to read about a macaron class Tartlette taught). You can test a daub on a plate, and if a small beak remains, turn the batter a couple times more. If the batter forms a round cap but doesn’t run, it is just right. When I spooned my batter into the pastry bag, the perfect batter started to just ooze out of the tip once the bag was full. If it stayed stiff inside the bag it was too stiff, if it dripped out too fast the batter was too runny. I found that doubling the recipe made this step very difficult for me, I found I would over fold to incorporate the flour mixture and I would end up with a runny batter.
4. Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip.
5. Pipe 3/4-inch rounds 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. I put the tip right in the middle of where I wanted each macaron and let the batter billow up around it, then I drug the tip to the side of the round. (You can pipe 1-inch to 2-inch rounds, but you will need to add cooking time). Tap bottom of each sheet on work surface to release trapped air. Let stand at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes. (Different recipes recommend anywhere from no rest time to 2 hours rest time. I was most happy with 30 to 45 minutes rest time, once the caps looked more dull and had formed a slight skin, so that during baking the macaron could puff up beneith that skin and form that pretty “foot” at the bottom.) While they’re resting, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
6. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake 1 sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until macarons are crisp and firm, about 10 minutes. After each batch, increase oven temperature to 375 degrees, heat for 5 minutes, then reduce to 325 degrees. Every oven is different, so you may need to play with your oven temperature. The tops of the macaron shells should not brown.
7. Let macarons cool on sheets for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. If macarons stick, spray water underneath parchment on hot sheet. The steam will help release macarons (if this doesn’t work, see below, under “troubleshooting”).
8. Sandwich 2 same-size macarons with 1 teaspoon jam. Serve immediately, or stack between layers of parchment, wrap in plastic, and freeze for up to 3 months. It takes only 30 minutes out of the freezer for macarons to be ready to serve.
TROUBLESHOOTING: If you’re wringing your hands in frustration because you can’t get these little desserts to come out right, either they are hollow inside or have no feet or they crack, you are in good company. Me included. Here are a few things you can try to get that first perfect batch that will get you addicted to making macarons.
1. Use an oven thermometer: Chances are, your oven is different than mine, which is different from many other friends and bloggers who have attempted macarons. Pay a couple dollars for a decent oven thermometer and you can know for certain that your oven temp is right. Undercooked macarons will end up hollow or deflate after cooking.
2. Use a good baking sheet: If your baking sheet is too thin, the macarons won’t bake evenly or correctly. You can even try doubling up two thin baking sheets if that’s all you have.
3. Use old eggs: I know this may sound wrong, just wrong, but it makes a difference. Use eggs that are not too fresh and leave them on the counter at room temp for a day or two.
4. Make sure you have prime egg-whipping conditions. Trust me, a humid day or one streak of grease in your bowl can make what could have been a beautiful batch of macarons into a disappointment.
5. If your macarons have no feet, make sure they had their time on the counter (after piping and before baking) to create a skin. I love what Evelyn said below: “NO skin No feet… ” When your macarons form a skin before you bake them, the skin traps the air under the dome so that the air’s only way to escape is through the bottom, creating feet as it goes.
6. Don’t over or under fold your batter. I know, I know, we’ve been through this. But if you let your macarons sit on the counter for 45 minutes to form a skin and you’re still asking yourself, “why don’t my macarons have feet?” the answer is probably that you underfolded so the batter is too stiff or overfolded so it is too loose. And if you come up with a different reason, I’d love to hear.
7. Increase cooking time for bigger macarons: I’ve undercooked my macarons before and had them come out hollow. Pretty still but very disappointing in texture. Make sure that if your macarons are bigger circles, you bake longer.
8. Keep an eye on your macarons to avoid browning them or letting them crack: I love these notes note from Beth and Zach (thanks you two!!): “I bake mine with the light on in the oven so I can monitor what’s going on in there. If it seems a little hot, crack the door and stick a wooden spoon in to hold it slightly ajar. I believe the cracking happens when the oven it too hot.” “The steam produced is escaping too fast to exit out only the bottom; thus the top (even with that “skin”) has no option but to break and crack the top. If this happens consistently, turn down the heat a few degrees (no more than 10 degrees 5 preferable). “
9. If your macarons won’t unstick, try water (and cook longer next time). Here’s a great tip from a reader whose macaron shells stuck to the paper. (Thank you, Jennifer!!) “The steam did not work for me, I think because my paper is fairly thick. So I rested the paper (with the Macarons stuck to it) on a thin layer of water. I counted to 15 which is just enough to soften the paper without getting the Macarons wet. They pulled off flawlessly! You may have to adjust how long you let it sit depending on the type of paper you use, so as not to wet your Macarons!” And it’s also likely, if your macarons stick, that you didn’t cook quite long enough.
10. What about a confection oven? Thanks to Zach for this note!: A convection oven should work just fine. But you should reduce cooking time because of the moving air, which will help prevent the cracking. If your convection oven is too hot or the air flow setting is on “high” (if applicable), then then extra drying might make cracking more possible.
sending plastic easter eggs through the mail
I’ve had a couple requests for a souffle tutorial. So here is my list of tips for making the perfect souffle. I could also call this my list of everything I’ve ever done wrong to make a not-perfect souffle. Hopefully, my mistakes are your gain.
Don’t be scared that there is a list. If your oven is the right temp (buy an inexpensive oven thermometer if you need to check) and you know what to look for as you go (read through my list once), you can pull off a beautiful souffle with dramatic height that will make everyone at your table think you are a culinary master. Doesn’t that sound worth it? I’ve included my killer chocolate souffle recipe at the end, and I promise, if you try it once or twice you’ll be ready to make it for anyone.
chocolate souffle a la mode
A good souffle is all about the drama. Make sure everyone is at the table, ready for the presentation of the souffle right from the oven, while it is light and airy and heavenly.
You can prep your souffle in advance. As long as your kitchen is not too warm, the souffle can sit at room temp for up to half hour before you bake. You can also prep most souffles a day in advance and leave them in the fridge, just invert a bowl over the top. When you’re ready to bake, put it straight in the oven.
I’m told you can also freeze a souffle dish full of batter, and put the souffle straight from the freezer to the oven. How fun would it be to have a row of ramekin-size souffles in the freezer, waiting to be popped in the oven any day you need a pick me up?
Ingredient and Equipment Prep
No farm fresh eggs. Eggs that are too fresh will not hold air as well as those that have been around for a while.
Eggs need to be at room temperature. Take your eggs out of the fridge at least an hour and up to a day in advance. Eggs are easier to separate when cold, so separate them into bowls first, then cover with plastic wrap so the wrap touches the surface of the egg. Leave the bowls on the counter until you’re ready to cook.
I have a little secret. I almost always add an extra egg white. I’m telling you, I’m all about getting that dramatic height.
Once you’ve buttered your souffle dish and sprinkled it with flour, sugar, or crumbs, put the dish in the fridge while you make the batter.
The bowl you beat your whites in must be clean. The smallest streak of grease will ruin any chance your eggs had of whipping up properly. Use glass or metal, not plastic, which can hold onto grease.
You can add a collar to your souffle if you’re concerned about too much height and your souffle going lopsided, or if you want to fill past the brim. Take a piece of parchment paper long enough to wrap all the way around your dish, fold it in half lengthwise so it is stiffer, and tie it around the outside of the dish with bakers twine so it rises about two inches above the rim.
Mise en place. Make sure you have every ingredient measured and ready before you start. You need to work quickly from the moment you start beating those eggs. No time for digging through the drawer for a measuring spoon.
Making the souffle
Know your peaks. Soft peaks flop over from the base and are a little foamy (see pic below). Stiff peaks are glossy stand so only the tips fall over. But they still look moist, and will usually slip a little if you tilt the bowl. If your whites are dull instead of shiny, they’re overbeaten. Err on the side of under whipping. Over whipped whites are inflexible and cannot inflate as your souffle bakes.
To check for stiff peaks, I use the old fashioned trick of setting a new egg right on top of my whites as soon I think they’re stiff. If the whites can hold the weight of the egg, at it sinks no further than half the height of the egg, I stop whipping. If the egg sinks to the bottom, I whip another 30 seconds, rinse and dry my egg, and try again.
Be certain your base is cooled to room temp or close before you fold it into the egg whites. A base that is too warm will deflate egg whites.
Your base needs to be loose enough so it can easily fold into your whites. If it looks like putty, take a glance at your recipe and see what you can add to dilute it just enough to make it foldable.
Always fold a quarter of your whites into your base first to loosen it up, before you go folding in the rest of the whites.
Don’t over fold. It will deflate your whites. No need to fold until everything is perfectly combined. Streaks are okay. Just make sure there are not big lumps of base that have not been folded in.
I fill my souffle dishes to the brim or one inch below. As I said, I like a nice, tall souffle.
To help your souffle to rise evenly, run your thumb along the outer edge of the dish, about a half inch deep or so, before you bake.
If you have a convection option on your oven, turn it off. Your souffle will start out looking great but then will deflate after a few minutes.
I preheat my oven to 25 degrees higher than the suggested baking temperature. Then I drop to the suggested temp as I put the souffle in the oven. It helps the crust puff at the beginning and gives the batter on the inside something to climb.
Do not open the oven for the first 3/4 of baking time. And when you open to check for doneness after that, be quick about it.
Your soufflé is done when the top crust is golden and firm, but the souffle jiggles just a bit when you give it a gentle shake.
When in doubt, check with a knife or skewer. No use going to all that trouble and then serving a souffle that is half batter. Insert a skewer or knife into the center and make sure it comes out clean, with no wet batter clinging on.
You can make almost any souffle in individual ramekins instead of a larger dish. Just reduce baking time by about 8 minutes and be vigilant.
When you serve your souffle, make a big deal about it. Seriously. It’s a souffle. Serving it and eating it should feel important. Carry it carefully to the table, and use two spoons to break a slit open in the top. Watch as the steam escapes and your guests anticipate the first bite. If you have a sauce, pour it right in that slit. As you serve, dig down and give each serving a piece of the crisp crust and a piece of the creamy inside.
Once you’ve made your souffle, take a moment to think about what you might improve for next time. If your crust was too tough, your oven was probably too hot. If your souffle did not rise, your oven was probably not hot enough. Take a moment to jot down notes for next time.
eggs are easier to separate while they’re still cold from the fridge but need to be at room temp before you begin
I like to fill my souffle dish to the brim. you can also add a collar and fill it even higher
this is a souffle I baked with a collar, I usually opt to go without, just because I like the rough, organic edges when the souffle rises without a collar
soft peaks will flop over at the top, these whites are just a little stiffer than I like mine for soft peaks
stiff peaks will be glossy and just the top of the peak will fall over, if your whites become flakey or dry looking, they are over whipped
I like to check my stiff peaks by gently setting an egg on top, if the whites support the weight of the egg, they are ready
My favorite way to fold is to gently plunge my spatula (use a large rubber/silicone spatula) into the middle of the batter, then come up scraping the side of the bowl and lifting the batter. Then I give the bowl a quarter turn and repeat until I’m satisfied. I always prefer to leave a few streaks rather than over fold
run your thumb along the outer edge of the dish, about a half inch deep or so, to allow the souffle to rise evenly
24-26 min at 375 F
Here is the chocolate souffle recipe I’ve tweaked over the years. I’ve tried a lot of chocolate souffle recipes I didn’t love. This one I love. I like to use semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, 64% or higher, usually Scharffen Berger or Valrhona if I’m trying to impress anyone.
Mixer and beating attachment
Clean rubber spatula
Souffle dish or ramekins (any oven safe dish with sides that go straight up)
7 large egg whites, room temperature
3 large egg yolks, room temperature
5 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp butter, room temperature, plus more for prepping souffle dish
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar, plus extra for prepping souffle dish
1. At least an hour and up to a day before, remove eggs from fridge and separate (they separate easier while they’re still cold). Cover with plastic wrap that is touching the surface of the egg. Allow eggs to come to room temperature.
2. When you’re ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 F.
3. Prepare souffle dish or ramekins. Generously butter then sprinkle with sugar. Knock out excess. Place dishes in the fridge until you’re ready to fill them.
4. Beat yolks on medium until thick and pale yellow (I like to do this with my hand mixer in a small bowl. I just feel better using a different beater than I use for my whites, so I am sure I don’t have any yolk on the beater when I whip my whites. But just cleaning your beater and bowl well will work too.)
5. Melt your chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave (see more details than you will ever need about melting chocolate right here). I always melt in the microwave for simple baking. Dump chocolate into a microwavable bowl, preferably not glass because that conducts too much heat. Cook one minute on half power. Remove and stir. Continue cooking for 30 seconds at a time on half power, stirring between, until chocolate is melted. Stir until melted. Add butter and salt and stir until fully combined. If butter will not fully melt, it’s okay to put everything back in the microwave for 15 seconds longer (at half power again).
6. Fold yolks into chocolate until fully combined.
7. Are you ready to whip those whites? Make sure you have a perfectly clean, dry mixing bowl. Whip on medium-high until the whites form soft peaks.
8. Add the sugar half at a time, beating for a few seconds after each addition. Beat until whites are shiny and form stiff peaks. Do not over beat. If you over beat, your whites will become rigid and won’t be able to expand in the oven and rise to form the perfect, ethereal souffle.
9. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold about a quarter of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture until fully combined. Spoon the remaining whites on top and fold until mostly combined. Don’t over fold here. It’s okay to leave a few streaks.
10. Spoon the batter into the prepared souffle dish and smooth the top. I also run my thumb along the outer edge of the dish, about a half inch deep or so, to allow the souffle to rise evenly.
11. Reduce the oven temp to 375.
12. Bake until the crust is browned, but the middle jiggles slightly when you gently shake, about 24 to 26 minutes (about 16 minutes for individual-sized ramekins).
13. Serve immediately to your table full of admiring guests.
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