*Full recipe at bottom of the post*
Picture-perfect French macarons are something my friend of eighteen years (and food blogger extraordinaire) Vanessa and I like to talk about whenever the topic of Paris comes up — which is more often than one may imagine. Because of this, we’ve been planning to attempt making them ourselves for quite some time now, especially since I came back from my trip to Paris this past October. The fact that I’ve so often read that they are difficult and tedious to make; break easily; and don’t always rise to a smooth and beautiful shell has been a longtime deterrent, but I finally decided that putting it off wasn’t going to improve my macaron-making skills any sooner. So, we picked a date and met up with out macaron mats, read to go.
The evening before, we headed out to the Loblaws at College and Church (what used to be the Maple Leaf Gardens), expecting it to be simple to find all the ingredients we would need. Well, first of all, they didn’t carry everything and we had to make some substitutions (like double cream instead of almond pulp and marzipan instead of almond paste… the latter was noted online, while the former was mentioned right in the recipe book). Secondly, I’m slightly ashamed to say it, but we spent the majority of our 1.5ish hour grocery shopping trip blindly traversing the baking ingredients in aisle 6.
When we finally got back to her apartment, we were too tired to start, so opted to begin the next morning. Thankfully we did, because we spent the whole morning and early afternoon struggling our way through the preparation process (photos interspersed below). Needless to say, it exceeded the estimated 2 hour prep time indicated in the recipe book.
The initial step for the macaron shells — sieving the almond flour/icing sugar mix — took over a half hour. This was almost 100% likely due to the fact that we didn’t have a food processor to make the mix finer to begin with and thus, I had to sift the chunkier bits until it was an extremely fine powder [see photos directly above for before (L) and after (R)].
The rest of the process went by not necessarily quickly per se, but the time passed by quickly because of how much fun it was to make. When the macaron mix was completed, we piped them onto our macaron mats and then sprinkled the ones that would be filled with pistachio ganache with crushed pistachios and the other two with crushed almonds before popping them into the oven.
While they baked, we finished up the filling. With the ganache, we experimented a bit with the flavours. Wanting a pistachio filling, we added some pistachio pudding powder into the mix, which not only gave it the needed flavour, but also thickened the filling up nicely. We also wanted a strawberry filling in one of them, and I decided to add some frozen strawberries with about a tablespoon of water in a saucepan, mashing it until it was a purée before adding it into the ganache mixture. It was a bit runny, so Vanessa added a touch of flour to it to thicken it up, and we put it in the freezer; a taste test afterward proved it made no change to the flavour and made it the exact consistency that we needed!
When the shells finally baked (we needed a couple extra minutes for the smaller macarons to bake than the larger ones, surprisingly), we let them cool and carefully pulled each one off the mat, lining them up in pairs and then only icing one from each pair. I screwed up on the first bit of strawberry macarons and added the ganache to both sides. Thankfully it’s easy to scrape off. 🙂
They ended up not perfect, but they turned out absolutely amazing for our first go, at my opinion! And they tasted great, too. Pictured in the photo at the very beginning of this post, you can see that we made purple plain almond (purple); pistachio (green); and strawberry (pink) flavours.
Here’s the full recipe (the original from Ladurée, with our tweaks noted) below!
**taken directly from “Ladurée: Sucré” recipe book. Anything we tweaked or added is specifically noted**
Macaron shells (ingredients):
- 2¾ cups + 1 tablespoon ground almonds / almond flour
- 2 cups + 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
- 6 egg whites + ½ egg white
- 1 cup + 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 cup chopped almonds
- 10½ tablespoons butter
- 1½ cups almond paste (we substituted with the same amount of marzipan)
- 4 ounces almond pulp (we substituted with the same amount of heavy cream)
- ½ cup whipping cream, cold
- Combine the ground almonds and confectioners’ sugar in a food processor and pulse to obtain a fine powder. Sift of strain through a sieve to remove any lumps.
- In a clean, dry bowl, whisk the 6 egg whites to a foam. Once they are frothy, add a third of the granulated sugar and whip for another minute; finally add the remaining granulated sugar and whip for another 1 minute. Using a rubber spatula, delicately fold the sifted mixture of ground almonds and confectioners’ sugar into the whipped egg whites. In a separate bowl, beat the remaining ½ egg white until just frothy. Then add to the final mixture, folding gently to slightly loosen the batter.
- Transfer mixture to the piping bag fitted with a plain tip (side note: we used a sandwich bag, in which we cut a small part of the corner off to make a piping bag — this worked perfectly). On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, pipe small macaron rounds 1¼ – 1½ inches | 3-4 centimetres in diameter (side note: we used silicon macaron mats, which keep a perfect, consistent shape for you). Lightly tap the sheet so the macarons spread fully. Sprinkle chopped almonds on top (side note: we sprinkled chopped pistachios on the pistachio flavoured macarons instead of the chopped almonds, which went on the other two flavours made). Preheat the oven to 300°F | 150°C | gas mark 2. Allow the macarons to sit uncovered for 50 minutes and then place them in the oven. Bake for approximately 15 minutes until they form a slight crust.
- Remove baking sheet from the oven, and with a small glass, carefully pour a tiny amount of water in between the sheet and the parchment paper (lift the paper ever so slightly corner by corner). The moisture and steam that results from the water on the hot baking sheet will allow the macarons to peel off more easily once they are cool. Do not pour too much water, as this could cause the macarons to become soggy (side note: the above is not necessary with a silicon mat). Allow to cool completely. Remove half of the macaron shells and place them upside down on a plate.
- Cut the butter into small pieces. Put in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water or in the microwave oven, and soften until creamy, without allowing it to melt. In a large bowl, thin the almond paste by mixing it with the almond pulp (side note: we slightly heated the marzipan and heavy cream in a saucepan until we were able to blend it with a hand mixer, then allowed it to cool before proceeding). Add the chilled cream and the softened butter. Beat on high speed using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until the mixture is homogenous. (side note: see above blog post for directions on our two other variations on the filling).
- Spoon the almond cream into a clean piping bag fitted with a plain tip (side note: again, we used the aforementioned sandwich bag trick for this, too). Pipe a coin of almond cream onto the macaron shells resting upside down. Top each one with the remaining macaron shells. Keep macarons in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 12 hours before tasting.