My friend Ashleigh and I have been talking about making French Macarons for a while, and this past Monday it was finally French Macaron Day! (*Note – not an actual holiday outside of her apartment.)
Armed with a recipe from Martha Stewart, a custom French Macaron Pandora Playlist (Matchbox 20 meets Florence and the Machine), and lots of tasty ingredients, we began our adventure for the afternoon. Well, okay, we had lunch and THEN we began our baking. Ashleigh was awesome, she’d already prepped what we needed before I even got there!
We planned to make two different kinds of macarons for the day and we had a choice between chocolate, vanilla, and pistachio. In the end we decided on vanilla and pistachio for the cookie, but opted to do 3 kinds of fillings in chocolate, vanilla, and pistachio as well. Can you even imagine how excited we were?
We got our recipe straight from MarthaStewart.com because we heard it was the best, and really when has she ever led me astray? (If you search her site directly, she calls them French Macaroons – we, however, insisted on using a French accent all day when talking about these cookies.) She even gives you hints on how to sub in different ingredients to flavor them! We made 2 separate batches – the first was vanilla and the second was pistachio. The directions are basically the same, so I’ll reflect the difference in the recipes below and give you a heads up when we’re working with pistachio vs. vanilla!
FRENCH MACARONS – Makes about 35 sandwich cookies
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 3/4 cup almond flour (finely ground almonds – you can make it yourself!)
- 2 large egg whites, room temp (we heard a rumor you’re supposed to leave them out for like 2 days in advance, we didn’t do that but they still came out just fine!)
- pinch of cream of tartar
- 1/4 cup superfine sugar (baker’s sugar)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- substitute 1/2 cup pistachio flour (ground pistachio) for 1/2 cup of the almond flour
- add green gel food coloring – make sure it’s food coloring and not icing color
- don’t add vanilla extract
Such a short ingredient list for one of the richest cookies I’ve ever eaten, and it’s only about the size of a quarter!
Ashleigh had bought almond flour, but we made our own pistachio flour which was super easy. We peeled a ton of unsalted pistachios (probably about half a pound if the bag was one pound), then crushed them in a coffee grinder!
Start off by pulsing the powdered sugar and nut flour(s) in a food processor until they’re combined. Honestly you could probably whisk them together, but we followed Martha’s directions to the T.
Sift the mixture twice. This was a pain, I’m not going to lie. The point of sifting is to weed out the chunks so the mixture is superfine so it’s a tedious process, and poor Ashleigh got stuck with most of the sifting so I could take pictures. To be fair, she does have the more model-like hands… (Thanks for being a good sport, Ash!)
Now it’s time to preheat your oven to 375ºF. Just a warning, we’re going to drop the temp just before baking.
Start whisking your egg whites on medium until they’re foamy. Then add the cream of tartar and whisk until soft peaks form. Then, turning the mixer to low, add your baker’s sugar and vanilla and crank the mixer speed back up to high. (**NOTE for the pistachio – you can add the food coloring once the eggs get a little stiffer, you don’t need to add any vanilla here.**) You’ll beat the egg whites for 8 minutes until stiff peaks form – we actually set a timer.
Then, remove the bowl of the mixer from its stand and sift the flour mixture over the egg whites; folding the batter until smooth and shiny.
Line some baking sheets with parchment (or maybe you already did this?) and prepare a piping bag with a large (1/2″) round tip. Pipe the batter onto the cookie sheets in rounds, about 3/4″ wide, by dragging the tip around the edge rather than from the center. (You get me? Make a small circle with the tip instead of holding the bag above the sheet and plopping something out onto it…) You’ll want to be careful about peaks because they will stay! It took a few tries, but we got the hang of it – the batter was surprisingly runny.
Once you’ve piped out your cookies, let them sit on the sheet for 10 minutes. Then, once the 10 minutes are up, turn the oven heat down to 325ºF before putting them in. I repeat – you want to turn the temperature DOWN just before baking. After your first batch, you’ll turn the temp back up to 375ºF for at least 5 minutes before turning it back down to bake another batch.
Baking one sheet at a time, rotate about halfway through. Total bake time is about 10 minutes, or when the cookies come out crisp and firm, though not golden or they might be over-baked. And once you take them out, you’ll finally get to see those magical little feet everyone’s talking about…
Let them rest on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes before removing them to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Unfortunately, our pistachio macarons didn’t fare as well. We’re not sure what happened, but my guess is maybe we over-beat the eggs and too much air was incorporated. What makes me think that? They got super explody (not to mention there weren’t many with feet)…
Important note – this did not in any way alter the taste of the pistachio macarons… Just in case you’re worried.
While those are cooling, start making your frosting. Martha recommended Swiss Buttercream, but we’d had enough of the beaten egg whites for one day, so we made regular buttercream. We made one full batch and divided it into thirds to make different flavors. This was entirely too much frosting – you only need to make half a batch, if that (1/2 cup butter, 1.5 cups sugar plus whatever you’re adding to flavor it).
I have a few buttercream recipes on my site, so feel free to poke around, but a new one we tried was pistachio buttercream. I will be using that again in the future. On what? you might ask… On anything, quite frankly. It wouldn’t even hurt to use salted pistachios for it, OMG so good.
- 1 cup plain buttercream frosting from recipe hinted at above
- 1/3 cup finely chopped pistachios
When the cookies are cool enough, pair them up with other like-sized cookies. Take one macaron, put a dollop of frosting in the middle, and top with its partner. Success!
And there you have it, teeny, tiny French cookies. You wouldn’t know it by looking at them, but these were SUPER rich! They’re so small, and yet you get a bellyache (that’s totally worth it, btw) after eating two.
After trying to make these on our own, I can totally understand it when Ashleigh tells me that one of these sells for $1.35 at a local French Patisserie. There’s a lot of work that went into these! Some came out super pretty, and some came out not so much, but it was definitely an awesome experience making them. I had such a blast baking with Ash too because normally I’m alone in my kitchen talking to myself. (and expecting an answer?)
These are for sure a 4 on the Evil Rating Scale because my belly hurt so badly after eating just a couple of them… but obviously not enough that I didn’t shovel a few more in my mouth before leaving Ashleigh, after leaving Ashleigh, and for breakfast the next morning. They got rave reviews from Millie as well as my buddy Mittens and his girlfriend who both got a kick out of the fact that they looked like little hamburgers.
Give these a try on a day when you have a lot of patience and not a whole lot else planned. Enjoy!
PS – Next time I make these I will remember to take a picture of one after it’s been bitten into. It was a super awesome chewing experience because the outside is a firm little shell, but then there’s nothing but air until you reach the feet. They were crunchy and chewy at the same time, like surreal or something. Really, almost indescribable. You’ll see