Heaven on Earth

Heaven on Earth

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Tale of Two Macarons

Bright yellow daffodils, the first flowers to make a showing in my part of the world.  Spring here is usually snow, snow, and if we are lucky, some rain.  The daffodils bright green shoots appear through the small drifts of snow and I hope they survive the last few flurries of frost and flakes.  They are followed by the tulips (everyones' favorite), much brighter flowers, but not as hardy.  So Spring to me means yellow daffodils.  Glorious, bright, and hardy yellow daffodils which brave the cold to herald better things to come.

The obvious yellow flavor profile?   Lemon, of course, but with a twist. So for this Mac Tweets, we give you...Two Macs, same recipe!

I've been experiementing with ways to get flavor into mac shells without changing the chemistry of the recipe.  Vanilla sugar now goes into every shell I make instead of plain castor or granulated sugar.  It adds a wonderful flavor.  How to get lemon flavoring that tastes like lemon without watering down the egg whites?  Hmm...Let's see.
I decided to use lemon juice powder.  You can get it here.

I have tried several recipes, but I like this one that I found on Deeba's post best.
I adapted this recipe further by:
  • Substituted vanilla sugar for the castor sugar
  • Added 1 tsp. of meringue powder per egg white (this helps stablilize my meringue)
  • Added 1 tsp. freeze dried lemon juice to the shells  
Otherwise, I followed the recipe exactly. 

These were full of lemon flavor.  Italian buttercream filling laced with lemon juice and zest.   These were well liked  gobbled up by the taste testers (my friends and family, of course).

Many years ago I purchased some air-cushioned sheets for cookies, which I really did not like.  The cookies do not get that golden-brown bottom with the cushioned sheets. Those sheets have lanquished in the back of my cabinet, unused for years until I hauled them out yesterday. I'm so glad I didn't get rid of them.  They were great for baking the macs.  I found that I needed to adjust the oven temperatures and baking times for them.  They perform very differently than the heavy aluminum sheets that I normally use.  My mac's feet collapsed a bit because I underbaked them and had to put them back in for an extra minute. They were still wonderully crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside so those cookie sheets have come out of retirement.  Read on further in this post to see what I did to remedy the baking time dilemma.

I was telling Cristie (The Table Runner blog) about my adventures with the shell flavoring and baking times and she kindly agreed to come over to bake her macs using my new old cookie sheets and the same recipe, so that we could experiment with baking times for the Cushion-Aire cookie sheets.  

Cristie's adaptation of the recipe:
  • Substituted vanilla sugar for the castor sugar
  • Used the same Italian Buttercream but mixed in her homemade lemon curd
  • Put another layer of curd under the Italian buttercream
  • Added meringue powder to the recipe
Here is a short tutorial on how to make macarons.

Whip your whites to stiff but shiny peaks. Then so you don't deflate the whites with the weight of the sugar, add it slowly and gradually.  Continue to whip the whites until the peaks are stiff but still glossy.  Don't overbeat or your whites will break and you will get cracked mac tops.  I test the stiffness of my peaks by turning the bowl upside down.  SLOWLY, of course.  If the whites don't slide, they are stiff enough.  If they do start to slide,  STOP AND WHIP THEM SOME MORE.
See...they don't slide out of the upside down bowl.  What you don't see is Cristie on the floor taking the photo.  Brave of her considering that if the peaks weren't just right it was her head they would slide on.  Isn't it great to have a blogging partner? 

Now you can add food color to the top of your whites.  Don't blend it in just yet.  We will do that as we fold in the dry ingredients.

I first add about 1/3 of the dry ingredients.  Add them to the side of the bowl and fold in boldly.  Don't whip, just fold like you mean it.  Add the rest of the dry ingredients in two separate additions onto the side of the bowl.  Now fold more gently.  Sweep the spatula under the mixture and fold it up over the top.  Mix in the dry ingredients just until blended.  When the dry ingredients are blended, stop and flick some of the mixture over and let it settle.  The peak should disappear within 10 seconds, if not fold a few more turns and test again.  When the peak disappears within the 10 seconds the macaronage is achieved.  The flick above didn't settle (as you can see) so I gave it a few more folds. You can also do this on a plate if you wish, but I just do it within my mixing bowl.  Many chefs describe the texture of the mixture as "Lava-Like" when it falls from the spoon.  You will be able to feel the macaronage loosen as you fold it, and after a few batches it will be easier for you to tell when it is ready.

 Time to pipe them out.

I push my bag down inside my piping tip so the batter won't run out before I've finished filling the bag and I set it inside a tall glass.  Fill with the batter and push it into the bottom, twist the bag, and pipe it like this...
or like this.  Rap the cookie sheets gently on the counter to set the macs and to release any air bubbles, bringing them to the top.  If you are decorating your tops do it to half of the macs now while they are still wet or the garnish will not stay on once the macs are baked off.

Let the sheets set on the counter until the tops feel dry to the touch.  Depending on the humidity in your kitchen, this should take between 15 minutes and 1 hour.  Just touch the top gently with your finger.  This "dry top" is what makes the ruffled feet.  The moisture inside the macs creates steam and the tops raise making the ruffle.  I let my macs rest about 30 minutes before baking.

Bake until they are just set.  In my oven this takes about 13 minutes at 320 Degrees for the Cushion-Aire sheets.  Experiment with your oven and cookie sheets.  Times will vary.  If like me, you like your macs soft and chewy inside don't overbake them.  They will continue to bake as they cool.  Remove them and cool on racks.  Fill with your choice of fillings.  Be creative now!
We baked Cristie's macs at a higher heat and for several minutes longer than I had baked my earlier batch on the Cushion-aire sheets.  Cristie's came out just perfectly.  Problem solved.  Crunchy outer shells and perfect chewy, soft centers.
Yahoo!  Perfect feet.  No peaks.  Success with Cristie's Macs.

The biggest difference between using regular heavy, professional cookie sheets and the Cushion-Aire sheets was that there was not one single lopsided mac.  NOT ONE.  I really recommend using sheets similar to these or using the stacked sheet technique.  It really worked much better.

Same recipe  (personalized and adapted of course).
Same technique.
Same conditions and tools.
Two perfect but different Macs.

These look like Springtime Macarons to me.

I hope you'll link to Cristie's blog to look at her posting of our afternoon.  Two Macs, Two Views.  Twice as Good.  Also check out what the other bakers are doing over at Mac Tweets.


  1. Utterly gorgeous. Thanks for using the recipe that worked for me! Ottolenghi is bringing successful feet to loads of folk. Your macs are PRETTY & PERFECT Bonnie. Yes indeed, Cristie is very brave...LOL! I think that's what friends are for, and she's fab!
    Thank you for bringing in Spring at MacTweets with such great flavours. Lemon is right up my street, and I shall use vanilla sugar in future.

  2. Bonnie I just left a long comment and it wouldn't go through! Boo hoo! Trying again to tell you that I think the macs are gorgeous and oh so daffodil! Brilliant and fun post, brilliant tips and advice you gave even seasoned mac makers like me. And thanks for that link with the lemon AND cheddar cheese powder! Thrilled to have you along with us for the Mac Ride!

  3. Bonnie what a great write up of our baking macarons! Thank you so much for inviting me into your kitchen, you are a great baker! I learned so much. Can't wait until we do something together again.

  4. these look amazing! I love anything and anything lemon, and such a smart way to flavor the shells!

  5. I am in love with both of your macs! Beautiful feet and color. Isn't Cristie a blast to cook with? :) We all need to do this together!

  6. Another wonderful macaron tutorial! I made my first batch last week and am hooked. I love the sound of the lemon flavored Macs!

  7. Oh my goodness, these are just beautiful! I am definitely going to have to print this out and follow it on my next mac attempt! I heard these were DELICIOUS! I want to come bake with you two! Great job!

  8. Jenny, Come over. It would be a lot of fun!

    The macs are definitely addicting to make. I haven't made one yet that I didn't like.

  9. Fabulous flavour and fabulous macs! Great step by step too. I think the cookie sheet I'm using is pretty similar to yours. I don't think it's the Cushion-Aire, but it has a sort of double layer to allow airflow and is very light. I definitely find that macs baked on this sheet come up better. Love the sunny yellows of both your macs.

  10. I want to make macs with you:) They are perfect!

  11. Maria, Come over and make some. It is a lot of fun.

  12. Love........it. Love lemon. When I come back from my vacation, I'll have to try this!

  13. gorgeous mac! love your tutorial! :)

  14. Hi. this is a really great post. I love the tip about filling the piping bag as this was a bit of a struggle for me. Where did you get the template sheet with the circles printed on it?... that would be really helpful for me to get the size of the macs more uniform.

    Another option for flavouring your mac or filling with lemon would be to use pure lemon oil. A teaspoon blended in with the almonds would be more than enough (it is very concentrated so it should not effect your recipe) and it gives a deep lemon flavour but without he acidity of lemon juice. I use it to make lemon buttercream.

  15. Thanks Marv for the tip about the lemon oil. I have used oil in buttercream in the past. I do agree it would give a great intense flavor. It has been fun to experiment with new ingredients. I have been a bit obsessed with the macs. Made three batches in the last 2 days with different ingredients.

    You can get the template on Deeba's blog, Passionate about baking. It is handy. If you can't find it, e-mail me and I will copy and send it to you.