Craft Night: Macarons!

July 30, 2016

We're now officially celebrating our FOURTH craft night!!!! So exciting. It's been so much fun getting together with friends, sipping wine and talking.

This month we decided to give a go at the infamous macaron. Known to be finicky, we had heard many a horror story about failure after failure when attempting this fickle cookie.
I'm happy to say that it was mostly a success! We learned some things along the way, like a standing mixer is best but a hand mixer will do as well. Over mixing the egg whites and the powdered ingredients can happen in literally a matter of seconds. Turning the oven to 350 like it says in the recipes will cause your bottoms to burn. And when piping on your filling DON'T hold your cookie from the top and bottom.

Get all my tips and see our progress below!
They didn't all turn out so pretty but I'd say we definitely avoided the dreaded "craft fail".
Start by tracing circles onto parchment paper. They don't have to be perfect. Just enough to tell you where not to go over the line. I've heard silpats are best. Some of them even have the circles drawn on for your already!
Start sifting your almond meal and confectioners sugar. Some of us used this nifty hand sifter bought at Home Goods.
 When I sifted mine I used a superfine mesh sifter like this one.
It was horrible. It took me about 45 minutes to sift 3/4ths of a cup of Almond meal. I had to grind the meal into the mesh with the back of a spoon and then scrap off the dust with a knife. It was tedious and it took forever but I think in the end it helped to give me a smoother cookie surface. Beth (from Home Stories A to Z) suggested griding your own almonds in a coffee grinder. Honestly, I think that may be the best idea yet. I might try that next time because Almond meal is expensive and it's too course for sifting.
 Do try this with friends. Preferably over sweet wine and coconut chips;-)

You must then beat your egg whites, granulated sugar, cream of tartar and food coloring to the PERFECT consistency. Sounds easier than you may think. Follow the instructions for whipping your egg whites in this video:
My tips!
Not all mixers are created equal. She mixed hers for about 10 minutes. I had to mix mine for more like 20!! Undermix or overmix your egg whites you can end up with a hollow cookie. In terms of mistakes that would not be as bad as a cracked top or a "footless" cookie but it's still not good.
Use these photos for reference.
Egg-Whites-SoftEgg-Whites-Stiff Egg-Whites-Overbeaten 
Then FOLD (not mix) your egg whites into your dry ingredients. This is also where things can go wrong. If you over mix it your cookies will not be stiff enough to retain their shape. They will spread out on your parchment paper or they will not be able to dry enough on top and crack when you bake them. If you undermix them they will be lumpy. It's much easier to over mix than under mix. People say it should look like molten lava when you lift it with a spoon. I've heard 50 folds is about right. That seemed to work for me.
Now you're ready to pipe. Put your batter into your piping bag.
Remember to hold it at the top and not the middle;-P
Pipe your circles. Try to stay in the lines you drew on the parchment paper. I've found that I get the best circle shape when I point the piping tip in the center of the circle and squeeze so that the batter spreads out from the center.
You'll get these tips which is fine because in the next step you're going to get rid of them.
Take your pan and drop it several times until the tops of your cookies are flat and the air bubbles come to the surface and pop!

Now here is another very important step. Let them sit out for about 20-30 minutes so that the top of the batter is smooth and no longer sticky. This will help ensure that your cookies do not crack on top AND that the cookies rises from the bottom giving you the tell tale macaron "feet". Skipping is step is a sure way to fail.
Now bake your cookies for 10 minutes between 300-350 degrees. We first started at 350 like the recipe says which burned the bottom of the cookies. So then we reduced it to 325 which seemed to work best. I've heard some people bake at 300. It all depends on your oven. 
Once your cookies are done and come out perfect it's time to pipe!
We used fast and easy premade cake icing mixed with food coloring. We also had various jams available. Jen made her own buttercream icing to avoid using food dye. One thing to remember when piping on your filling is that you should hold your cookie by the sides and not the tops. Otherwise you will probably crack the cookie's surface.
And voila! You have cute little macarons to share with all your friends and family. Go you!

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