Lemon Macarons and a few tips

October 8, 2014

Literally a hundred egg whites later, I am still no expert at french macarons. Sometimes I get the right consistency, sometimes I don’t. Even when I think I have the technique in the bag already, a new issue pops up and troubleshooting starts all over again. Macaronage is not for the weak and impatient, definitely.

I think the reason why macarons are so hard to make is that it depends on so many factors that are not quite exact. The lava-like consistency of the batter. Mixing done by hand. The oven. Even environmental conditions like temperature and humidity, apparently.

But then again, here are some tips and things that I’ve learned along the way:

1. Eliminate all the air bubbles in the macaron batter. 

Mixing the batter should get rid of all the air in it. Air bubbles will result to cracks in the macaron shells when they bake.

2. Rap the baking sheet several times on the kitchen counter after piping the batter. 

Don’t hold out on this. Rap it like you mean it. Rap it like you’re slamming the baking sheet on your enemy’s face. Hehe. This will help get rid of air bubbles trapped in the batter.

3. Let the macarons rest for at least 20 minutes before baking them. 

Although some recipes allow baking the macarons right after you pipe them, this tip is sort of an insurance policy. Allow the macarons to form a shell on the outside so that when you bake them, the only way for them to expand is upwards, thus forming feet, not sidewards and expanding all over the place.

4. Skip the food coloring and stick to one basic flavor, like chocolate or vanilla, on your first few tries. 

Perfect your macaronage technique first.

5. After taking the macarons out of the oven, let them cool on the baking pan for a little bit before peeling them off the parchment paper. 

They’re still quite fragile when you take them out and peeling them off the parchment paper too soon might result to pieces of the macaron (mostly the center part) getting left behind on the parchment paper.

At the end of the day, experience perfects macaronage. A good oven probably helps too. Obviously, it’s still a very long way to go for me but if I may, here’s my final piece of advice: don’t get daunted by the difficult process of making macarons. Just do it. You probably won’t get it right the first time but you will eventually. There will be frustrating moments when you will want to stomp your feet in anger and take it out on your kitchen floor. True story. But when you get those perfectly formed feet and perfectly smooth shells, it’s going to feel like heaven. True story.

Lemon Macarons Print Recipe
Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz, makes 20-24 macarons
For the macarons
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tbsps almond flour
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 5 tbsps granulated sugar
For the lemon curd filling
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tbsps unsalted butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup granulated extract
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt
For the macarons
  1. Preheat oven to 300F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and have a pastry bag with a plain tip (about 1/2-inch, 2 cm) ready.
  2. Sift the powdered sugar and almond flour together twice. If you don't mind nubby macaron shells, you can skip this step. But if you want smooth macaron shells, make sure to sift two times. Then mix in the lemon zest.
  3. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the granulated sugar. Whip until very stiff and firm. If you're using a KitchenAid mixer, whip on speed #4 for 2 minutes, then increase the speed to #6 and continue whipping for 2 minutes. Increase the speed again to #8 and continue whipping for an additional 2 minutes. And for good measure, increase the speed to #10 (the highest speed) and whip for 1 minute. And then you're done.
  4. Fold the dry ingredients into the beaten egg whites with a flexible rubber spatula. Fold and fold until the batter is the same consistency as "molten lava." Not too thick, not too thin, falling in ribbons. The mixture should fall onto itself if dropped from a spoon and reincorporate with the rest of the mixture in less than 20 seconds.
  5. Scrape the batter into the pastry bag and pipe the batter on the parchment-lined baking sheets in 1-inch (3 cm) circles (about 1 tablespoon each of batter), evenly spaced one-inch (3 cm) apart.
  6. Rap the baking sheet a few times firmly on the counter top to flatten the macarons and let air bubbles out of the batter to prevent cracking. Let the macarons sit on the counter for 20 minutes or until the shells have set. When you press your finger on a macaron shell, the batter should not stick to your finger.
  7. Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven and bake them for 16 minutes. Let cool completely then remove from baking sheet.
For the lemon curd
  1. Pour the lemon juice in a saucepan and add the butter. Heat the lemon juice mixture in medium to medium-high heat until the butter is melted and the mixture has almost come to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, egg yolk, and granulated sugar in a bowl until well incorporated.
  3. When the lemon juice and butter have almost come to a bowl, whisk it into the egg mixture in small increments until well combined, being careful not to cook the eggs. You don't want to end up with scrambled eggs.
  4. Once the lemon juice and butter are totally mixed in with the eggs, return the combined mixture into the saucepan and cook very slowly over low heat. Continue to stir with a wooden spoon the whole time.
  5. The lemon curd will start to thicken. You know it's ready when the lemon curd coats the back of the wooden spoon and draw a line through it with a finger.
  6. When the lemon curd is cooked, run it through a sieve to filter out cooked egg whites. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to cool.
  1. Spread/pipe a little bit of the lemon curd on the inside of a macaron shell then sandwich with a similar-sized macaron shell. Repeat for the rest of the macarons.
  2. Let them stand at least one day before serving, to meld the flavors and soften the crunch of the macarons. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or freeze. If you freeze them, defrost them in the unopened container, to avoid condensation which will make the macarons soggy.

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