One of my favorite experiences from culinary school was learning how to make French macarons, exquisite delicate almond -meringue cookies filled with ganache, buttercream, or jam. Interestingly enough macarons, despite their name, didn’t originate in France. Instead, the cookies, without the filling, originated in Italy. When Catherine de Medici, an Itlaian noblewoman, married the future King Henry II of France in 1533, she took her pastry chefs with her to her new home. It was only in the 20th century that French chefs started flavoring the cookies and filling them with ganache or buttercream.
When making macarons, it is important that the ingredients are weighed rather than measured in cups. In addition, make sure that every tool or bowl that comes in contact with the egg whites is meticulously clean. Otherwise, your egg whites will not whisk properly. For the buttercream, you will need a thermometer to ensure that you cook the sugar to the soft ball stage or 240°F.
For the macaron shell
9 ounces (255 grams) powdered sugar
6.5 ounces (180 grams) almond flour
1.5 ounces (45 grams) cocoa powder
5 egg whites (5 ounces or 150 grams)
1 ounce (30 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-4 drops red food coloring
1) Sift the powdered sugar, almond flour, and cocoa powder together into a bowl. It is best to sift at least two or three times. Set aside.
2) Place the egg whites in the bowl of a standup mixer and whisk on high.
3) When the egg whites have formed soft peaks, add the sugar and whisk for another 2 or 3 minutes until the meringue is glossy and forms firm peaks.
4) Add vanilla extract and food coloring.
5) With a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the meringue. The meringue will deflate a bit and that is ok. Keep folding the batter until it smooth and elastic (similar to a cake batter).
6) Preheat oven to 3250 F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
7) Place the batter in a pastry bag fitted with a plain pastry tip (about 3/8 inch).
8) Pipe small rounds, about 2 inches in diameter, onto the baking sheets. Ensure they are consistent in size.
9) Once you are finished piping the macarons, place the baking sheet aside for about 20-30 minutes before placing in the oven. This will allow the batter to crust slightly; this helps keep their shape while baking.
10) Place in the oven and bake for about 15-18 minutes. The macarons will be done when they feel slightly wiggly, yet firm to the touch and the edges have formed a jagged texture. They should also come off the parchment paper easily.
11) Remove from the oven and pour a little bit of water under the parchment paper. This will help the macaron come off the parchment paper more easily. Allow to cool.
12) Once cooled, the macarons can either be filled immediately with a filling of your choice (ganache, preserves, buttercream, etc.) or placed in an airtight container in the refrigerator to be filled later. It is best to fill them within 24-48 hours after being baked.
13) When you are ready to fill the macarons, place the filling in a small pastry bag and pipe a small amount onto one macaron shell and delicately place another shell on top, forming a nice little sandwich cookie.
For the nutella buttercream
6.5 ounces (180 grams) sugar
6 tablespoons (90 ml) water
6 egg yolks
10.5 ounces (300 grams) butter, room temperature
½ cup nutella
3-4 drops brown food coloring (optional)
1) Place egg yolks in stand mixer.
2) Mix sugar and water in saucepan and cook to 240°F.
3) Whisk egg yolks on high speed and gradually add the sugar syrup.
4) Continue whisking until the bottom of the bowl is cool.
5) Add the softened butter and mix until homogenous.
6) Fold in the nutella
7) Add food coloring