I gave in to the macaron fad late, sometime around easter last year. “Macarons are the new cupcake” says NPR and fox news (I guess they agree when it comes to sweets). Well, I’m glad I gave in. Macarons are delicious, fun and a great challenge. When done right, they’re the perfect little bite of melt-in-your-mouth-wonderful, when done wrong, they still taste pretty darn good. So don’t be afraid of them! They’re kind of like a little science experiment that you get to eat afterward.
When I first made macarons I made the most common French variety. I later learned that there are also Italian and Swiss macarons, and their differences come mostly from the making of the meringue.
French: Meringue is made by adding granulated sugar to egg whites until stiff peaks form, then adding the meringue to dry almond flour and powdered sugar. Longer resting time: 15-30 minutes.
Italian: Hot sugar water is slowly added to half the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then added to a damp mixture of almond flour, powdered sugar and the other half of the egg whites. Shorter resting time: 10-15 minutes.
Swiss: The least common method. Egg whites and sugar are beaten together over a double boiler, then added to dry ingredients. Medium resting period: 15-20 minutes.
I’ve only made french macarons in the past, but decided to try italian because I’ve become more comfortable with working with hot sugar, and I heard they have a more stable shell. This recipe is from my favorite little macaron recipe book Macarons: Authentic French Cookie Recipes from the MacarOn Cafe, but the ganache is my own!
Lemon White Chocolate Italian Macaron
1 cup egg whites (7-8 eggs), divided in half
3 cups (10.6 oz.) almond flour (I get my almond flour from honeyville farms, it’s legitimately awesome)
2 1/4 cups (10.6 oz.) powdered sugar
6 Tbsp water
1 1/2 (10.6 oz.) cups granulated sugar
pinch of salt
5-7 drops of gel food coloring of your choice – I used yellow because of the lemon flavor, but you could always make them purple if you wanted to really throw people off.
2 cups white chocolate chips
1/3 cup heavy cream
zest from one medium lemon
First get everything set up, once the batter is done you’ll want to work fairly quickly. So, get your baking sheets lined with parchment or a silpat and get a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip.
Now sift together the almond flour and powdered sugar, then mix in half the egg whites – you’ll get a paste-like texture, kind of like playdough. Then combine the granulated sugar and water on the stove with a candy thermometer – we’re looking for 245 degrees, the firm ball stage.
Once all that is set up, start the other half of the egg whites and salt in a mixer with a whisk attachment at medium-high speed. Add food coloring here as well.
When the sugar reaches 245 degrees, slowly pour it down the inside of the mixing bowl while beating the egg whites. Allow this to mix at a medium-high speed (but on the higher end, around an 8 on my kitchenaid) until you touch the bottom of the mixing bowl and it has cooled down significantly (about 5-7 minutes).
Then, fold the meringue into the almond flour mixture until completely incorporated. At this point in making french macarons you have to be very careful to not over mix the batter, but with these Italian macarons it is much more difficult to over mix. Just one more reason to love Italian macarons…
Now fill your pastry bag and pipe 2″ circles onto your covered baking sheet. Give them a little space (probably more than I did), just so that it doesn’t get too humid in the oven. Let the unbaked shells set for 10-15 minutes while your oven preheats to 325 degrees.
Bake the shells 14-15 minutes, opening the door once (around the 5 minute mark) to let out the steam and humid air.
While their baking you can start the ganache. Put the white chocolate chips in a heat-proof bowl, combine the cream and zest in a small sauce pan and heat until it just begins to simmer. Pour the cream over the chocolate and wait about 5 minutes for the chocolate to melt, then stir until smooth. Let it sit out or in the refrigerator until it is a piping consistency.
When the macaron shells come out of the oven let them cool for about 10 minutes on the pan before attempting to take them off. When they are cool pipe a generous amount of ganache onto half the shells and sandwich them together.
Ahhhh… macaron bliss…