I woke up Sunday morning and decided to make lemon macarons. I wanted to make good use of all of that leftover lemon curd I had from the delectable mini lemon tarts. From 7 am until 11 am, I sifted, folded, whipped, piped and baked until I finished the macarons.
This was my first time making macarons in my very small studio with practically no counter space and a sub-standard oven. (Although I have indeed made them in other tiny Manhattan studios.) In fact, my oven is so small, a standard-sized cookie sheet won’t fit. It also bakes unpredictably and unevenly, so I had to improvise. Although I’ve been a little out of practice making macarons, I was able to figure things out as I went along!
You don’t need a fancy gourmet kitchen or a convection oven to make these. A few tools and the right technique is all you need to master the macaron. The first few batches (well, many batches) I made of macarons back in 2010 and 2011 were a total bust. But, I knew that if I continued to practice, I’d master them.
My desire to master the macaron started in 2011. I was living in France at the time, indulging in more than my fair share of Pierre Herme macarons. (Pierre Herme is hands down the best macaron-maker in all of France.) My roommate, Sophie, was an engineer. She wasn’t an avid baker, but due to her professional background and being a scientist, she could certainly follow a recipe with precision. To my surprise, she made macarons one evening simply by following a recipe. I knew that if she could make them, I could too.
When I moved to New York City later that year, I decided to make macarons. I had quite a few less-than-perfect batches. But with each failed batch, I’d tweak something.
If the macarons were too dark, dry or cracked, I’d reduce the oven temperature and decrease the baking time. I learned that when the macaron “batter” was too thick, they’d retain the piping imprints as well as bake up too much. I learned that a too-thick batter had a few quick fixes: continue to fold the batter, reducing the amount of air in the meringue. Or just wait a few minutes. The batter at the end of the batch was always much thinner. I also learned the importance of working fast. Macaron batter is about as sensitive and temperamental as the macaron itself. It doesn’t take much to affect the outcome. A gentle hand is also essential as the macaron shells are prone to cracking if not delicately handled.
Measuring must be precise. A scale is essential. If you’re a novice, an instant-read thermometer would also be helpful. (Although I admit, as useful as I find my instant-read thermometer, I do not use it when making macarons. But that’s because I’ve made them so many times I just eyeball when the sugar reaches the soft-ball stage.) Also, practice piping. Your batter may be perfect, but if it isn’t piped correctly, it will affect the shape of your macarons. Be careful when baking. All ovens are different, so you will likely have to tweak baking times and temperature to suit your oven/altitude/and the many other variables!
But the most important lesson I’ve learned is simply to practice. The more you make them, the more consistent results you’ll achieve!