Mac Attack

Because it’s impossible not to smile while eating a pink cookie with sprinkles.
Because why not trash up a classic French pastry with America’s favorite flavor? (Birthday cake, duh.)
AKA funfetti.
AKA sprinkles.
Just look at these cute little macs.  
They’re pink.  And sprinkled.  And yes, they taste like birthday cake.
I think I’m finally getting the hang of making macarons!
 
I thought I would share a few of my personal tips and tricks for macaron success, although I won’t lie and say that making these cookies isn’t still stressful or difficult or volatile… I have shells that crack too, it’s just that now I better understand/can better explain these fatalities.
1.  I no longer make macarons the French way, which involves heating egg whites with sugar over a double boiler and then making a meringue.
This process is identical to making a Swiss meringue, which I no longer do either. (more on this in an upcoming post!)
Rather, I use the Italian (sucre cuit, cooked sugar) method to make my macarons (and buttercream, but like I said… hold your horses for an in-depth tutorial).
This involves mixing half of your egg whites with almond meal and confectioner’s sugar, and making a cooked meringue with a hot sugar syrup and the other half of the egg whites.
You then marry the two mixtures by performing macaronage, or folding and gently mixing, and finally, you pipe out your shells.
 
2.  I don’t worry about the age or temperature of my egg whites (thanks, Stella!).  To be honest, however, I almost always have aged egg whites stored in my fridge from recipes needing only or mostly yolks, and these are the whites I use most often for making meringue buttercreams or macarons.  
However, if I don’t have the full weight of whites needed, I’ll simply crack open a fresh egg.  
It theoretically shouldn’t matter, and I don’t find that it does.
P.S. If you haven’t been saving your unused, unloved egg whites, shame on you!
That’s money down the drain!
Save them and use them in buttercream or macarons or angel food cake, or feed your dog a nice egg white omelet to make their coat super shiny and soft.
Waste not want not!
 
3. I mix my (gel) food coloring in with my almond flour- not my meringue.  
I find that this better distributes the color and ensures that there are no pockets of food coloring that can lead to streaks and holes in your macarons.
When I am partially mixing my almond flour, confectioner’s sugar, and half of the egg whites, I also add in a dab of food coloring (Wilton Rose, for these shells) and gently mix until the mixture is dusty and dry but streaked and there are no globs of food coloring.
 
4.  I let my shells dry before baking.  
This is something a lot of people don’t buy into, but I’ve found that the extra 30 minute drying period really helps ensure that my shells have feet and don’t crack.  
Regardless of others’ experiences, this is what has consistently worked for me.
Different strokes for different folks.
 
5.  I never use silpats.  
Seriously, people, parchment is best for macarons.  
I find that silpats stick and tend to pull the bottom right off my macs.  They’re impossible to pry off, and I end up gouging giant holes in the bottom or cracking the shells right in half when I try to wrench them off of a silpat with a paring knife.
Not a pretty scene, take it from me.
 
6. I use heavy-duty sheet pans, or double up on flimsier ones.  
This is a big help with cracking, which generally occurs when the inside/bottom of the shell is cooking too fast, causing the interior to expand and the top to rupture.  
Using thick (or double) sheet pans also prevents the bottoms of the macs from browning, which is not quite so pretty but still tasty.
If you have trouble with cracking, try using two sheet pans for your macarons.  
It just might help. 

These aren’t the easiest baking project in the world, and are somewhat fussy little cookies.
But once you find a set of guidelines that work for you, you may just be swept away by the macaron mania. 
There are endless possibilities for these little French cuties, and you can mix and match shells and fillings to your hearts delight.  
The filling recipe that I’ve created for these is scary in that it tastes exactly like the frosting out of a can- in a good way.  
 
I will admit that it is slightly less sweet and a bit more creamy, but it is nearly an exact copy-cat.
How did I make this up?  I threw a bunch of stuff in a bowl, tasted, adjusted, tasted, adjusted, and, once satisfied, licked the rest of the bowl (after all those tastings, there wasn’t much left anyways!).
Who needs fillings for macarons anyways?!
 
Pulling a successful batch of macarons out of your oven is reason for celebration unto itself, so why not celebrate with cake?

 

Birthday Cake Macarons
for the shells:
adapted from DessertFirst Girl
ingredients:
100 grams almond flour
100 grams confectioner’s sugar
200 grams sugar
50 grams water
pinch of cream of tartar
150 grams egg whites, divided into 2 75-gram portions
approximately 1/4 teaspoon pink gel food coloring
directions:
Line 2 or 3 heavy duty baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a food processor, process the almond flour and confectioner’s sugar.
Dump into a bowl with 75 grams of the egg whites and the pink food coloring.
Mix partially with a spatula until mostly combined but still streaked with dry ingredients.
Meanwhile, combine the sugar and the water in a saucepan.
Cook the syrup to 245 degrees F.
While the syrup is cooking, whip the second 75 gram portion of egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar.
The egg whites should be just a tiny bit shy of stiff peaks when the syrup comes to temperature.  
The peaks should be stiff, just not dry.
Once the whites have whipped and the syrup is up to temp, slowly and carefully drizzle the syrup over the meringue with the mixer on low, until all of the syrup is used up.
Beat on high until cooled slightly.
The meringue should be smooth, thick, and glossy, and hold a “beak” on the end of your whisk.
Scoop all of the meringue on top of the almond meal mixture and begin to fold and turn your batter.
Continue to turn and scrape the bowl while folding the mixture until it falls in a ribbon and flows like magma.  
The ribbon that cascades off of your spatula should disappear into the mixture after 10 seconds.  (Please see Anita or Heather’s picture tutorials for a clearer idea.)
Place batter into a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip and pipe 1 inch circles onto your baking sheets.
Preheat oven to 320-325 degrees F while shells dry.
Bake for 15 minutes, changing the top rack to the bottom and vice versa halfway through the baking. 
Shells are done when one can be lifted cleanly and easily off of the parchment, with no browning on the bottom.
Allow to cool on a wire rack.
for the faux canned frosting:
ingredients:
115 grams (1 stick, 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
1+ cup confectioner’s sugar (this is to taste; I always add less confectioner’s sugar and build my way up, tasting as I go.  I prefer things much less sweet, so I advise you to taste as you go with any recipe, as they often call for a lot of sugar.  What I have listed here is my preference and is not too sweet.)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk powder
pinch salt
splash vanilla extract
splash butter extract (trust me!)
directions:
Beat butter and cream cheese on high until very creamy and smooth.  
Scrape sides and beat in confectioner’s sugar.
Mixture should be fluffy and light.
Add in the heavy cream and beat to combine- mixture may look curdled.
Add in the milk powder and beat on low to combine.

Add in the salt and extracts and beat on high.
If mixture is too runny, add a bit more confectioner’s sugar and/or milk powder.
If it is too thick, add in heavy cream or half and half a teaspoon at a time- it can go from too thick to runny very quickly, so beat well between additions.
to assemble the macarons:
ingredients:
shells
frosting
sprinkles
directions:
Spread half of the shells with about a teaspoon and a half of the filling, then sandwich with another shell.
Fill a small bowl with sprinkles, then roll the edges of each macaron in the sprinkles.
There should be enough filling exposed on the edges to pick up sprinkles around the middle of the mac.
Allow to “mature” overnight if possible, but definitely allow the flavors and textures at least 2 hours to mingle and get comfortable before eating.
Enjoy!

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