Vanilla macarons: now with feet!

Vanilla macarons with coconut cream

I don’t really like macarons.

I know this is a crazy thing for a food blogger to say, but it explains why I had never previously tried making Parisian macarons, the tiny almond flour and meringue cookies that sandwich a filling of custard, jam or buttercream. That is, until I found a giant bag of almond flour at the Ven (the awesome gourmet warehouse near where I live), and thought, “Why not?”

The other thing I thought was “How hard could it be?”

Famous last words.

Now I understand why every food blogger has a post on macarons. Why Laduree is a pilgrimage for any foodie visiting Paris. Why there are more than a dozen pages of macarons photos in TasteSpotting.

They are nearly impossible to make right. Like, voodoo and magic impossible. And when you can’t make it right because some variable is off — the humidity in the room, your macaronnage technique, the aging of the eggs, the heat of the oven — you become obsessed. Really obsessed.

Armed with what has to be the cutest macarons book ever, I love macarons by Hisaka Ogita, I made four batches of macarons over two weekends.

And on that magical third batch: I got feet!

Macaron feet!

Getting the pied, or feet, on macarons is one of the trickiest achievements in baking. The pied is the cute little ruffle on the bottom edge of the cookie. Without the pied, you couldn’t really call it a macaron. There are loads of things that can prevent you from getting those elusive little ruffles. Ogita says that rapping the baking sheet against the counter and drying the batter before baking are factors. Others say it’s the macaronnage (the mixing of the batter before piping) is what has the greatest impact on the feet. And still others point to humidity: the more humid the environment, the more difficult it is to make macarons in general. (Some of the best instructions I’ve found on macaron technique is on an excellent post on Food Nouveau.)

I’ve been keeping notes with what seems to go right and wrong with each step (what did I say? obsessive). Some of what seemed to go right in the batch that turned out:

  • I’ve found that the Italian meringue method is a bit more difficult, but more foolproof, especially if you didn’t remember to ‘age’ the egg whites. (Egg whites that have been separated several days beforehand whip more consistently than fresh egg whites.)
  • I also added a bit of sugar to the meringue before pouring the sugar syrup to stabilize the meringue a little bit.
  • I didn’t adjust the humidity at all; it was a ridiculously rainy day on Miracle Batch Day.
  • I felt as though I overmixed it, but I guess I didn’t. The recommendation is that it should ‘flow like lava’. (Not that I’ve ever seen lava in real life before.)
  • I didn’t dry the macarons after piping it and before baking, except for the amount of time it took to preheat the oven. (I’ve seen instructions to leave them to dry for two hours!)
  • I did rap the baking sheet against the counter a few times once I piped the macarons.
  • I stacked two baking sheets under one set of macarons to control the heat while baking.

So that’s what worked for me.

This time around, that is.

Vanilla macarons with coconut cream filling
adapted from I love macarons
makes about 16 filled cookies
I like the coconut filling because it uses up the egg yolks that you’ll have left over. I found it a bit too buttery, but I would probably just reduce the amount of butter a little bit, or just use the custard directly next time. Make sure to store the macarons in the fridge overnight before eating; the cookies need to ‘fuse’ with the filling to create that heavenly macaron texture.

For the cookies:
Ingredients

2 tablespoons water
5 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons fine granulated sugar
3 ounces (85g) almond flour
5.25 ounces (150g) powdered sugar
3 large egg whites at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  1. In a large bowl, sift together the almond flour and powdered sugar through a strainer (you won’t want any big pieces of almond in the mixture.)
  2. In a small heavy saucepan, combine the 5 tablespoons granulated sugar with the 2 tablespoons water. Swirl — don’t stir — over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Raise the heat just a bit until the sugar mixture comes to a boil. You will want to use a candy thermometer to make sure it comes to 240 degrees F (soft ball stage). At this point, you will need to take it off the heat and quickly start streaming it into the meringue, so it’s important to get the meringue started as the sugar syrup is boiling.
  3. Meanwhile, start beating the egg whites in a stand mixer with the wire whisk (level 6 on a KitchenAid). When you have reached soft peaks, add the 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. When the sugar syrup is ready, very, very slowly and steadily trickle it into the meringue mixture as the mixer is running. As soon as all the sugar syrup is added, you will now add the almond flour mixture.
  4. Stir in a third of the meringue into the flour mixture with a spatula until it was well combined. Add the rest of the meringue and fold in until all the flour has been combined with the meringue.
  5. The macaronnage: Using a spatula or dough scraper, scoop the entire mixture from the bottom of the bowl and turn it upside down. Do this about 15 times, or until the batter “flows like lava,” or drips slowly from the spatula when lifted.
  6. Fill a piping bag with a 1-cm tip and pipe the cookies into 1-inch (or 2.5-cm) wide circles on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  7. Rap the baking sheet against the counter a few times, set another baking sheet under it, and let the cookies rest while preheating the oven to 350 degrees F (175 C).
  8. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes, turning the baking sheet halfway through the baking time.
  9. Transfer the parchment to a cooling rack while you make the filling.

For the filling:
Ingredients

7 tablespoons (100 g) butter, at room temperature, cut into cubes
2/3 cup (150 ml) whole milk
3 tablespoons shredded unsweetened coconut
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup (160 g) granulated sugar

  1. In a small heavy saucepan, bring the milk and coconut to a simmer. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Slowly pour the steeped milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture, whisking the whole time so the eggs don’t curdle.
  3. Pour the mixture through a strainer back into the saucepan. Stir constantly with a spatula over medium heat until the mixture starts bubbling. Cook for another 1 minute until thickened, stirring the whole time.
  4. Transfer the custard to the bowl of a standing mixer. Beat with a wire whisk until the mixture cools to room temperature.
  5. Add the butter one piece at a time. Once the butter is all added, whisk at a medium/high level until it’s creamy and light.

Preparing the cookies:
Spoon a bit of the custard cream onto a macaron and sandwich with another. Store in an airtight container in the fridge overnight.