I have been itching to make macarons for some time now. I've been reading about all the different techniques used in making them - French style, Italian meringue style (also known as the sucre cuit method), aging your egg whites, not folding your batter too much, not folding your batter enough ... I finally decided to try Pierre Herme's recipe since his macarons are legendary, and I even bought his Macaron book, which is completely in French!
I must say, making macarons is quite a process. First, you have to "age" you egg whites at room temperature for 48 hours (although I only aged mine for a few hours). Then, you need almond meal, which I decided to make myself (I know it doesn't need to be this complicated, but I had bought a huge bag of almonds from Costco and needed to use them up!) I blanched the almonds in boiling water for 30 seconds, then rinsed them in cold water so that I could peel/pop them out of their skins.
Next up was the making of the meringue. This involves cooking sugar and water on the stove, while using a candy thermometer to ensure that it reaches 245 degrees F. In the meantime, I started whipping the aged egg whites. Once they formed soft peaks and the syrup was hot enough, I added the syrup (slowly) to the egg whites and continued whipping until the meringue was stiff and glossy.
After that, I added fresh room temperature egg whites to the almond and powdered sugar mixture, and then folded in the meringue mixture in three batches. After filling a pastry bag with the batter, then piping out the macaron shells on a silpat-lined baking sheet, I let them sit for 20 minutes before baking. This is supposed to give them a nice shell, and also help in forming the "feet" (the puffy, frilly bottoms that form while baking).
After the macarons were finally done baking, I was a little disappointed when I pulled them out of the oven. While the tops were smooth and pretty, the bottoms barely had the "feet" that I was looking for.
But once I tasted them, I didn't care. The texture of the macarons blew me away! They had a lightly delicate crisp shell, yet they were super tender and soft on the inside. My husband pointed out that they were like biting into a toasted marshmallow, similar in that there was a thinly crispy exterior, with a soft and airy interior.
I could have eaten them all plain, but I decided to fill my macarons with chocolate ganache, although next time I might try a flavored buttercream of some sort. Maybe I'll also try aging my egg whites the full 48 hours, to see if that helps with forming the "feet". I can't wait to experiment with different colors and flavors too!