When Leah Schapira came over to make my Etrog Macarons with me, she had an enlightening thought, “I always thought you had to be a perfectionist to make macarons. But you’re not a perfectionist and you make them. So now I see you don’t have to be.”
But honestly, if it makes you feel better, I think that the only reason why photos of macarons look intimidating is because any home baker who has ever made them has probably just picked the prettiest two out of a batch of thirty to photograph. I think you can manage that too.
But, honestly, the little darlings are just as adorable in real life, even if they’re not all the same size. (My batches definitely include small, medium, and large-sized shells. But I love them all equally.)
And they are sooo worth every bit of the hype.
Even if you’ve never made macarons before, these are easy enough to jump right in, especially since I used a store-bought filling (DIYers can make their own lemon curd).
And even if it doesn’t work out perfectly the first time, try them again. In the summer of 2011, it took me four tries until I got macarons right. I remember one pastry chef writing that making macarons is like riding a bicycle. I agree. Today, a batch of macarons takes 15 minutes from the time I’m taking out the ingredients, until the shells are piped on the tray and ready to sit.
After I had mastered the basic almond macaron, for an entire year, I was too scared to attempt any other flavors. Then all let loose.
This summer, we had Blueberry Cheesecake Macarons, Strawberry Cheesecake Macarons, and Pistachio Macarons with Chocolate Ganache. For Rosh Hashanah, we ate Spiced Green Apple Macarons with Apple Buttercream (in the shape of apples!).
And now, for the yummiest macarons in my entire macaron-making career: Etrog Macarons.
Ok, so I didn’t zest an etrog. And while I’m sure etrog zest would be absolutely delicious in this recipe, I don’t know if my kids would be too happy to see their chinuch etrogs bare to the white pith.
Instead, use Meyer lemons, which are officially a cross between a lemon and a tangerine. They’re sweeter and less tart than regular lemons. They’re also easier to squeeze when you’re juicing them. If you can’t find Meyer lemons...OK...fine...use regular lemons...but I think it does make a difference.
When it comes to the food coloring though, only gel will do. Liquid food coloring will affect the consistency of the batter.
Lastly, I like to use a digital scale to weigh my ingredients precisely, but I also measured them by cup this time, just for you.
Etrog Macarons (Lemon Macarons)
Yield: 60 macaron cookies or 30 sandwiches.
175 grams (1 ¼ cup) confectioners’ sugar
100 grams (1 cup) almond flour (I use Bob’s Red Mills)
Zest of ½ Meyer lemon
3 egg whites
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Yellow gel food coloring
½ (12 ounce) container lemon creme (I used Baker’s Choice)
Piping bags and tips
Skewer or toothpick
1. In a large bowl, using a wire whisk, thoroughly combine confectioners’ sugar and almond flour. Most macaron recipes will tell you to sift these ingredients together, but I find that I can avoid this step simply by whisking very well. Make sure there are no lumps at all. Whisk in lemon zest very thoroughly.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites on high speed. When egg whites begin to get foamy, slowly add in the granulated sugar. Continue whipping and add food coloring. Whip until egg whites are completely stiff.
3. Using a spatula, add about half the egg whites into the dry ingredients. Fold in, just slightly. Add remaining egg whites and continue to fold gently, until dry ingredients are completely incorporated. The batter should have some thickness and not spread to fill the bottom of the bowl.
4. Line two baking sheets with Silpats (you can also use parchment paper, but I’m loyal to my silicone mats).
5. Drop a medium to large round tip in a piping bag (I don’t find couplers necessary here). Drop piping bag into a mason jar or tall glass and drape the edge of the bag around the edge. This will make it easy to fill.
6. Using a spatula, fill the piping bag with about half the macaron batter. Pipe macarons onto prepared baking sheets by putting firm pressure on the piping bag, and releasing when macaron is desired size. Leave room between macarons as they will spread slightly.
7. When one sheet is complete, take a toothpick or skewer to the edge of each macaron, and push out to form the “pitom.” Repeat on the opposite side. Work quickly, as the “pitoms” need to be formed before the macarons begin to harden on the outside.
8. Pipe the second tray and repeat, forming the pitoms.
9. Tap each tray three times on the counter. This lets out the air bubbles.
10. Leave on the counter forever. No, not forever. But at least an hour. The shell of the macarons should be hard and smooth on the surface before baking.
11. Preheat oven to 280F. Bake 17 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely before peeling from sheet. The shells will freeze well until ready for filling. Store them in a single layer, separated by parchment or wax paper.
12. The night before serving, remove the shells from the freezer. Fill a piping bag with the lemon curd (any medium-sized tip will do, but a star tip will give you a pretty effect). Pipe a bit of filling onto half the shells. Try to match up the shells so each sandwich has evenly sized halves. Once filled, refrigerate until ready to serve.
For these cute little leaves, I used Wilton’s Ready-Made Gum Paste. The toughest part of using gum paste is coloring it. Add a dab of gel food coloring onto a bit of the gum paste, and then play with it as if it’s playdough, smushing it all around so the color spreads. The actual leaves are super simple to make. Roll the gum paste out with a rolling pin and and cut the leaves out with a gum paste cutter, which is just like a mini cookie cutter (I have gum paste cutters in different flower and leaf shapes). That’s all! They’ll harden overnight. Attach the leaves to your macarons or any cookies using a dot of corn syrup or royal icing.
Next up: Jelly donut macarons for Chanukah!