Making macarons for the first time

Making macarons for the first time

Written by Heather

Topics: Eats & Sweets

I tackled a self-imposed “No Macaron Left Behind” challenge when I lived in Australia.

I sampled non-Zumbo macarons last summer in London and recently in my home town.

I own two macaron cookbooks, Zumbo’s cookbook, and a macaron tea towel.

This week, for the first time, I made macarons.

It’s pretty embarrassing to admit that my first attempt at baking a macaron was only five days ago. Several friends have tweeted or emailed me over the last five months, asking for macaron baking tips, assuming I was experienced and in-the-know. ‘Cause, ya know, I tried 67 different flavors in Oz alone and Zumbo himself shipped 70 to my home in November. Surely I had made my own at some point?!

Trust me, I can consume these little treats like a CHAMPION, but when it comes to making them, I’ve been intimidated.

How could something so cute and tasty instill so much fear? Well, my friends, they’re delicate creatures that will turn on you in the blink of an eye.

At nearly every stage in the preparation or baking process, something can go wrong. Like baking in general, following a recipe is important. When it comes to macarons, it’s critical that every measurement is spot on.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to make macarons for the first time by myself. In fact, I intentionally waited to give them a go until I could visit Nicole, one of my best friends and fellow Zumbo and macaron devotee. She took a macaron baking class in Australia and has made them on one other occasion, so if there was a first time make them, it was when I ventured to Nicole’s cold, snowy Buffalo last weekend.

We used one of the recipes Nicole received in her macaron baking class — plain shells (with a touch of cocoa powder we added for color) and salted caramel filling.

After successfully mixing the ingredients, we placed a handy macaron template under parchment paper and piped away.

One of the most difficult bits? Piping without creating the peaks. Some fell slightly as the macarons rested (the mix needs to rest at least 30 minutes prior to cooking) but most kept their peaks.

I somehow managed to pipe a few with no peaks that cooked beautifully. I’d like to think that Zumbo would be proud.

I’ve had Instagram on my iPhone for ages and finally decided to use the app to take a photo.

We made caramel and added Murray River (from Australia!) salt. YUM.

Some time during the macaron making process I decided that I didn’t need to hire someone to make macarons for the wedding — I would make them!

Overly optimistic, but hey, I have months to practice.

And I started today.

My friend Kelly has never had a macaron, so I enlisted her to help make chocolate macarons with raspberry mascarpone filling.

I used a recipe from Nicole’s class for chocolate shells and snagged the raspberry mascarpone recipe from one I found online.

We couldn’t avoid the peaks, but thankfully they were relatively minor. This is definitely my macaron goal — find the perfect piping technique for me!

We couldn’t help but eat a shell or two once they came out of the oven. They smelled heavenly!

The filling was a snap to make and tastes so beautiful.

And now they are resting in an airtight container in the fridge, flavors blending together, waiting to be consumed tomorrow. Macarons should sit for 24 hours before you eat them. I’m trying to be patient!

I plan to make a new recipe every month for the rest of the year. Hopefully I’ll learn to pipe a smooth shell and find 2-4 recipes I love. Then maybe, just maybe, I’ll trust myself to make my own macarons for me and Gav’s wedding.

What’s the most intimidating dish you’ve ever cooked or baked?

27 Comments Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Olivia says:

    I am inspired! I’m also super intimidated, especially because my oven 1. heats unevenly and 2. is slanted. Now that you’ve delved into the process, do you think I should go ahead and give it a whirl anyway? Might be just the way to celebrate the end of my cleanse in two weeks…

    And I *love* that you’re having macarons at your wedding. Of course you are. Lucky guests!

    • Heather says:

      I’ve been watching your cleanse updates online — now THAT is inspiring!

      The oven temp is super important here. I think my oven is close but I do want to buy an oven thermometer. If yours heats unevenly, I’m sure some shells would make it and others might not. With the slant, it might make a small impact. The shells rest and feel dry to the touch before they go into the oven, so they may be set enough that the slant won’t make too big of an impact. I think it’s worth trying, but I’d suggest a recipe that doesn’t include too many ingredients so potential oven problems won’t cost you too much :-)

  2. I’ve always heard macarons were extremely hard to make. One little thing off and they come out terrible. Recently, making a Macaron Tower was the final challenge on an episode of Master Chef New Zealand, after which I vowed to never try that at home! But your macarons look amazing! Well done.

    • Heather says:

      Bobbi, I’ve been the same for months! I wanted to try but just knew I’d stuff it up! Thankfully I had beginner’s luck with Nicole, and for her, “third time’s a charm” :-)

      There have definitely been technical issues with both batches and I hope I’ll improve over time :-)

  3. Gav says:

    Hopefully I’ll be there soon and we will be able to practice them and work together to produce our wedding macarons :-)

    I’ve enjoyed cooking with you and how we work in the kitchen when I’ve been there, so can’t wait to tackle these little delicacies :-)

    I’m glad that you where able to make them with the lovely the ladies Nicole and Kelly too, they looked great and I know you loved the taste :-)

    We can make some in May too :-*

    Again a lovely post babe <3

    • Heather says:

      Gav, we’ll take a look at my Pinterest macaron board and the books to see what we’d like to make…maybe we’ll even try two kinds :-) I want to get “fancy” and make one macaron with two different colored shells. I’m thinking of some of my favorite Zumborons and wondering if I could make them!

      • Gav says:

        Why not be fancy and inventive, can we do 2 color shells, so we end up with 4 colors per macaron? Depends on how the batter works, but why not? :-)

        I’m just looking forward to working on these together and I think we just aim for the stars in macaron terms :-)

  4. Mom says:

    I was a happy guinea pig!!! They were delicious!

    • Heather says:

      Get ready for more taste testing…in addition to monthly macarons, I’ll continue my birthday and holiday cupcake baking. Let’s discuss your gluten free Mother’s Day cupcake preferences soon!

  5. Allison says:

    This is so awesome Heather! I bet you’ll be a master by the wedding – and what an awesome and personal touch!

  6. Deidre says:

    Well done!! These look so much better than my first attempt! PS – I’d look at banana republic for the ballet flats for your wedding!! PPS CONGRATULATIONS.

  7. I’d love to be guinea pig next time :)

  8. Amy says:

    Good on ya for making your own macarons! They looked lovely. I think doing those for your wedding is a fantastic idea – just don’t stress about it in the process! ;)

    • Heather says:

      Amy, the potential stress of it all has now overshadowed my initial optimism O:-) But I will continue baking and see where my skills are in the months to come *crosses fingers*

  9. Camille says:

    As a taste-tester for the salted caramel macarons, I can say they were DELICIOUS! I was quite impressed. I even managed to bring a handful to work for a few lucky co-workers who were asking for more.

    Perhaps the cold, somewhat snowy weather in Buffalo during your visit was a plus -it kept you and Nicole inside baking :-)

    It was wonderful to see you back in Western New York. You are one special girl and I hope Gav knows how lucky he is. Congratulations!

    • Gav says:

      Hi Camille :-)

      I’m super lucky to be engaged to my super cute beautiful wonderful kind gorgeous caring sweet lovely radiant smart ravishing young loving articulate hot macaron baking fiancee :-)!

    • Heather says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed your birthday macarons! We loved making them :-)

      Hopefully it won’t be too terribly long between visits — I’d love to come at least once a year!

      And I’m a lucky gal…and he thinks he’s lucky too!

  10. Nicole says:

    I’m so glad we had the chance to practice our macaron baking together. :) I’m still so impressed that they came out so well, especially with the changes we made to the recipe (a bit of cocoa powder substituted for a bit of almond meal to give the shells some color & a pinch of meringue powder instead of the egg white powder that my instructor had recommended to give the egg whites more stability) – granted these were only minor changes, but I was terrified nonetheless! ;) I’m also super impressed with your piping skills – I’ll have to work on getting flatter shells. :)

    • Heather says:

      Next time I make macarons I *must* have the tea towel you gave me in the kitchen :-) Will bring extra good luck, I’m sure. Maybe I’ll bring Zumbo’s cookbook down and open it up to his picture…have his blessing and all.

      • Gav says:

        You have to have the Zumbo book, you have raise your right hand and put your left hand on the book and say…

        I swear that the macarons that I shall bake, shall be the best, the whole macaron and nothing but the best, so help me Zumbo.

        :-)

  11. Laura says:

    Wow, nicely done. I like to bake but these look like they take some serious skills! I hope I can be a taste tester for one of your future batches!

    • Heather says:

      I’d *love* for you to be a taste tester. Oh, and there’s another cupcake bakery in DC that I recently saw featured on Cupcake Wars. If you’re up this way again, we HAVE to go!

  12. People have made macarons sound so intimidating that I doubt I’ll ever make them. I hear the feet are hard though, and yours look perfect, so congrats!

  13. Sally says:

    These look AMAZING. I had no idea you could even make macarons — I just always assumed they were delivered magically by unicorns or fairies or leprechauns or something. :)

  14. Nathalie says:

    you need to bang the tray down on the table to lose the peaks :D will be blogging about my attempt in the next few days! Happy baking Nat!

    • Heather says:

      Nathalie, I look forward to hearing about your experience! :-)

      We did bang the tray a few times, but alas, the peak stood its ground!

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