Perfecting Macarons

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This last Christmas, I asked Santa for my mom and me to be able to take a French Macarons class at the astounded San Francisco Baking Institute. Shout out to Santa for giving me the greatest gift of all time – a day full of baking with my momma.

Momma and I have made French Macarons before but holy cow, there are so many intricate and precise steps that one must know in order to truly perfect macarons. We were so excited not only to get the hands-on experience in front of an instructor but we were stoked to learn all of the inside tips and tricks. And to top it all off, the San Francisco Baking Institute shared their recipes with us! Holla!!

We had been looking forward to this for months now and the day has finally arrived! The second we park, we smell the fresh, warm bread. Like mother like daughter, mom and I go crazy over carbs, especially warm bread. We enter this massive warehouse and BOOM, our eyes immediately see the banana walnut bread and chocolate croissants. All of the pastries they had available for breakfast were made fresh that morning, inside the exact location we were taking our class! We were in pure heaven.

The class began with learning the difference between French Macarons and Italian Macarons. Fun fact: French Macarons are a combination between liquid egg whites, powdered egg whites, and sugar, whereas Italian Macarons have heat applied to a sugar/water mixture, then poured into whipped egg whites and powdered egg. French Macarons are lighter, they have a chewier shell, yet Italian Macarons have a more stable, stiffer batter, thus leading to a crunchy shell.

After a quick little lecture, it was into the kitchen we all went. We were separated into groups so each group could make various macarons, then we would all be able to take a few from each group.

First we made chocolate ganache… yeah, definitely not something to start out with because I WANTED TO EAT IT ASAP!! But, like a good student, I was patient and waited to assemble the finished macarons with ganache towards the end of class.

After we set the ganache off to the side, we made a lemon macaron using the French Macaron method. This method requires whipping egg whites, egg white powder, and a little bit of sugar together until stiff peaks form. After a few minutes of leaving the electric mixture on high, we folded almond flour and powdered sugar into the meringue. To my surprise, we didn’t add any lemon extract; we only added a few drops of yellow food coloring. The macaron cookie has a very bland flavor – it’s the ganache or the butter cream that holds all of the flavor… fun fact, right?! Then we began piping about one inch blobs of batter onto parchment paper. As we all have seen with meringues, we tapped the baking sheet on the table to remove all bubbles from the meringue batter. And into the oven they went!

Our next macaron we made was milk chocolate whiskey, but this time, we used the Italian Macaron method. This method actually requires heating water and sugar to 250 degrees F first. Then we whipped the egg white powder and egg whites together using an electric mixture. In a second bowl, we combined powdered sugar and almond flour. Once the water and sugar mixture came to a boil, we poured it into the electric mixture, while continuing to mix on low speed.

This created stiff peaks in the meringue. We then folded the meringue mixture into the powdered sugar/almond flour mixture. Just like the French Macaron method, we then piped one inch circles of batter onto parchment paper. But this time, we added chocolate nibs on top of the batter before baking.

After baking these macarons for about 13 minutes, they came out with feet!! You’ll hear the term “feet” when describing macarons because the base of the cookie has a bit of small, delicate air pockets, thus resembling feet! Of course we had to let them cool for a bit, but once we did, we piped ganache in the middle of every other macaron, then sandwiched them together.

And for the most difficult part of this process – the wait. We were supposed to let them chill for a little bit, as macarons taste best after being chilled. Although we were trying to follow the directions, we definitely snuck a few to have a quick taste. HOLY MOTHER OF PEARL. The ganache completely makes the macaron. Think about it – there is little to no flavor in the cookie (or the shell). So all of the flavor comes from the ganache or the buttercream. The lemon macaron tasted just like lemon. The milk chocolate whiskey macaron tasted, well, just as you could imagine. And the dark chocolate macaron had the yummiest ganache of them all – pure chocolate.

The other teams had made different flavors of macarons and at the end of the class, we walked away with the following: eggnog, peppermint, vanilla, raspberry, lemon, praline, pistachio, rose, passionfruit, cassis, milk chocolate whiskey, and dark chocolate. So many flavors, so unbelievably delish.

If you’re in the Bay Area, I highly recommend taking classes at the San Francisco Baking Institute. Not only did I learn so incredibly much but the hands-on experience was truly life-changing. I’m so beyond grateful for Santa giving this gift to both my momma and me, and a massive thank you to the San Francisco Baking Institute for teaching us how to perfect this very difficult dessert!