Full disclaimer: I am not a professional baker. I’m not even a great baker. If I were on the Great British Bake Off, I’d be the one who got eliminated on Week 1 because I’d never heard of the technical challenge and basically everything I ever made would be chocolate cake, even during Biscuit Week.
That having been said, this is a baker’s journey blog. You’ll learn with me, you’ll laugh at my failures, and you’ll appreciate the fact that I don’t start recipes off with a detailed autobiography. Like, this is it. Check out this sexy picture of finished macarons, and then RIGHT AFTERWARDS, there’ll be instructions on how to make them.
You’ll be using 4 eggs and 3 lemons total across two recipes here, just as a heads up.
For the macaron shells:
- 3 egg whites (brown egg whites froth up better, and it’s best to separate them the day before so they dry out a bit more. Save the yolks for curd) at room temp.
- 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
- 1 cup sifted almond flour, superfine
- 1 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, also sifted
- Zest of one lemon
- 3 drops yellow liquid food coloring, or 1 drop gel. Gel is often better because you don’t want to add extra moisture.
Beat the egg whites in a clean glass or metal bowl. Make sure there’s no oil or residue of any kind, because it can deflate your meringue. Beat on high until frothy, then start gradually incorporating the granulated sugar until it’s all dissolved, and your meringue makes stiff peaks, then beat in the zest and food coloring. Don’t worry about overbeating too much, because it’s really hard to do with meringue, but try to beat the meringue, zest, and food coloring until it’s all incorporated, and no longer than that. Sift in the flour and confectioner’s sugar together, and then mix with a clean rubber spatula, folding gently so you don’t deflate the egg whites. Best practice is to scrape up around the edge of the bowl and then down the center, alternating sides until your batter can make a figure 8 when it drips off the spoon in sandy ribbons without breaking.
Pipe the macarons in small circles on parchment paper, holding the nozzle fairly close to the surface so you can push the batter into a neater circle, or just blob it in the center so that it smooths itself out. Whichever’s easier. Blobbing means that it’s harder to get uniform size, but you usually get a better shape, and vice versa with piping the circles yourself. Once piped, lift and tap the baking tray firmly once or twice so any larger air bubbles pop, otherwise your macarons will puff. Pop any bubbles you see on the surface with a toothpick so you have a smoother finish.
Preheat oven to 285F. Let the tray sit somewhere dry for 30-60 minutes until the batter has formed a skin, so that when you touch the surface, none of the batter transfers to your finger. Bake the macarons for 15 minutes. After that, turn the oven off and let the cookies continue to dry out in the oven for about a half hour or so, watching them to make sure they don’t brown. After that, cool them thoroughly before removing them from your pan. If they’re still sticking, which I have a problem with more often than not, stick them back in the oven for a few minutes to dry them out more. The point of the oven isn’t so much to bake the cookies as it is to dry them out at low heat, and the zest from the lemon adds moisture that needs more time to dry out.
For the lemon curd:
- 4 egg yolks (you’ll need an extra if you saved the ones leftover from the cookies)
- 1/3 – 2/3 cup granulated sugar, depending on how sweet you like your curd
- Zest and juice of 3 lemons
- Pinch of salt
- 6 tablespoons of room temp, unsalted butter
Use a double boiler, or place a glass bowl over a saucepan with a couple of inches of simmering (not boiling!) water. Add sugar to the bowl first, followed by the egg yolks to protect them from the direct heat of the bowl, and mix until well combined before adding the juice. Remember kids, sugar prevents premature coagulation (lol) and mixing it with yolks before adding the juice results in a smoother curd. Add the juice and whisk together, and then stir continuously for 10 minutes until the curd starts to thicken up. If it’s not thickening, turn up the heat a bit, but not too high, and make sure that you keep stirring so the eggs don’t scramble. The curd should coat the back of a spoon.
Once that’s done, take the curd off of the heat and add the butter, stirring until it’s dissolved. Cover the curd with clingwrap that touches the surface so that the curd doesn’t form a skin, then chill in the fridge. It’ll thicken up more as it cools, so don’t stress if it’s still somewhat runny. This will also give you more lemon curd than you need for this recipe, but I’m of the belief that lemon curd should be a staple in every household because it’s goddamned delicious and you can dip the cookies in it for EXTRA LEMONY GREATNESS.
For the cheesecake filling:
- 8 oz room temp cream cheese
- 2 tablespoons of milk
- 1 cup confectioner’s sugar, plus whatever you need to make it pipeable
Combine all three ingredients in a bowl with a mixer on low until the sugar is dissolved, then beat at high speed to make it fluffy. If you need it to stiffen up, add more confectioner’s sugar a couple tablespoons at a time until you reach a pipeable consistency. Chill in the fridge to allow it to firm up.
Match up your cookies as best you can in pairs. Transfer the cheesecake filling to a piping bag with a star tip for some RAZZLE DAZZLE and pipe a circle of filling on half of the cookies. Fill in the empty space with a dollop of lemon curd, then sandwich with the other half of the cookies.
Stack and store in the fridge for at least a day before serving for EXTRA AWESOMENESS.
So I promised that the biography bit wouldn’t be at the top before the recipe because that’s annoying as hell. It’s like signing up for a class and the teacher spends the hour romanticizing her Live Laugh Love tour in Italy where she learned to fall in love with the simplicity of a margherita pizza and also a panty-dropper named Ezio who wrote Italian sonnets and built shelters for homeless kittens with his bare masculine but still tender hands. This teacher is also just supposed to be teaching you business math, but the deposit on the class is non-refundable.
The story behind these macarons is that I like lemon-flavored dessert. I learned how to make macarons because my best friend is a lot fancier than I am and she asked me to do so one day, so I did. I started off with strawberry cheesecake ones because aforementioned bestie hates lemon-flavored dessert, but it’s basically her only flaw, so she gets away with it. They did not turn out great, but they didn’t suck, and that basically cemented the notion that I was no longer a terrible baker (she and I can tell you some stories. Well, no, I’d rather not because they’re terrible). Then my oldest niece got super into macarons thanks to that little adventure, so I had to get better at them. I’m not a great macaron baker by any stretch of the imagination – my chocolate ones need work because they always end up too soft, and my pistachio ones need better decorating. But the lemon ones were the first ones I made that turned out successfully, so I’m pretty proud of this recipe. I’ll tweak it in the future as I learn more about the not-so-subtle art of macaroning, but for now, if you try these, let me know if you have feedback or suggestions for improvement.
Lemon-flavored dessert is awesome, Hava.