It’s happening. I am actually posting these Strawberry Lemon Macarons ON Fork in the Kitchen’s birthday (albeit very late in the day)!
To say it has been a labor of love would be an understatement.
It’s been more like shoveling during a blizzard. You clear a path, and before you’re done, it’s covered again. Only you test a batch of macarons, thinking it’s going to turn out great. And it doesn’t.
Let me preface this by saying, I am not a macaron expert.
Not by any means (check out the articles that helped me along the way, linked below, for the real experts).
No, rather, this truly is a labor of love, determination, and a passion for learning, and growth.
So, Happy Birthday!
Can you BELIEVE it’s Fork in the Kitchen’s FOURTH birthday?! I’ve definitely referenced this little space in the world wide web as my child before. And quite frankly, it is. I am constantly thinking about it, always doing something for it, and can’t imagine life without it.
I also have no idea where the last 4 years went. Somewhat of a blur between the sleepless nights, constant love (er, recipe testing), and growth.
Now, please note, I am by no means trying to make light of motherhood. That’s a whole other ballgame and I fully realize that having a blog doesn’t even begin to compare. OK, with that out of the way… back to the macarons…
For the past 4 years – well, 3 birthdays – I’ve posted some form of cake for this special day. Naturally, who doesn’t want cake on a birthday?!
While I’m a huge fan of cake, this year felt like it needed something that was more of a challenge. Something that would push my creativity, test my skills, and make me uncomfortable.
Something that would take me to the place where growth happens.
Macarons were the answer. AND IT’S FRENCH FRIDAY!
Ok, so French Friday played a big part in it too. Fork in the Kitchen’s birthday ON French Friday?! Macarons had to happen.
Things I’ve Learned in Year 4
Much like the macaron process, year 4 has required more love, determination, and patience. And extra coffee.
Year 4 has been pivotal. It’s been full of growth. And meeting goals. And setting more, and bigger, goals. And finding confidence. And losing confidence. And gaining back confidence. And realizing that all good things take time.
And knowing that you just have to keep going, to keep growing.
Year 4 has taught me that in order to keep pushing myself and keep growing, that means having a clear focus.
It means being extra dedicated.
Like aging egg whites overnight to test macarons the next day. And getting home from teaching first grade on a Friday and baking macarons until 11:00 pm. It means never giving up.
Even when it gets really, really hard.
And above all, it means growing through reflection. All the questions: what happened? How can I improve this? What would happen if I did this?
You see, macarons can really teach us oh so much about life. Including that you need a little sweetness every now and then.
Now for the Strawberry Lemon Macarons
Enough with the metaphor? Even if you’re thinking it’s major cheese, I really believe it. And I love cheese. 🙂
First: What are macarons?
Macarons, or macaroons? Yes, there is a difference! And after years of my mom correcting me (thanks mom, I really do appreciate it now that I’m a food blogger ;), I finally got it right.
Macarons (mac-a-rhon – with a silent-ish “n”) are the delicate, dainty, and downright finicky French sandwich cookie made with almond flour, egg whites, and powdered sugar. They can have just about any flavor combination and are delectable – when done right.
Macaroons (mack-a-ROONs) however, are the coconut merengue balls. Not dainty sandwich cookies. I get that just about everyone mixes up the names, but hey, now you know!
All About These Macarons
Since it is a special day, and I am absolutely obsessed with strawberries, I had to have my first macaron recipe pop with bright, sweet strawberry flavor. And pop it does!
The cookies are made with freeze-dried strawberry powder, which adds a kick of natural color (no food coloring used here!).
Have you had freeze-dried strawberries before? I swear the flavor of the strawberry is intensified by 1,000, which means the strawberry really comes through in the cookies.
Then, of course, because it’s SPRING (finally, thank goodness!) I couldn’t resist pairing strawberry with lemon. The sweet lemon buttercream filling adds a burst of freshness.
Yes, THESE are the macarons you NEED this spring!
Tips for Making Macarons
I said it at the beginning of this post, and I’ll say it again, louder, so the people in the back can hear. I am not a macaron expert. Luckily, I found some wonderfully curated posts about macarons to help me troubleshoot my macaron woes (linked below!).
However, that being said, after you make 10+ batches of macaron cookies, you figure out a thing or two.
If you’re looking to expand your baking skills, here are a few things to keep in mind when trying your hand at macarons. Just like this whole life/blog/business/growing metaphor with macarons, you have to throw away your expectations of perfection the first go-around. TRUST ME ON THIS.
It is definitely step one. Expectations – OUT. THE. DOOR.
Onto the rest of the tips:
Watch your humidity!
When is it ever humid in Minnesota in March? Basically never. Except for the week I
want desperately need to test macarons. It decided to pour rain all day. The humidity was something ridiculous. And the macarons definitely did not turn out as expected. The dry time was so. dang. long.
Let your macarons dry before baking!
For 30 minutes to an hour, let the macarons sit on the counter (some recommend under your hood fan). They’ll develop the “shell” this way. They’re ready to bake when they’re matte looking and you can gently run your finger across the time without it sticking. Seriously!
Use an oven thermometer and kitchen scale!
The oven thermometer: macarons are super finicky with heat. I struggled to find the right temperature. A temperature where my macarons would rise, but not crack. Bake through, but not brown. You have to know YOUR oven and its hot spots.
Kitchen scale: macarons are very finicky (have I mentioned this?) and the ratio of wet to dry ingredients is key. Which is where measuring them comes into play. Trust me, invest in a cheap scale (and hey, then you can weigh out your garlic herb dinner rolls ;)).
Meringue and the Macaronage
Meringue: make sure the egg whites are whipped to a stiff peak (be patient!)
- Aging Egg Whites: Some people swear by it, others don’t. But I definitely do. Separate your eggs the night before you want to make macarons (while cold, it’s easier that way!). This gives the egg whites time to lose some moisture.
Macaronage: the process of folding the dry ingredients into the meringue. Patience. Patience. Patience. The “figure 8” test is real, and you’ll get there, just put some extra muscle into it! But gentle muscle. Keep on folding.
Tap it Out!
For whatever reason, I think my biggest struggles were between air bubbles and oven temperature. I had a lot of macarons turn out to look like crinkle cookies. You have to bang the pan on the counter several times to get those air bubbles out! I did this relentlessly.
Once in a while, I even took a toothpick for the air bubbles that just wouldn’t surface and gently “poked” them.
You need a lot of patience. Be sure to read the following sites for SUPER helpful tips and videos!
If you decide to give macarons a go, be sure to take a photo and tag me on Instagram – I love seeing recipes come to life in YOUR kitchen! Happy baking!
Get the Recipe Strawberry Lemon Macarons
- Bring egg whites to room temperature in the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment (make sure the bowl is COMPLETELY clean - no oil residue or water!). Meanwhile, combine the dry ingredients (almond flour, powdered sugar, and strawberry powder) in a food processor and pulse several times until combined. This step isn't totally necessary, but it helps even out lumps from the ingredients and makes the macarons finer. Then, sift at least once (I like to do it twice), discarding any lumps and/or seed bits from the strawberries. Set aside.
- Prepare piping bag by placing a large, round piping tip inside (I use or parchment paper. Set aside but nearby because you'll need them immediately after the batter is fully mixed!
- Once the egg whites are at room temperature, turn the mixer on medium - around setting 4. Once they are foaming (~3 minutes in), add the cream of tartar. You don't have to add it, but it helps to stabilize the meringue. Continue beating, increasing the speed to around 6. Once the moisture has left the egg whites and the whisk begins leaving "tracks", slowly add the sugar, about a tablespoon at a time. Continue beating for approximately 6-10 more minutes. You want the meringue to have stiff peaks, so if the bowl is turned upside down it doesn't move. When the beater is pulled up, it should have a straight peak, not one that falls or curves.
- Immediately after the meringue is ready, add about 1/3 of the dry ingredient mixture. Begin folding it in, pulling up from the bottom and gently folding in. This part is going to take some muscle work, as your arms will get tired from all the folding - hang in there! Once the dry ingredients are incorporated, add about 1/3 more of the remaining dry ingredients. Continue folding in until combined, and add the remaining dry ingredients. You will continue to fold the batter (and pushing some against the side as needed to release some air) until it "flows like lava". I loved using the "figure 8" test - the batter should be able to flow off of the spatula long enough for you to write a figure 8. The batter should also "melt" back into itself after about 30 seconds if you create ribbons with it. Be careful not to overmix (this does take practice!).
- Immediately place the batter in the prepared piping bag. Squeeze the batter gently into the tip of the bag, and keeping the bag completely verticle, pipe approximately 1 1/4 inch circles onto your Silpat or parchment (both of which can have templates).
- Bang the pan on your counter several times (yes, BANG it) to remove the air bubbles. Sometimes I even take a toothpick and gently pop some that just won't budge. Let the macarons dry for 30 minutes to an hour (this will vary depending on your environment!). The should have a matte appearance and you will be able to run your finger over the top without any batter sticking). Approximately 15 minutes into the dry time, turn the oven to 290°F. This may vary with your oven! You may need to adjust as you see fit once you begin baking the macarons. It will probably require some testing. I went between 290-305°F.
- Once the macarons are dry, place in the oven for 16-20 minutes (if you adjusted the temperature, this will vary, again a thermometer is super helpful as your oven is most likely NOT accurate!). The shells should not move when gently tapped. Remove and place the pan on a cooling rack.
- As the shells cool, make the buttercream filling. Cream butter for about 2 minutes until smooth using an electric mixer. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low until combined, then increase the speed to high for approximately 3 minutes until smooth. Set aside.
- Once macarons are cooled, pick up one corner of the Silpat/parchment to gently pull them away (kind of like removing a sticker). Match pairs up by size. Using the same tip, pipe a dollop of buttercream into the center of one of the pairs - you'll want to leave an "edge" so when you sandwich them together, the filling doesn't ooze out. Place the other half on top and push gently together until they are sandwiched. Continue with the remaining cookies.
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Macarons have their best flavor when stored for 24-48 hours and then brought to room temperature again.
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