Making homemade French macarons is not as hard as you might think! I tried to make these a few years ago without much success. I hadn't realized at the time that the secret to a perfect, delicate macaron is using only the finest, most perfectly ground almonds and sugar. This year, when invited to a holiday cookie exchange, I figured was the perfect chance to try a challenging recipe. I couldn't decide between a standard flavor, or a more exotic flavor combination, so I decided to make two: chocolate macarons with bittersweet chocolate ganache, and cardamom macarons with white chocolate orange blossom ganache. I searched the internet for some good recipes, and started out by preparing the dry ingredients in advance. My local health food store sells almond meal made by Bob's Red Mill. It's a bit pricey, but adds some wonderful flavor to baked goods. I didn't think the meal was fine enough for macarons on its own, so I put it through a food processor with powdered sugar, and then sifted the mixture. I was able to prepare the dry ingredients a few days in advance, then put them in a ziplock bag to bring with me to Chicago for the holidays.
Once home, making the macarons was actually quite simple: beat egg whites and sugar til stiff, fold in dry ingredients, pipe small rounds, bake 12 minutes, make ganache and sandwich cookies. Not bad at all!
For the double chocolate macaron batter I followed the recipe from David Lebovitz's blog. Then used the ganache recipe from Serious Eats. Please note, you don't need very much ganache at all--I went overboard then cursed myself for wasting so much perfectly good chocolate! As you can see above, the chocolate macarons came out beautifully--check out their perfect feet! They were light, chewy, the perfect shape, and everyone was impressed.
For my signature cardamom and orange blossom macarons, I altered the same recipes with inspiration from Foodbeam's Rose Macarons and La Tartine Gourmand's Cardamom Macarons. Unfortunately, I think I was a bit too experimental, and would have benefited from following a tested recipe. The cardamom meringue didn't bake properly--the shells were empty, and the foot was too thick, browned, and sugary. They had a nice flavor, but just weren't quite right. I'd really love to perfect this recipe--and try out other macaron recipes--these are just such a special treat, and completely worth a little extra effort.