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Video: Put some sugar on it! Macarons, the new sweet

  1. Closed captioning of: Put some sugar on it! Macarons, the new sweet

    >> step guide to making parisian macaroons. this jewel of a cookie is the new cupcake. gesine bullock prado joins us. good morning.

    >> good morning.

    >> let's settle the controversy. there are macaroons and macarones. what's the difference?

    >> a macaroon has coconut and a macarone has almond flour instead.

    >> fancy.

    >> this is a complicated recipe.

    >> yes.

    >> i know the first key is hot sugar water .

    >> it is sugar and water. i add a little bit of lemon juice to make sure it doesn't crystallize. we make sure our eggs are light and fluffy. then you pour the sugar in carefully because it will splatter. turn it down just a little bit and pour the sugar down the sides of the bowl or you will get scrambled eggs .

    >> okay. then keep adding the rest of the sugar.

    >> okay. how long do you let it go?

    >> until it gets to this.

    >> okay.

    >> you want it light and fluffy.

    >> this is what the french call bird's beak.

    >> [ speaking french ]

    >> you're showing me up today.

    >> you don't want it to stiff that it stands on its own. you want a little give. everything should have a little give. you want it like that. bird's beak doesn't go straight, it bends a little .

    >> next is what?

    >> we have almond flour, confectioner's sugar and powdered egg white . to this we add a quarter cup of water, first.

    >> this is to continue with the shell.

    >> this is all the shell first. you want everything as close as possible timingwise because it can dry out. you want the peaks of the egg whites to remain the same.

    >> bird beaky.

    >> you want everything perfect.

    >> and coloring. they are known for color.

    >> today we're making pink. i add exactly two drops of food coloring . i will also add a little bit of extract sometimes. you just don't want to add an extract with oil in it or you deflate all your hard work.

    >> i'm stressed out. this is a complicated recipe.

    >> it's a process, yeah. so we take half of the meringue. most bakers know that you fold egg whites into something. we are just going to smush this. technical term .

    >> you don't want to get too much air into it?

    >> this has air in it. you don't want to deflate it so much that it goes -- [ blows raspberry ] -- but we are stirring to lighten the batter and we can fold in the rest.

    >> once you have the batter you make little hearts and the traditional circle. how did you make the hearts?

    >> it's the same tip. so we'll use a large open tip. and clearly a pastry bag .

    >> even i thought that was a pastry bag .

    >> for the round, be gentle. don't press too hard or you can get a lopsided macaron. for the heart, just drag it a litt little . oh, look who's here.

    >> your sister is someone we may know. sandra bullock .

    >> she's a famous makeup artist.

    >> she is.

    >> without throwing her under the bus she's on premises. we have macaroons, macarons and sandra and i like to do the macarena.

    >> it's a sexy dance you can do while eating the macaro nrk.

    >> and the filling?

    >> this is a buttercream in " sugar baby ."

    >> we're out of time. [ "macarena" plays ]

TODAY recipes
updated 3/30/2011 6:48:17 AM ET 2011-03-30T10:48:17

Recipe: Parisian macarons


  • Italian buttercream (see recipe below)
  • Parisian macaron shells (see recipe below)

I started my career as a pastry professional years ago, peddling French macarons. I started with a mail-order business and eventually opened a little shop in Montpelier, Vermont. I made both the sandwiched, colorful Parisian and the more rustic versions of the French macaron, which isn’t sandwiched and is much more dense. In those early days, I spent as much time explaining macarons as I did making them. People would ask, “So, what’s in these besides coconut?” To which I’d respond, for the gazillionth time, that yes, this is a “macaroon,” but the French iteration — therefore, no coconut, just almonds. “Well, that’s certainly a new kind of macaroon!” To which I’d respond, with clenched teeth and hyperbole, “No, indeed. The French macaron predates the coconut version by centuries.”

These days, the macaron is all the fashion. You can’t swing a cat in any American metropolis without hitting a shop that peddles macarons. They still aren’t as ubiquitous as those damn cupcake shops (you can’t swing a mouse in any American metropolis without hitting three cupcake stands), but they certainly are the parvenu of American pastry, even though they’ve been around in France since the Stone Age and are just as delicious as ever.


Fit a pastry bag with a large, plain, open pastry tip (I use an Ateco #7 tip) and fill the pastry bag with the buttercream.

Dollop a nickel-size (15-mm) round of buttercream onto the flat side of a macaron (the part that’s been sitting on the parchment) and sandwich with the flat side of another macaron shell of similar size. (Even a seasoned pastry chef — ahem — can have trouble keeping the sizes of shells consistent so before you start assembling, I’d place like-size shells together so you can quickly burn through this process.) Gently press the shells together until the buttercream just peeks out at the pieds.

Keep filling until you’ve run out of shells. Eat immediately! Otherwise, place the filled macarons on a sheet pan and cover tightly with plastic wrap. (Don’t refrigerate them or the moisture of the fridge will make the shells soggy.)

You’ll likely have some buttercream left, which you can transfer to an airtight container and freeze. If you aren’t serving all of your macarons immediately, they can be frozen, tightly covered, for 2 weeks.

Recipe: Parisian macaron shells


  • 7 ounces almond flour or blanched almond slices
  • 7 ounces confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons egg white powder
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 7 ounces granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water, divided
  • 2 drops food coloring

Macaron shells are notoriously finicky. I bet there’s been a day when you’ve just been minding your own business — walking the dog, doing your taxes — and you’ve heard a gut-wrenching cry pierce the air. What you heard may well have been the plaintive wail of “macaron fail.” Macarons are a beautiful Parisian delicacy consisting of two meringue shells, most often (but not always) made with nuts and filled with a soupçon of sandwiched buttercream. They can also make grown bakers cry. Now I’ll let you in on a secret. Many bakeries use a powdered mix to make macarons. Yup, they cheat. Just add water, and voilà! A no-fuss macaron. To which I say, “Go straight to pastry jail, you lazy varmints!”

Instead of cheating, try my version. It’s time-tested for accuracy and minimal frustration — and it’s from scratch, not some pitiful powdered mix. It’s a little time-intensive, but that’s to be expected from such a fussy confection. Read the directions a few times before you embark.


Place the almond flour or almond slices, confectioners’ sugar, and egg white powder in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture is very fine. Sift the mixture into a large metal bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the egg whites and the salt. In the meantime, place the granulated sugar and 1/4 cup of the water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is completely melted, clip on a candy thermometer, and stop stirring.

When the sugar temperature reaches 210 degrees F, turn the mixer on high speed and begin beating the egg whites. You want them foamy before you add the sugar syrup but you do not want them stiff or chunky and dry.

Continue heating the sugar until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F. Immediately remove the sugar syrup from the heat. Lower the mixer speed to medium-low and carefully pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the egg whites as they are whipping. Make sure not to pour the syrup directly on top of the egg whites, lest they scramble!

Return the mixer speed to high and whisk until you achieve soft, white peaks — the tips of the peaks should still fall easily. (There’s a reason that the French describe meringue at this stage as holding a bec d’oiseau, or “bird’s beak,” since it should have the gentle curve of a birdie snout. It should be a soft meringue, still white and airy, not stiff, and certainly not dry.)

Just before the egg whites are finished whipping, add the remaining 1/4 cup water to the almond flour mixture from step 1 and combine to make a paste (don’t do this any earlier or the paste will harden). Transfer one-third of the egg white mixture to the almond flour paste and stir well, making sure there are no white streaks remaining. You needn’t be overly gentle during this addition — you are mainly loosening and lightening the batter, priming it for the addition of the remaining egg whites.

Add the remaining egg whites and gently fold them into the batter until there are no white streaks remaining. Now, this is important: You want a loose but not runny consistency. When you eventually start piping the batter, you’ll want it to move easily from the piping bag but it shouldn’t pour out so quickly that you can’t control it; likewise, you don’t want your petite dollops to spread into amorphous puddles, nor do you want them to stand rigid, refusing to loosen up and smooth out a little. So if you think that your batter is too stiff, continue stirring until it loosens a bit.

Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip. Pipe round, quarter-sized dollops about 1/2 inch apart on a nonstick baking mat or parchment-lined sheet pan (if your sheet pans are thin, double them up before you put the macarons in the oven — they burn quite easily on the bottom). Once every last bit is piped, let the macarons sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.

Bake the macarons for 20 minutes, rotating the tray once for even baking and to avoid browning. (If you think your oven is too hot, feel free to turn the oven down if you get a hint of browning.) Using a small offset spatula, carefully pull out a shell to test for doneness. (I usually sacrifice the shells at the edges for testing, since they can get a wee bit brown and that’s the last thing you want in a Parisian.) The bottoms of the macarons should be completely flat and crisp and the innards should not look wet or mushy.

A Note from the Sugar Baby: Macaron lore dictates that you use “aged egg whites.” What, pray tell, are aged egg whites? Are they extra pricey and kept under lock and key in the cooler with the Cristal? No. “Aged” is a euphemism for an old and stale egg white, one that’s lost its youthful moisture (lordy, do those words hit home). This means you separate your eggs a day before you bake and leave them out on your kitchen counter overnight. That’s right — unrefrigerated! Sin of unholy bacterial sins! Refrigerating the whites will throw your precious albumen into the nest with aerial moisture, which is what we want to avoid, right? So cover your egg whites with plastic wrap.

After 5 to 10 minutes of baking, you’ll notice little ruffles forming along the perimeters of the shells; in French these are called pieds, or “feet.” This is a very good thing. You also want a shell to have a nice sheen and to be perfectly smooth. You do not want it to crack, and when you bite into it, there should not be a big air bubble between the outer shell and the innards of the macaron. Bad stuff can happen due to overbeating, oven temperature issues, and humidity — this is one of those treats that’s going to test your sanity, so be gentle with yourself.

Serving Size

Makes approximately 200 Shells

Recipe: Italian meringue


  • 1 cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup water
  • 5 egg whites
  • Pinch of salt

This is the second method of making meringue; it requires you to pour hot sugar syrup into whisked egg whites. Some pastry chefs believe that Italian meringue is marginally more stable than Swiss and that it holds up better to heat. There’s no definitive proof to resolve this matter, but I tend to work with Italian meringue more often than not. Bottom line is, there are two ways and now you know them both.

All egg whites are not created equal. When I see a recipe that calls for a specific number of egg whites, I look at my bowl of fresh eggs courtesy of our backyard hens. Kiki lays dark-brown monster eggs, Bertie lays extra-large tan eggs, Moussie lays very long, large, robin’s-egg-blue eggs, and Helga’s are light-green, oblong golf balls. Moussie’s very first attempt was the size of an ostrich egg and it’s no surprise that she refused to lay another for two weeks. Four hens laying four very different-size eggs means that each egg will contain a yolk and a white that are totally different sizes and weights from the others’. Obviously, a recipe that simply calls for “five egg whites” sometimes doesn’t cut it. So I go by the baker’s weight standard for eggs: 1 egg white equals 1 ounce (30 g), and 1 yolk equals 0.6 ounce (18 g). If you find yourself with eggs in a variety of sizes, weigh them for complete accuracy.


In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Make sure that the sugar is saturated with the water and that there aren’t any dry clumps remaining before you start heating it up. Stir the water and sugar over low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved. With a damp pastry brush, wipe down the sides of the pan to prevent stray sugar crystals from forming. Turn the heat up to medium-high, clip on a candy thermometer, and heat to 240 degrees F.

Meanwhile, put the egg whites and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. When the sugar gets to 230 degrees F, start the mixer on medium-high so that the egg whites start to lighten and get foamy before you add the sugar syrup.

Once the syrup reaches temperature, carefully carry the saucepan to your work table and ratchet the speed of your mixer down to medium. With the mixer running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl. (By pouring the sugar down the side of the bowl instead of straight into the egg whites, you keep them from turning into sweet scrambled eggs. This also prevents the hot sugar from splashing onto your person. Safety first!)

Turn the mixer to high and whisk until the meringue is light and fluffy and holds a stiff peak. Transfer the meringue to a pastry bag fit with an open star tip and pipe perky peaks onto pie or ice cream.

Serving Size

Makes 2 ½ to 3 cups

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