Is there anything better than a macaron? They are so pretty and feel so extravagant and fancy to me. I absolutely love them as a treat for myself or as a homemade gift.
If you are also a macaron fan, you know they can be fairly pricey to buy. They run about $2.00 each in my area and I often like to give a box as a gift, which can really add up.
So this summer I set out to teach myself to make my own darn macarons at home. My favorite so far, are these darling little watermelon macarons. They are fun and unique and perfect for gifts or parties. A box of these would be perfect for hostess gifts this holiday season!
I do want to warn you that macarons can be tricky. The recipe itself is not hard but there are so many things that can go wrong if you aren’t fairly precise. If you have never made macarons before, you might give yourself the room to make 1 or 2 batches for your own family before attempting a batch as a gift. I actually made about 6 batches before I was happy and mine still are not perfect. I had a few issues- cracking tops, no feet on the cookie, color I wasn’t happy with, cookies that spread too much, one overcooked batch…. fortunately the cookies still are pretty tasty so my kids have been indulging in macarons all summer quite happily.
I tried several recipes and this is the one I liked best courtesy of Hisako Ogita from I Love Macarons– with a few small adaptations of my own. You can substitute your own favorite recipe if you like and just follow the instructions for the buttercream and flavoring and adapt the colors.
- ⅔ cup almond flour
- 1½ cups powdered sugar
- 3 large egg whites at room temperature
- 5 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Buttercream filling:
- 1½ cups unsalted butter
- 4 oz cream cheese, cubed
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon watermelon flavoring
- Optional- black decorating gel for seeds
- Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper and prepare a piping bag by adding a large, circle pastry tip and set aside.
- Sift powdered sugar and almond flour together in a large bowl and set aside. You should have a very fine powder with no lumps.
- Next add the room temperature egg whites and the sugar to stand mixer with a whisk attachment and mix on the 4 setting for 3 minutes. I use a timer app on my phone to actually time the whisking.
- Increase the speed to a 7 setting and whisk an additional 3 minutes.
- Increase the speed one more time to 8 and whisk 3 more minutes. Your whites should be very thick and fluffy.
- Add vanilla and food coloring to the mixture and whisk for one more minute on a 10 setting.
- Add the almond flour mixture to your egg whites and use a spatula to incorporate everything into a nice smooth merengue. I find about 35 stirs with a spatula is about right. You don't want to overmix.
- Add the mixture into a piping bag fitted with round tip and pipe 1 inch circles on your parchment paper.
- Bang the cookie sheet on the counter to remove any air bubbles.
- Preheat oven to 280 degrees and set cookies aside for 20 minutes.
- The top of the cookie should be slightly sticky to the touch after 20 minutes- this prevents them from cracking in the oven.
- Bake for 12 minutes, remove from oven and let cool.
- To prepare the filling:
- Mix buttercream and cream cheese in a stand mixer until smooth and creamy.
- Add confectioner's sugar ½ cup at a time until it hits the consistency you like. I use about 3 cups.
- Add 1 teaspoon of watermelon flavoring and mix well.
- Pour into a piping bag fitted with a round tip.
- Pipe a generous dab onto one cooled cookie and sandwich with a second cookie.
- To add the seeds as I did, simply pipe a tiny bit of black decorating gel on top of the pink cookie. Do this just before serving.
- Store in sealed container in the fridge.
Now you have your macaroons so it is time to fill them. You can use all sorts of fillings- jam, curds, ganache or I like a simple buttercream frosting.
Here is the one I used for these macarons. Please note above I did not add any flavoring (except a bit of vanilla) to the cookie recipe. The watermelon flavoring I am using in this recipe is very strong in flavor so only a little is needed. I felt just a tiny bit in the frosting was more than enough watermelon flavor.
One last little note- if you want to make the pink and green macarons I have made- I actually made two batches of cookies. I did try and half the recipe and tried to divide the merengue to make two colors from one batch and found the cookies just didn’t turn out well. I finally just did one batch of green and a second batch of pink. Here is the final product:
Here are some step by step photos that should (hopefully) help:
Almost every macaron recipe calls for aging the egg whites. I have had success just bringing the eggs to room temp but to properly age them, you want to separate the whites and place in a bowl on a cool area of your kitchen counter for 2-3 days.
You need almond flour– you can make this yourself using almonds (find a tutorial on this here.) I found it easier to just buy almond flour. I did learn that almond flour is sold as blanched (it will be a fine, soft buttery yellow color- pictured above) or unblanched. Either works fine and apparently there are some nutrients and such in almond skin so unblanched might be a better choice nutritionally but you will get speckles of color in your macaroon. I didn’t like the speckles for my watermelon macarons but they would look fine in flavors like chocolate or vanilla. Also you will get a bit of sticker shock when you buy almond flour. It runs about $10 a bag. Keep in mind though that you can make a ton of macarons with that flour so it is still far less expensive to make your own instead of buying them. That $10 investment would net me a whopping 5 cookies at a bakery.
If your final macarons have a bumpy texture after baking that typically means you didn’t sift the flour finely enough.
Your egg whites need to be very firm. Using the speeds listed in the recipe helped me quite a bit to get the right consistency.
A little food coloring goes a long way. Also the food coloring does make a difference. I recommend using a gel food color not a liquid food color (like the products you use to dye Easter eggs.) The liquid coloring might alter the consistency of your merengue and make a cracked, cookie pancake.
The final mixture you place in a bag to pipe should be “lava-like” in consistency. If it pours easily out of the bag, your whites aren’t stiff enough and the cookies won’t turn out.
Try for 1 inch circles of cookies. If you struggle to get a consistent size, you can take a soda liter cap or a quarter and draw circles on the backside of your parchment paper to use as a template for your cookies.
I do think it is important to let the uncooked mixture stand for 20 minutes or so. This is the exact same batch of macaron merengue:
The one on the left was left to sit for about 20 minutes until slightly tacky to the touch. The one on the right was placed immediately into the oven.
One last little tip. I have found the macarons prefer cool temperatures. Humidity is going to create issues for you with these grouchy little guys. We live in a dry climate but it gets quite hot and when I make macarons on a hot day, they have not turned out well. I try to crank up the AC before baking and have had much prettier results.
Here is what I used for this recipe:
And here are a few other watermelon projects you might enjoy:
Please come back and let me know if you decide to make these guys!