Pistachio Macarons with Lemon Curd

by angelika on December 5, 2010

The French Macaron is, without a doubt, my very favorite treat on the planet. I have only been to Paris a few times, but each time I have flocked back to Laduree as if I were a homing pigeon, programmed on some deep and unavoidable culinary bliss expedition.

My father was in Paris a few years ago over my birthday, and being the wonderful father he is, he answered my heartfelt plea for authentic Macarons. What this meant was, he went to Laduree the day his flight left, spent an ungodly amount of money on a box of assorted Macarons (after the euro conversion), had the flight attendant keep the cookies on ice while he hopped over the pond, then he overnighted them to me in California. This with a note saying that once I got them I would have only 24 hours to enjoy, as they are good for 72 hours. Um…not a problem. Embarrassingly, I barely shared.

After the withdrawal set in, I set about to figure out how to make these decadent little treats myself. I won’t lie to you, there was a learning curve. The ingredient list is deceptively simple, yet I had batch after batch crack, and then I was faced with the dreaded disaster of no foot! There were many tears, and these Macaron became something that I just had to conquer, as if my very essence depended on it. There was one day I actually gave myself blisters from trying to macaronage just right in batch after batch.

Eventually I got the feel for it, and then something magical happened; they became incredibly fast and easy! They take almost no time to whip up, I can enjoy them at my whim, and bring them to celebrations as a decadent, and perhaps a little glory provoking, contribution. Now understand, I am a beginning baker, my “talents” lend themselves more towards cooking, so I think someone who is a more experienced baker would find their way through the learning curve a bit faster than I.

Pistachio Macaron with Lemon Curd

3 large eggs, left out overnight 
5 TBS granulated sugar
1/3 cup pistachios, ground
2/3 cup almond flour
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 375º.
In a food processor grind 1/3 cup pistachio into a powder. Then add to the pistachio powder the almond flour and the powdered sugar. Process for a minute or so to combine. 
Many recipes call for you to sift the nut and sugar mixture, I found it to be of no benefit. Next you want to separate your eggs. You need to leave the eggs out overnight at least, to age them. Many recipes want you to separate them and leave the whites out alone, but I didn’t think this made a difference and it ruined the yoke, which we use for the lemon curd. 
The consistency of the whipped eggs is the first curve you must master on your road to Macarons. You want to whip them starting slow and gradually increasing to fast. I work my way from 2 to 8 on my mixer in a minute or so. When the egg whites start to foam add the granulated sugar, one TBS at a time. 
Keep whipping until stiff peaks form. You want them very stiff. One recipe I saw referred to them as bird beak peaks. I think this is a good analogy. It takes about 6-8 minutes on my mixer. 

almost done, mine went about a minute more

this is what it looks like done, the ball is what I shook out of the whisk attachment

When the egg whites are nice and stiff you dump in the nut and sugar mixture. I found no benefit to working in batches. I just dump the whole bowl in and start folding. Usually one is recommended to fold gently when incorporating egg whites, with the Macarons I found that being a little less than gentle was preferred. I fold a bit vigorously to get the powder incorporated into the egg whites. 

starting 
powder combined completely

adding in my food coloring

If you want to add a food coloring, I have found this to be the best time. Just as the powder and the eggs have combined, but before you start to macaronage. This seems to me, to incorporate the color well just as the mixture reaches the desired consistency. 
You want to continue to fold the batter and as you fold it, you spread it out against the side of the bowl. So take your silicone spatula, and run it down the center of the batter, flip the left half over, then smear the whole thing once against the side of the bowl. So think of starting at 12 o’clock and smearing until about 9 o’clock. Shift the bowl 90º. Then you divide down the center again and fold over the left half, then smear again.  Clear as mud? This is the part that you just have to get the feel for, and this is also the part that makes all the difference. Getting this right, will insure your success. It actually isn’t so much how well you macaronage, but how well you recognize when it is ready. 
The batter is ready when it folds and runs back on itself, while still keeping a shape. Basically, you are going to pipe the batter out next, and if you have not worked it enough, it will stand too firm and you get little nipples in the center of your cookie. If you work it too much, the batter will spread out like a pancake and then it won’t rise right, and you won’t get the foot, or pied, which is the archetypal marker of a Macaron. Best to go with underworked than overworked if you are not sure. You can’t go back once it is too much. You can underwork it, and then try to pipe the cookies, and if they don’t spread enough you can always put the batter back in the bowl to work a little more. 
I find the easiest way to fill a piping bag is to twist the bottom, and then stand the bag in a pint glass and fold the top over. Then you just fill it up and clip, and it is standing neatly awaiting further instructions.
I have an Ateco piping bag kit, and I use it with no tip attached to it. The opening is  0.5″ with no attachment, it’s just the plastic coupler that the tip is supposed to fit in to. This works perfectly for me. You can use any tip you like so long as it is a simple circle, no decorative tips. 

Pipe the batter in small round on a parchment lined baking sheet. The best kind of cookie sheet to use it the kind with air in the middle. This prevents the cookies from getting too hot too fast, which can lead to cracking. If you don’t have this kind of sheet, stack two sheet pans together instead. This will offer insulation. Some recipes ask you to draw circles with a pencil and pipe into the lines to ensure uniform cookies. I don’t see the point. Just try to make them look the same, in the end you just match two that are the same size together. 
The best way to pipe is straight down, not swirled. Meaning you hold the piping bag about an inch from the sheet, and then pipe for a about two seconds sort of flooding the area, then you stop squeezing and pull straight up. If you have the right batter consistency you will have a small nipple in the center, that will gradually spread out as it settles. By the time you get to the end of the cookie sheet the first rows should look perfect. If you have overworked the batter they run thin and run together. If it is underworked, the nipple does not disappear. At this point, you can return the batter to the bowl and give it a few more turns. 

this batch had pistachios sprinkled on top

One of the most important steps it to rap the sheet on the counter 6 times. This gets rid of the air bubbles. There are conflicting opinions as to whether you should let the Macarons sit at this point to dry out. I have found there to be no difference. I usually pipe 3 cookie sheets from my batter. The second two sit out while the first sheet goes straight in. I have not seen any difference between them. The theory is you leave it out for 20 minutes and the outer layer develops a film which helps contain the cookie while it rises, giving you the foot (pied) without cracking. For me, cracking was always a result of the cookies getting too hot too fast 
Now comes cooking. This is another step you must feel. A lot will depend on your oven as well. For me, I preheat the oven to 375º. I place the tray in the center of the oven. At 8 minutes I open the oven letting out the air. Then I set the timer for an additional 3-5 minutes. If I am using the air cookie sheet it they are done at 11 minutes. If I am using two sheet pans together they take 13. They always rise between 6-8 minutes. This is when you can see the foot, the little ruffled layer at the bottom. At this point I open the oven, the cool blast of air helps them cool a touch so they don’t crack. Then you just finish them up until they are just set. If they start to brown they are overcooked. 
I taught a Macaron class for my Moms group recently, and the kitchen I was working in, 375º burned the cookies. For her oven 325º was the right temp. Now, my oven absolutely runs cool. It is on my list to buy a thermometer for inside the oven. If you seem to always complete recipes in the time alloted, start with 325º. Martha Stewart has a Macaron recipe where she suggests preheating the oven to 375º and then turning it down to 325º when you put the cookies in. You can try this as well. Just know you might have to try a few batches to see which works for you. 

Let the cookies cool for about 10 minutes on the sheet pan, then transfer them to a cooling rack. If you have trouble getting them loose from the parchment, you can spray a little water between the parchment and the cookie sheet. The steam will help release the cookies. 
You call fill your Macarons with any number of fillings. Jam is the simplest, and sometimes just the perfect thing. I find chocolate ganache to be divine in many of the cookies. Vanilla and strawberry especially. For the Pistachio Macarons I love lemon curd. I was late to the lemon curd party, and boy was I missing out. This is one of my new favorite little decadent treasures. So sweet, and creamy, and just the slightest bit tart. No calories spared, to be sure, but worth every last pound you might be left with. This is a Martha Stewart Recipe. 
Lemon Curd

3 egg yolks
zest of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup lemon juice
6 TBS sugar
4 TBS unsalted butter, cubed and cold
Combine egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Whisk to combine. 

Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon. 

Remove from heat, and add the cubes of butter, a few at a time,  stirring constantly, until the butter is melted and combined. 

Transfer to a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap making sure the wrap is touching all surfaces of the lemon curd. This prevents a film from developing. Refrigerate until cool, at least an hour. You can store lemon curd in an airtight container for up to 2 days. 

Match macarons together that are the same size. Spread with the lemon curd and sandwich them together. 

Now I am going to ask you to do something that will be incredibly difficult. Tortuous even. Believe you me, if there were another way, I would have found it. The best Macarons need to rest, filled, in the refrigerator overnight. I’m so sorry. I know that after I made it to the end of this process all I wanted was to eat the fruits of my labors. I felt I had earned it, I mean- there were blisters! The thing is, the resting period allows the moisture content to distribute, as well as the flavors. It is after this cooling off period that you can finally achieve the perfect bite to your Macaron. You want them to be slightly crisp on the outside, and soft and chewy in the center. If you eat them right away the cookie is often just a touch too crisp, and the filling has not had a chance to mingle with it’s new partner. So wait, and then tomorrow, take them out of the fridge about an hour before you want to eat them. You won’t be sorry. I promise.

A votre santé!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous December 6, 2010 at 6:17 pm

You put such time, attention and detail in your posts — thank you!

Of all the food blogs I read, yours is at the top of my favorites list!

Donna A.

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plantfoodfabulous.com December 20, 2010 at 2:59 am

Thank you so very much! <3

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Colleen March 16, 2013 at 10:53 pm

Just made these for St. Patrick’s day! Very foolproof and low maintenance recipe compared to others I’ve tried, where you have to weigh everything out in grams, etc. I sprinkled the tops with green sugar after piping them. Gave them a little extra crunch. Thank you for the recipe!

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angelika March 20, 2013 at 1:58 am

I’m so glad they turned out well for you! Great idea about the green sugar too, I’m going to try that. :)

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