To be honest, I didn’t really care for macarons the first time I tried them. I can’t even remember where or when it was, but I just remember that the macaron was dry, hard, and tasted bland. So when I went to Paris for the first time, getting a macaron wasn’t the first thing on my to-do list. Actually, it wasn’t even on the to-do list. Yes, I wanted to visit the famous Ladurée pastry shop, but more for the cream puffs and tarts than the macarons. So, I passed on eating macarons for a long time. Until one day, when I was living in New York, my roommate came back from the Ladurée shop that had just opened up in the Upper East Side, bearing a caramel macaron that she had bought for me. I kindly accepted and thought, what the heck, might as well try it. Suddenly, I understood what the entire craze over macarons had been. This macaron was chewy, light, and filled with delicious caramel flavor. It had that inexplicable macaron texture; you know, the one where you bite into the cookie and it sort of sticks to your teeth because it’s so chewy.
After that experience, I tried macarons from all sorts of shops in both the U.S. and Paris, and what I learned is that, while macarons are incredibly popular, not all macarons are created equal. I guess I was somewhat in the right by being turned off by them because, to be fair, which macaron you try can make a big difference in what your first impression of them may be. Macarons are also incredibly expensive here in the States (and in some Paris shops too). The most foolproof way of enjoying a macaron, keeping both taste and cost in mind, is to make them yourself. Making macarons can be a daunting task, especially because it requires exact precision in weighing your ingredients and the actual technique used. As a pastry instructor, it’s one of my favorite classes to teach because it’s such a visual process. Photographing, and evening videotaping, the process never quite demonstrates the exact stiffness of the egg whites or the velvety, ribbon-like flow of the batter the way teaching it in person does. Macaronage, or the act of mixing the dry ingredients with the egg whites, is such a delicate act and is done by feeling and eyeing the batter. Over mix the batter, and you’ll get pancake macarons that may never grow their “feet” (the ruffled edges on the bottom of the shells), and under mix the batter, and your macarons may never even themselves out into the flat, smooth looking shells they’re known to be.
These macarons are made with a basic macaron recipe, which can be tweaked to reflect whatever color you desire your macarons to be. I added a small drop of red dye to give them a slightly pinkish/peach appearance, as I wanted them to match their apricot mascarpone filling. Classic macaron fillings tends to be some kind of jam, ganache, or buttercream. I wanted to make the filling a little bit more decadent by adding some mascarpone cheese to my apricot buttercream mixture. The cheese gives an extra creaminess to the filling, subduing the overt sweetness that can sometimes arise with a buttercream filling. They also say that macarons are better after they’ve been refrigerated for a day, which is entirely true. It makes the macarons chewier, and in this case, it also made the filling that much more creamy. You normally might bite into a macaron and feel the chewy texture of the shells and taste the slightest hint of buttercream as it quickly dissolves in your mouth. With these mascarpone filled macarons, the taste of the filling is preserved in your mouth just a second or two longer as the creaminess of the cheese is slower to dissolve than simple buttercream. The apricot preserves also add a slight fruity essence to the filling, adding depth of flavor to the sugar-based cookie. I tried to be as detailed in the recipe notes as I could to help you create your macarons at home, but if you have any questions, please feel free to ask below or send me an email. You can also always join one of my classes if you’re ever in my area!