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!
Apricot Macarons with Mascarpone Filling
for the macaron shells
- 90 g almond meal or almond flour
- 175 g powdered sugar
- 45 g granulated sugar
- 3 egg whites
- 1 drop of red food dye powder is better, or powdered dye
- gold sprinkles optional
for the mascarpone filling
- 1/2 c unsalted butter room temperature
- 4 oz mascarpone cheese
- 1/3 c powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 tbsp apricot preserves
Begin by adding your almond meal and powdered sugar to a food processor. Pulse for 10 to 15 seconds, until the two are combined well. Pour the mixture through a flour sifter to break up any clumps and catch any unwanted scraps from the almond meal; set aside.
In a large stainless steel bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk your egg whites on high speed until they lose their yellow tint and become extremely frothy.
Gradually add the granulated sugar in and continue mixing on high speed. Once the egg whites have obtained soft peaks (meaning when you lift the whisk in the air, the egg whites tips easily curl downward), add in the drop of dye if using liquid dye. Continue whisking until the egg whites have obtained stiff peaks. You want to keep checking on the egg whites during this entire process so that you don’t overmix them. They should still have a slightly glossy appearance, but they should look much stiffer than they did at the soft peak stage; only the very, very tips of the egg whites should slightly curl. You should also be able to hold the bowl at a slight angle and not having any of the egg whites moving around.
Now, add 1/3 of the dry ingredients into the egg whites. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the dry ingredients into the egg whites. This will help loosen up the batter. Again repeat with another 1/3 of the dry ingredients, gently folding them in.
Now, add the remaining dry ingredients and very, very delicately fold them into the batter. You want to end up with batter than falls off your spatula slowly and evenly, dropping into the bowl in a ribbon-like manner. If it’s falling way off way too slowly in clumps, continuing folding a few more times and check again.
Line a baking sheet with a macaron-stenciled silicone mat, or a piece of parchment paper. Place a large pastry bag fitted with a plain tip into a large, tall glass. Then, fill the pastry bag with your macaron batter. The batter will probably be oozing out of the tip so just work quickly to transfer the bag from the glass to your baking sheet. Pipe 1 inch wide blots of batter; after 15 seconds, the batter should smooth out and become closer to 1 1/2 inch wide rounds. Space the macarons about 3/4” apart. If you’re using a macaron-specific mat, then simply fill in the stenciled circles just until you’ve almost filled the entire circle, leaving room for them to even out.
Give the baking mat a gentle tap or two to pop any air bubbles. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Then, let the macarons rest on the mat for about 15 minutes or so, until they’ve slightly dried in appearance. Then, very gently drop a tiny pinch of gold sprinkles in the center of half of the macaron shells. Let the macarons rest for another 5 minutes, then place in the oven to bake at 325°F for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven to 285°F and continue baking for another 7 minutes.
Let the macarons cool on the sheet. While the macarons cool, create your filling. Beat the butter and mascarpone on medium speed until they’re combined and creamy. Add in the powdered sugar and apricot preserves and mix until combined.
Once the macarons are cool, fill a ziplock bag or pastry bag with the filling. Make a small cut on one of the tips of the ziplock bag (if using), and pipe the filling onto the bottoms of the macaron shells that don’t have sprinkles. Take a macaron shell (with sprinkles) that matches in size and gently press down onto the filling to create a sandwich. Place in airtight container and refrigerate overnight for best results.