Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Macarons—Peppermint with Chocolate Ganache Filling

I finally gave them a try—macarons.

I would venture to guess that 99.9% of Utahns have never heard of these cookies, and I only learned of them about a year ago when I discovered a fun food blog, Not So Humble Pie. After long experimenting and perfecting, Ms. Humble has written multiple blog entries about macarons with amazing sounding recipes and photographs. I think it was her exhaustive troubleshooting post that made me most apprehensive about attempting to make the cookies. If so many things could possibly go wrong, they must be difficult, right?

I then discovered that macarons have been the trendy thing among food bloggers for a while now. When I googled "macaron recipe," it came up with 75 pages. So many different colors and flavor combinations, so many wonderful photographs, so many detailed descriptions of these little confectionery delights—I knew I must try one for myself.

I began my hunt. And, it wasn't easy. Utah tends to usually be a few years behind when it comes to trends. I first looked in all the grocery stores. Nothing. I moved on to the bakeries. Nada. I even went to a French bakery. Absolument rien. Finally after six months, I found a box of macarons at Trader Joes while on vacation in California. And even though some of the shells were cracked, the family and I thought they were pretty darn fantastic.

The ideal macaron is perfectly round. The shells are characterized by smooth, domed tops with ruffled bottoms. This bottoms are called the feet, but I find that kind of gross because it reminds me of dissecting a clam in junior high biology. The shells should have an egg shell-like crust with a moist and airy interior. They should practically melt in your mouth. Macarons are commonly filled with a frosting, ganache, or jam filling which is sandwiched between two shells. The Mecca of Macarons seems to be the Pierre Herme bakery in Paris. Someday, I hope to check it out.

So, for this first attempt at making macarons, I decided to go with the easiest looking recipe I could find. I decided to set my expectations very low. I would consider the venture a success if my cookies turned out somewhat round, and it would be OK if they didn't have the all-important feet ruffles. As I searched through recipes, I immediately threw out anything metric. Not only am I a mathematically challenged American, I do not own a kitchen scale. I decided I'd invest in a scale, if this first attempt was marginally successful.

Since it's the Christmas season, I decided to go with a recipe from Gourmet or Gourmand for peppermint macarons with chocolate ganache filling. I modified it slightly after reading tips from Ms. Humble and others.

And the result? Total perfection! I don't have a clue how I did it, but I've got pictures to prove it. The kids absolutely love them. We could have easily devoured all of them. However, I managed to box up some for coworkers, who also gave them rave reviews. These may even surpass sour cream cookies as my all-time favorite cookie. I'm now excited to try more.

I think I'll even add a kitchen scale to my Christmas wish list. Actually, it's probably too late for that; I'll just go buy one at an after-Christmas sale.


I'm nervous about one thing. Was this beginners luck?

Not bad for my first try. I'd be willing to put them up against Pierre's.
Perfectly smooth, domed shells. And feet!

Christmas Macarons—Peppermint with Chocolate Ganache Filling
adapted from Gourmet or Gourmand


  • ¼ water
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • Food coloring
  • ½ cup egg whites at room temperature, divided
  • 3 Tbsps. sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup almond flour (Locally, I found this at Good Earth and Harmons.)
  • 2 tsps. peppermint flavoring
Preheat oven to 320°, and use an oven thermometer to make sure the temperature is exact.

Bring ¼ cup water, ¾ cup sugar, and food coloring to a boil in a small pan. Once the sugar syrup reaches 170° on a candy thermometer, begin to whip ¼ cup of the egg whites in a stand mixer. Once the eggs begin to froth, slowly add 3 Tbsps. sugar. Continue to beat until soft peaks form. This should be enough time for the sugar syrup to reach 230°. At this point, very slowly add the syrup to the eggs while continuing to beat on low. After syrup is added, whip the mixture on high for 10-15 minutes. They should be fluffy and cool.

While the eggs are whipping, place almond flour in a food processor and blend to create a finer texture. Add in 1 ¼ cups powdered sugar, ¼ cup egg whites, and 2 tsps. peppermint flavoring. Blend until well combined. Fold this mixture gently into the meringue mixture.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a ¼-in. up with the mixture. Pipe 1 ½ to 2-in. circles onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or Silpat. Bang on counter to get out bubbles. Let rest for about 15 minutes. Bake for 12 minutes.


  • 4-oz. chocolate
  • ½ cup cream
  • 2 Tbsps. corn syrup
  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Chop chocolate into small pieces. Heat cream and corn syrup to a simmer. (I do this in a microwave.) Add butter and chocolate. Stir until chocolate is melted and incorporated. Let cool. To speed this process up, I put it in the refrigerator (or freezer) and stir every so often until it gets to a frosting texture. I then like to whip it up with beaters and fill a piping bag. Take two cookies that are equal in size and fill.

Place cookies in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. If you can wait, save the cookies at least 24 hours before serving; they get even better.


  1. WOW! They look just perfect! I'm impressed that you made them, but I'm not quite as surprised that they turned out. There is a whole lot of baking talent at your house. Enjoy!

  2. THEY ARE AMAZING! Well done.

    I can't believe you finally did it.

  3. What? Are you sure that's not just a stack of McDonald's cheeseburgers?

  4. Great info. Happy new year to you and your readers! Fingers crossed for a prosperous 2011!

  5. Thanks for the laugh (I read the green recipe first). We love you guys and your culinary adventures!

  6. I have never had a macaron, even when we were in Paris two years ago. What a shame that I didn't learn about those delectable cookies until after our trip. I haven't tried making them either but maybe now that I've seen your inspirational try of success and failure, I'm willing to try.
    By the way, next time when you are in Vegas, stop by at the Venetian Hotel, and inside the hotel there is a little bakery called Bouchon that sells macarons.
    Next time when we are there, I'll bring you a box. Next time when you are there, bring me a box. Deal? Deal.


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