I had the great pleasure of taking a Macaroon Workshop from Mark Ramsdell, former White House pastry chef, at L'Academie de Cuisine. We made coconut macaroons and almond macaroons which were deceptively easy and totally delicious. My ulterior motive for taking the class was to learn the secret behind making a great French macaron.
Macaron, the little hamburgeresque cookies with their tremendous cost to weight ratio, are a Lee family favorite. I had attempted making them once before with fair to middling results--at least appearance-wise. After Chef Ramsdell revealed a couple of tricks I realized how simple these elegant cookies could be. Firstly, beat the daylights out of your egg whites--when you lift the whisk the egg white should be "inside the whisk". Then, after folding in your almond/sugar mixture you will have to beat the air out of the mixture. The mixture should not hold a peak when piping:
After you have piped out your cookies, tap the bottom of the sheet several times to flatten out any peaks that may have formed. The cookies then need to rest at room temperature for ~60 minutes. This rest period allows the top to form that shiny/crisp crust. If your oven temperature is too hot or your mixture too stiff, cracks may plague your macaron.
Make sure they are completely cool before you remove them from the sheet. I filled half with mango butter and the other half with Nutella. Sophie and I agreed that the next time I will sprinkle a few sesame seeds on top prior to baking to enhance the hamburger trompe l'oeil.