Happy birthday, America! I made you some macarons. I hope you like them!
Is there any dessert more trying to a baker’s patience than the elusive French macaron? I’ve made them about 8 times in the past 3 years to varying degrees of success. This recipe comes from the always lovely Tartelette, a recipe that I’ve used a few times and decided to come back to for this 4th of July treat. I’ve tried other recipes, and while some of them have worked beautifully, others have been a sad disappointment. I find myself glued to the glass door of my oven while these little beauties are baking, holding my breath until I see the first signs of feet forming (“pieds“, if you want to be fancy, the little ruffly/bubbly edges at the bottom). The first time I made these and got feet to form, I literally jumped up and down in my kitchen, no joke.
The trouble with macs is that they can look perfectly pretty on the outside, but hold an ugly secret on the inside: Air pockets. The horror! I was dismayed to find that the majority of these cookies were plagued by hollows, which can be a sign of many things that went wrong (some of those reasons listed here) [edit: here's another site for hollow mac help]. I believe that my problem was a too-cool oven, thus not letting the meringue set up properly and fast enough, leading to fallen insides. My oven tends to run too cool so even with setting the temperature above what the recipe said, it probably wasn’t enough. They still taste good which is the most important thing, though!
Taking a cue from the delicious treats offered by Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, I filled these macaron shells not with traditional buttercream or ganache, but vanilla ice cream! They’re perfect for summertime. The thing that pushes them over the top and makes them the perfect 4th of July dessert is rolling the exposed ice cream edges in Pop Rocks candy. It’s so much fun cause they pop and crackle just like fireworks!
Adapted from tarteletteblog.com
(yields 12 cookie sandwiches)
90 grams egg whites (about 3 eggs’ worth)
30 grams granulated sugar
pinch of kosher salt
200 grams powdered sugar
100 grams almond meal (I recommend Bob’s Red Mill brand)
1 tsp vanilla extract
10 drops blue food coloring (I used AmeriColor gel in Electric Blue)
1 pint vanilla ice cream
3-5 packets strawberry Pop Rocks candy
When making macarons, a digital kitchen scale is your best friend. Accuracy in measurement is key with macarons. So, get your scales ready and let’s go! Fair warning, this recipe is a bit time-intensive!
Start out by prepping 2 sheet pans. You’ll be piping the macaron batter in small circles onto parchment, and my favorite way to do this is by using a template. Either take a piece of parchment and trace 1 1/2 – 2 inch circles on it with a Sharpie, spacing them an inch or two apart, or do the same on a silicone rubber baking mat (not a Silpat, the Sharpie will rub off). This way, you can have a reusable template and you don’t have to spend time tracing circles every time you want to bake up some macs. Yay! Lay your template on one ungreased sheet pan and place a clean piece of parchment over the top.
Preheat your oven between 275-300 degrees, depending on it’s accuracy. Begin by sifting your almond meal and powdered sugar together. Whisk the sifted almond meal and powdered sugar together to combine, and set it aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add your egg whites (I didn’t age them or let them come to room temp, they were just freshly cracked and separated whites) and a pinch of salt. With the whisk attachment, whip on speed 4 for 2 minutes. The egg whites should look foamy like soap suds. Turn the mixer speed up to 6, and gradually add the granulated sugar while the mixer is running. It took about 3 1/2 minutes for my whites and sugar to form a stiff and glossy meringue. You can tell that the meringue is ready and properly whipped when you see the whites start to pull away from the sides of the bowl and clump in the center of the whisk. If the meringue hasn’t formed a blob in the center of the whisk, keep going! You want a dry meringue that won’t slide around when you tilt the bowl.
Next, add your vanilla extract and 10 drops of your blue food coloring. You may need more or less to reach your desired shade, depending on the color you’re using. Whip again on speed 6 until the color is fully combined and there aren’t any streaks. Grab the bowl of sifted almond meal and powdered sugar and pour it all at once into the bowl of meringue.
Using a rubber spatula, fold your almond meal/powdered sugar into the meringue. It’ll look sort of wonky at first, and you’ll wonder if it will ever come together, but keep going and it will. Be sure to scrape all around the bottom of the bowl so that there are no pockets of almond meal/sugar left behind. Also be sure to scrape the top edge of the bowl if any unmixed batter gets left up there, and to scrape the spatula clean periodically to allow for a well-incorporated batter. The number of “strokes” or folds can vary, but I found that 40-42 strokes with the spatula was a good amount to give me a well-mixed batter. The consistency of the batter has been described on many blogs as “molten”, so you want to aim for a thick but somewhat fluid batter. If you take a spoon of batter and drop it back down on the rest of the batter in the bowl, it should sink and settle into itself in about 20-30 seconds. If it just sinks in immediately and disappears, you’ve probably gone a little too far. Bake ‘em anyway, cause they’ll still taste delicious! If the batter holds a peak or if it just stays put when dropped, you’ve got some more folding to do, son.
Once the macaron batter is mixed, grab a large piping bag and a round plain tip (I used an Ateco #805 tip). I also prefer disposable bags just for cleaning’s sake, cause I’m kinda lazy like that. They’re super cheap, I can find 18 inch bags for 25 cents each at my local cake supply store. Setting the piping bag into a glass makes it all kinds of simple to fill with the macaron batter. I like to use an ice cream scoop to fill the bag, I didn’t want to risk deflating my batter any further by scraping it into the bag with my spatula. Fill the piping bag about half full, twist the top closed, and you’re good to go!
Grab your sheet pan with the template and clean parchment and start piping your batter by holding the bag upright and squeezing from the top, holding the piping tip about 1/2 inch above the surface of the pan. Squeeze gently and allow the batter to come to just inside the circle that you’re piping into. The batter will settle outward a bit, so you don’t want them to get too large by over-piping. Continue in this way, piping your circles until the whole pan is filled. Holding the opposite side of the top parchment, pull the template carefully out from under the piped cookies (sort of like yanking a tablecloth off of a fully set table, haha). Next, bang the pan of piped cookies hard on the counter once or twice, to break any large air bubbles still present which could lead to cracking.
Let the pan of cookies sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes to dry the tops out slightly. When half an hour is up, put the pan into the oven on the top-most rack, and set your timer for 18 minutes. Pipe the remaining batter onto your second sheet pan using your template, and let them rest while the first pan bakes. Mine took considerably longer to bake (damn my too-cool oven), so start checking yours at 18 minutes. You want the cookies to feel somewhat firm and you don’t want the top to wobble off the foot when touched. If the cookie is still kinda wobbly or soft, let them bake for a few minutes more. Hopefully you’ll wind up with pretty domed tops and ruffly feet!
When the cookies are done and fully cooled, they should peel cleanly off the parchment without much sticking. The unfilled cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temp for a few days, if you want to assemble them later. Otherwise, now it’s time to stuff these cuties with ice cream. Grab your pint of vanilla ice cream and soften it slightly in the microwave (I found that 30 seconds was good). It should be easy to scoop but not melted. The tool of choice for scooping would be a #70 half-ounce disher. I bought one that was too big (#30), but you want to aim for about a tablespoon of ice cream in each cookie.
Set rows of cookies on your sheet pan, every other row with the bottom facing up. On the bottom-facing row, place a scoop of ice cream and top with another cookie. Press gently until the ice cream just starts to come out to the edge of the cookies.Place the pan of sandwiched cookies into the freezer until they’re fully set, about one hour. If you don’t plan on serving them immediately, store the solid frozen sandwiches in an airtight container and keep in the freezer for no more than one day. When you’re ready to serve them, pour your Pop Rocks into a small ramekin and roll the exposed ice cream edge in the candy. Beware, they will pop! Once the cookies are covered, serve them immediately, or keep them frozen in their airtight container for no more than 1 day. The defrosting cycle of the freezer isn’t too kind to the fragile nature of the Pop Rocks!
I can’t think of a more fun dessert after a summertime barbecue than passing around a plate piled high with these macaron ice cream sandwiches. Chewy meringue cookies filled with cool vanilla ice cream, they’re relatively small which means you don’t have to gorge yourself after a big outdoor meal, and ice cream is always a welcome addition to a summer day! Happy 4th of July, y’all!