You will need:
1. Parchment paper
2. A nice rubber spatula
3. A flour sifter
4. 2/3 cup almond meal/flour (watch out! This stuff is expensive!)
5. 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar.
6. 3 egg whites
7. 5 tablespoons of white, granulated sugar
8. A pastry/frosting bag and circular tip, about 1/4 inch
9. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
10. Food coloring and toothpick to administer (for batter or buttercream)
Set your oven to 375° and ready two cookie sheets. On your parchment paper, draw 1 inch circles, about an inch apart from each other. If you're confident in your pastry bag skills, you can skip this step. However...I was not.
Combine your almond flour and powdered sugar in a sifter and sift until you have a nice, pretty pile. Set to the side.
In a mixing bowl, beat your egg whites with an electric mixer until nice and foamy. Gradually add the granulated sugar until they develop stiff, glossy peaks. (Sidenote: use your leftover egg yolks as a face mask. This is an Indian beauty tradition--massage egg yolks into clean skin and let sit for 5-10 minutes, or until you can't smile without cracking it. Then rinse with warm water and a washcloth. Perfect, supple skin).
Add vanilla and mix gently. If the mixture gets a little soupy, mix on high with the electric mixer again for about a minute on high speed.
After the meringue is stiff and glossy, add about half of the flour/sugar mixture and stir with your spatula until mixed. Add the rest and stir again. Next is the macaronage process: stir until the mixture is even, then spread the batter against the sides of the bowl, then flip over and repeat. Do this for several minutes--around 15 revolutions. Here is a great video that demonstrates the technique. The batter is done when it slowly "glops" off of your spatula.
Next, fill your pastry bag with the batter (remember to twist or clip the top or you'll have batter all over your hands like me!) Squeeze the bag to fill each circle. Stop when you reach the end of your pencil marks--the batter will spread wider and it will be the perfect size.
Some French pastry chefs believe that this is the most important step in making a macaron: as soon as you are finished filling your tray with little dots of macaron batter, rap the cookie sheet against a hard service several times. This will set the pied or little pastry lip at the base of the cookie (an essential for an authentic macaron). Set your tray to the side and allow to dry for about thirty minutes. After thirty minutes, gently tap the surface of one of the dots of batter. If it does not stick to your finger, it's ready for baking. If it does, allow a bit more time.
While you're waiting for the macaron batter to dry, let's make the buttercream.
You will need:
• 1 stick of softened butter (8 tablespoons)
• about 5 ounces of powdered sugar, or 2/3 cup (have a bit on hand to add if it is too runny)
• about 1/8 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Stir all of these ingredients together until you have a light, tasty paste. Then add a touch of food coloring if you would like some color. I chose red for a nice Valentine's Day treat! There are a variety of flavors that you can add to all buttercreams and macaron batter, but for my first try, I decided to keep it simple.
After your macaron batter is dry, stack your cookie sheet onto the second cookie sheet to ready it for baking. Using two cookie sheets will keep the bottoms of your macarons from burning. Place in the oven for about 8 minutes. After 8 minutes, turn the sheet so that the front-facing macarons are now towards the back of the oven for an even bake. If after 16 minutes, they are still super-soft, reduce heat to 325°, cover in aluminum foil and bake for 2 more minutes. Only bake ONE sheet of macarons at a time.
When the macarons are done baking, take them out of the oven and let sit until relatively cool, then very carefully peel them from the parchment paper. Fill a new pastry bag (or wash the old one) with the buttercream and create about 1/2 inch dot on one macaron cookie, then sandwich another on top. Be careful not to squeeze the buttercream out on the sides.
A macaron! Or many! They are definitely better on the second day, as the butter has a chance to seep just a bit into the cookie and soften it. Delightful! Please let me know how you do, I thought that this was so much fun. Good luck!