I have made (failed) macarons fourteen times.  Yes, fourteen.  The number of trials is quite laughable to me now, but looking back I remember the frustration of each and every failed batch.  I was hopeful when I folded the batter perfectly, I was anxious as I let the macarons rest on the trays for thirty minutes, I was let down when I checked on the macarons baking in the oven without any sign of the classic “feet,” and then I was crushed as I set the hot pans on my counter…  yet another failed macaron.  It’s like a slap in the face, a shattered dream, a total defeat.

pistachio macarons with strawberry filling

Pistachio Macarons with Strawberry “Buttercream” Filling

almond macarons with salted caramel filling

Almond Macarons with Salted Caramel Filling

I usually have the motivation to keep going (like I did when I was making the perfect (healthy) Red Velvet Cake) but I just didn’t with these French Macarons.  I set myself up for failure in my first trial by using powdered coconut sugar instead of regular powdered sugar.  The coconut sugar turned the batter brown and they flattened completely in the oven (to ~2 millimeters in height!) into gooey caramel-like discs of sugar.  In my last few trials I ended up using real powdered sugar (the thing I was trying to avoid from the beginning!) to make sure I was even capable of making a successful batch — an unhealthy batch, but successful at least — and I still lost in this sad macaron battle.

Here is some background information of my fourteen (embarrassing!) trials:

  • I have tested real white sugar to erythritol to sucanat to coconut sugar (some batches using all granulated sweetener, some using all powdered, some using both and one batch using a stovetop cooked syrup… I even tested out different powdered sugars, one 100% cane sugar and another laced with starch)
  • I have used almond flour, almond meal and pistachio flour
  • I have used cold egg whites, room temperature egg whites and aged egg whites
  • I have tested batches with no added flavorings or food colorings along with batches with some of both
  • I have undermixed, overmixed and mixed perfectly
  • I let the macaron batter rest on the pans from zero minutes to more than an hour
  • I tested a range of temperatures, from 200-330 degrees Fahrenheit (I always use an oven thermometer to be sure)
  • I baked the macarons on both Silpats and parchment paper
  • I have baked these fourteen trials over a span of five months, from cold weather to warm weather (neither of which is humid)
  • Some batches of macarons spread into thin wafers, some poofed up into what looked like sugar cookies, some were crunchy throughout, some never solidified and stayed chewy and bendable.  My closest batch looked like macarons but without the feet and had huge air pockets in them, despite tapping the pans on the counter and witnessing air pockets rise to the surface (grrr)
  • I seem to fail at French Macarons despite how much research I have completed, videos I have watched and recipes I have tried…  ugh!

The two macaron recipes in this post are called macaron wannabes because they are not true macarons.  They do not have “feet” nor do they have the crunchy exterior and chewy interior.  Still though, both of these recipes are pretty darn good.  They are light, petite and sweet…  oh, and guilt free!

Almond Macarons with Salted Caramel Filling

Almond Macarons with Salted Caramel Filling

Both of these macarons are firm (but not crunchy) all the way through.  The Almond Macarons with Caramel Filling have the perfect balance between sweet and salty.  This is great because macarons tend to be very sweet, so the salted filling cuts down on the sweetness.

Almond Macarons with Salted Caramel Filling

Yield: 58 macarons = 29 macaron sandwiches

Ingredients

Instructions

    For the Aged Egg Whites:
  1. Put the egg whites into a stand mixer bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and poke holes into the surface with a toothpick.
  2. Let sit for 4 hours at room temperature.
  3. For the Macarons:
  4. Prepare a large pastry bag with a circle tip and place in a tall glass. Line 3 cookie sheets with Silpats or parchment paper.
  5. Add the erythritol to the stand mixer bowl with the egg whites and whisk attachment. Mix on low to incorporate.
  6. Add cream of tartar to the stand mixer bowl and whisk on medium speed until they reach a soft peak.
  7. Take bowl off stand mixer, dump in the erythritol/almond flour mixture and fold together.
  8. Scoop batter into the prepared piping bag and pipe 1" rounds about 3" apart. Let sit for 40 min.
  9. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and line an oven rack in the center and another rack just below it, but wide enough so a pan can fit in there and you can access it with your oven glove. Bake for ~19 minutes, or until puffy and edges are golden brown.
  10. Remove Silpat from pan and let cool on the counter undisturbed. The macarons will sink/flatten (my favorite macarons out of these three trays are from the middle tray, which was on the lower oven rack and nicely browned around the edges. The browning, to me, makes these macarons taste so much better. Kind of like barbequed food. The grill marks add so much flavor and are far tastier than the same food steamed)
  11. For the Filling:
  12. Top half of the completely cooled macarons with the caramel sauce.
  13. Sprinkle some sea salt over the caramel sauce and sandwich another macaron on top. Serve immediately.

Notes

Recipe adapted from: Whatevers Left

http://dessertswithbenefits.com/french-macarons-er-wannabes-made-two-ways/

homemade macarons

deflated macarons – these were put into the oven too quickly

homemade macarons

these are the deflated macarons shown above baking away in the oven

homemade macarons

these are the macarons that sat long enough so that you can tap the center “peak” down

Here is a nutrition label comparison between the original recipe and my healthified recipe.  The original recipe’s nutrition label is on the left,  the DWB recipe nutrition label is on the right:

Almond Macaron nutrition label  Almond Macaron nutrition label

(3 macaron “sandwiches” equals 6 macarons wafer cookie things, but the labels do not include any fillings because macaron fillings vary depending on your taste)

While my healthified macarons certainly aren’t 100% authentic, they are sugar free and half the calories of the original.  You can eat SIX of my macarons and feel perfectly content while someone out there is eating three of the original and feeling not nearly as satisfied.

-  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -

Now it’s time for the second version of macarons!

Pistachio Macarons with Strawberry "Buttercream" Filling

Pistachio Macarons with Strawberry “Buttercream” Filling

I love the combination of the savory pistachios and sweet strawberries.  These “macarons” are incredibly addicting.  They are a tad bit sweeter than the almond & caramel version above but are delicious nonetheless.  The macarons alone are low carb but even with the filling they are still 100% healthy.  Oh, and a bonus:  the macarons require only three ingredients!

You can eat a whole bunch of these macarons without consuming ONE sinful calorie.  Score.

Pistachio Macarons with Strawberry "Buttercream" Filling

Yield: 50 macarons = 25 macaron sandwiches

Ingredients

Instructions

    For the Macarons:
  1. Prepare a large pastry bag with a circle tip and place in a tall glass. Line three cookie sheets with Silpats or parchment paper.
  2. Add egg whites to a stand mixer bowl with whisk attachment. Whisk on medium/high speed for 2 minutes, or until foamy.
  3. Add 30g of the powdered erythritol to the stand mixer and beat on high speed for 3-5 minutes, or until stiff peaks form.
  4. While the stand mixer runs, sift the rest of the powdered erythritol (200g) with the pistachio flour into a bowl.
  5. When stand mixer mixture is ready, dump the erythritol/pistachio mix on top. Fold the mixture slightly, add the food coloring, and fold again (mixture should be thick but fall/plop off the spatula after a few seconds... this isn't the regular macaron batter where it falls in thick ribbons)
  6. Preheat the oven to 280 degrees Fahrenheit.
  7. Scoop batter into the prepared piping bag and pipe 1" rounds about 3" apart (they should look like hershey kisses).
  8. Tap the pans on the counter HARD to dislodge any air in the macarons. Flatten the "hershey kiss spikes" on top of the macarons JUST SLIGHTLY, do not press the macarons down or flatten them.
  9. Let the macarons sit for 30 minutes, then bake for ~13 minutes (edges should be just slightly golden brown). Let cool on the baking sheet undisturbed.
  10. For the Filling:
  11. In a microwave-safe bowl, add the yogurt and coconut oil. Microwave at 15-second intervals, stirring between each one, until coconut oil is melted (not hot!)
  12. Stir in the vanilla paste and butter extract. Pour mixture into a stand mixer with whisk attachment.
  13. Add the powdered erythritol to the stand mixer and mix on low, then high, for about a minute, or until fluffy.
  14. While mixing, slowly sprinkle in the strawberry powder and food coloring. Scoop frosting into a piping bag and pipe onto half of the macarons.
  15. Sandwich the macarons and serve!

Notes

Recipe adapted from: Krissy's Creations

http://dessertswithbenefits.com/french-macarons-er-wannabes-made-two-ways/

French Macaron nutrition label  French Macaron nutrition label

(3 macaron “sandwiches” equals 6 macarons wafer cookie things, but the labels do not include any fillings because macaron fillings vary depending on your taste)

These macarons are free of sugar and contain healthy fats from the pistachios!  I love the natural green color of the macarons and the bright pink color of the filling from the strawberries.  There is NO need for 28g of sugar.

Pistachio Macarons with Strawberry Buttercream Filling

Even though these macarons are not necessarily the classic French Macarons you will buy at a bakery, they are delicious and healthy and a tiny bit similar  :D

I tried my hardest to make a successful batch of macarons, I swear, but to be honest I am sick of pulling tray after tray of imperfect “macarons” out of my oven.  Plus, I really don’t like wasting my ingredients and I can only eat so many macarons!  I think this is the end for me at my perfect macaron quest, partly because I’d rather eat chocolate cakes and partly because I’m not even that crazy about French Macarons to begin with.  I suspect that unhealthy/high-glycemic bleached sugar is needed to make a successful macaron because my best failures (hah) were the ones using white-as-paper sugar (which I DO NOT like), and if that is the case then I might as well just buy macarons from a baker who knows what the hell they are doing (unlike me, the baking amateur!), which I did in NYC!  So if you see me there eating a box of macarons it’s because I am eating away my failed macaron sorrows…  See ya in the city  ;)

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Labels: 5-Ingredients-or-Less, Almond-Flour, Bite-Sized-Treats, Caramel, Coconut-Oil, Cookies-and-Crackers, Egg-Whites, Erythritol, Gluten-Free, Icings-Frostings-and-Spreads, Low-Carb, Low-Fat, Low-Sugar, Nutrition-Label, Pistachios, Strawberry, Sugar-Free, Yogurt

Comments (17)

  1. Elise: April 29, 2013

    I admire your persistence Jessica! I’ve never succeeded in baking any kind of decent macarons (even using all the classic ingredients). Your wannabe macarons look really nice, you should be proud of yourself! I once tried to make protein macarons (www.fitnesstreats.com/2012/03/protein-macaroons) and they looked like little dog poops!

  2. dessertswithbenefits: April 29, 2013

    Thanks Elise! I checked our your macarons and they look amazing, I think I’m going to bake those if I feel like trying out the macaron thing again ;)

  3. M: April 29, 2013

    You talk about sugar like it’s the definition of an “unhealthy” food. But I respectfully disagree. I think, eaten in moderation, it’s a perfectly acceptable part of your diet. The problem is that people often eat too much, and I respect that fact. But boesn’t using artificial “no calorie” “healthy” sweeteners *create* the idea that you can eat sweet things infinitely? Perhaps another path to health would be to do something about the culture of “sweet treats”?

    Just trying to get your thoughts on this.

  4. dessertswithbenefits: April 29, 2013

    Hi M, I don’t think all sugar is bad, just bleached/processed/refined-to-the-bone white sugar which has no benefits, only detriments. Sucanat, coconut sugar, date sugar, pure maple sugar and natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, dates are perfect sources of sweetness and natural sugar. I definitely agree with you that people eat too much, but the reason behind that is because white sugar is very addicting to the human body… I was addicted years ago and if I kept eating chocolate bars at the rate I was going I’m pretty sure I would have some serious health problems right now.
    Erythritol is not artificial, despite how it sounds. Erythritol is a natural product. I am definitely starting to use date sugar a lot since it is 100% dates, however it has a strong flavor which doesn’t pair well in certain applications and adds a dark brown sugar color. I only use erythritol now where a light-colored sweetener is used (like sugar cookies or red velvet cake)

  5. h: April 29, 2013

    Please do not ruin another dessert with you sugar fear. You are disrespecting dessert around the world. BY associating guilt with sugar you are keeping all women guilty for eating.

  6. dessertswithbenefits: April 29, 2013

    Didn’t mean to disrespect you with this post, H! I don’t have a fear of sugar, I used to eat chocolate bars and Oreos and Pop Tarts on a daily basis for about 17 years of my life … I was hooked and sugar causes serious health problems (diabetes, increased blood sugar, cancer, obesity, headaches, addiction, weakened immune system, etc etc etc). It is solely MY choice to remove bleached/processed white sugar from my diet and women can make their own choices on what food they eat.
    You can certainly make macarons with sugar if you want, this post was just about my failed trials in macaron-making, WITH and WITHOUT sugar :)

  7. Elise: April 29, 2013

    I’m totally on your side Jessica: sugar is extremely addictive. “Everything in moderation” does work for many people, but personally it doesn’t work for me. Eating one cookie and leaving the rest in the box is something I just can’t do.

    I don’t think it’s because of weak self-control or a culture of sweats during my childhood. It’s just that sugary foods (even in small quantities) create a kind of irrational reaction in my brain that makes me crave for more.

    So I’d rather eat a couple of cookies made with erythritol that go on the sugar roller coaster. It’s not about avoiding calories or guilt, it’s just about avoiding mood swings and feeling lethargic after the sugar high is over.

  8. dessertswithbenefits: April 30, 2013

    Thanks Elise, I’m totally the same way. There is no such thing as one Oreo for me, it’s the entire package and then some. It has been scientifically proven that sugar is addictive to the brain and there can be withdrawals. And eating ten healthified macarons instead of three unhealthy ones is always a plus ;)

  9. Anonymous: April 30, 2013

    M, while I see where you’re coming from, and generally everything in moderation is a good rule of thumb to abide by (You can eat pounds of lean chicken breast, oats, and all things healthy, but if you eat too much of them, you’ll still store more fat than you need, although usually healthy/nutritious foods keep you fuller longer and make that hard to do), I would like to go ahead and say that sugar isn’t healthy, I’d even go as far as saying it’s “unhealthy” in the sense that it lacks healthy qualities. While natural sources of sweetness/”sugar” like fruits are perfectly healthy (a package deal, comes with fiber, vitamins, etc), sugar is just empty calories devoid of any nutritional merit/value, not only that, but it spikes your blood sugar among other things. While there exist sweeteners like coconut sugar that have a low GI, and have trace amounts of nutrients/minerals, refined sugar has none of these benefits, and it’s refined sugar that’s traditionally used in making macarons.

    Getting back to the main point though, I will agree with you that it’s an acceptable part of your diet, so long as you’re aware that it has no nutritional merits (and is actually detrimental), and thus eat it sparingly, hopefully not in large quantities on a daily basis. Eating a cookie every once in a while isn’t going to do you any harm and shouldn’t be a source of guilt, eating half a dozen cookies on a daily basis though, is probably not good for your health.

    As for the sweet treats on a daily basis, I think it’s perfectly acceptable so long as you find a way to create these sweet treats such that they’re actually healthy and nutritious (as opposed to adding zucchini or some veggie to a butter/sugar-laden cake and slapping on a healthy label). If they’re made with these objectives in mind, they’ll often be filling and keep you sated anyways, controlling the rate at which you eat them.

    Lastly, kudos on your perseverance, Jessica! Most people wouldn’t have given it nearly as many tries, thorough tries changing all variables thinkable, at that.

  10. Lizzie: August 28, 2013

    Hi, I don’t know if you still want to make macarons but I would like to put a little bit intake. I myself has made it 3 times before finally having feet the 4th time. It does take lots of patience and some experience u learn by mistakes. With your batch, my guess is, you undermixed the mixture. It was too stiff, so that’s why you still see the pointy part. Next time maybe mix it 5 or 6 time more? Drying them is extremely important too, otherwise there will be no feet and they will crack. A complete “shell” must be formed, so I think you should dry them 1.5 hours just to be on a save side. I messed up my earlier macaron batch because I did not dry them properly. I do hope u will try once again though, it feels like a big establishment once you can make it!

  11. dessertswithbenefits: September 3, 2013

    Lizzie-
    I am taking a bit of a macaron-hiatus because I gave it another three tries and I got REALLY close on one… I got feet! But they were way too sweet and weren’t chewy in the center.
    I agree, I think my batch was undermixed. I tend to overmix so I was afraid to do that. I also overmixed one batter and it was too thin to pipe into perfect little circles, however, this was the batch that was the closest to perfection I mentioned above… not sure why!
    Next time I try I will let the macarons rest for a longer period of time.
    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR LOVELY COMMENT, it gave me new hope in macaron-baking :)
    -Jess

  12. Brynn: September 14, 2013

    I have a couple tips for when you make macaroons again: rather than almond meal or flour, take slivered almond and put them in a food processor; don’t under or overmix the batter; before you let them set for about 15 minutes, rap the tray the macaroons are on a few times on the counter; take the tray with the macarons on it and put another one beneath it while cooking. Good luck!!!

  13. dessertswithbenefits: September 14, 2013

    Thanks Brynn! I’ll definitely try that next time I attempt macarons :)

  14. ajb: February 25, 2014

    It’s disappointing to see all these critical comments on this point. You know why? Because I googled “almond flour sugar free macarons” and I actually found a recipe! Wow! I was excited. A bit turned off at the sugar debate. “Sugar isn’t bad for you in moderation?…” I’m here because sugar was bad for me. I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia after a major physical crash. My doctor set me on a path of healthy eating and helped me find ways to heal my body. Sugar free, gluten free has become my new way of living. So to those of you who want your macarons with sugar, eat them with sugar…but don’t come down so hard on someone who put time and effort to create an alternative that people like me can enjoy. You should be ashamed! Great Job Jessica – thank you for your hard work! You popped right up on google with my search! :)

  15. dessertswithbenefits: February 26, 2014

    ajb-
    Awww, you just made my day!! :)
    I’m so glad you found a healthy lifestyle that works for you. Health scares (and diagnoses) are very serious and should not be taken lightly. I was at risk for type II diabetes but now I am not, simply because I omitted refined white sugar from my diet. I have had my fair share of sugar!
    Not only is sugar high glycemic and refined (causes spikes/crashes in blood sugar), but it is also genetically modified (one of the TOP GMO foods) and has promoted slavery for years and years and years. It’s terrible and frankly, just sad :(
    Anyways, off my rant… I’m so happy you found my blog and shared your story with me. Have a great week!
    -Jess

  16. B: March 15, 2014

    Sorry but I would rather eat 3 “real” french macarons than 6 yours. I’m sure they taste good and they’re really healthier but they are NOT macarons. You know, we can’t make everything healthier and sugar-free but that’s okay! If you eat healthy and clean most of the time, a few macarons won’t make you fat or unhealthy. Please don’t take my comment wrong, I love your blog and your recipes but I just think that sometimes we all just need to live and not care about the nutrition facts :)

  17. dessertswithbenefits: March 15, 2014

    B-
    I totally get ya! :) I completely agree with you, I don’t think the world should revolve around calories and diets, I think we should aim for balance and moderation. I’ve just learned to make nutrition labels for every recipe of mine because in nearly every post that I don’t include one, someone will ask for it. It’s also helpful to compare my nutrition stats with the nutrition stats of “typical” recipes (in terms of trans fats, cholesterol, sugar, vitamins/minerals, etc)
    Also, I made this recipe for those who choose to avoid sugar for health reasons, ethical reasons, personal reasons, and so on. For example, diabetics who can’t consume sugar, people who do not want to support the sugar industry (due to the slavery/corruption), people on low-carb diets (diabetics, bodybuilders, or someone who just doesn’t want a lot of sugar in their nighttime snack…)
    And yes, I know these aren’t real macarons, that’s why the title says, “macaron ‘wannabes.’” :)
    -Jess
    PS: If you live near NYC, you should DEFINITELY go to the Dominique Ansel Bakery, they have THE BEST macarons!!

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