With macarons, precise ratios are everything. An exact ratio, measured precisely in grams with the aid of a kitchen scale, yields perfectly crisp and delicate cookies. We learned our macaron ratios from the great French pastry chef Pierre Hermé, along with the technique of using an Italian meringue: a hot sugar syrup beaten into softly whipped egg whites. This creates a more stable mixture, which will help yield a batch of nice and even little cookies perfect for filling with luscious pomegranate ganache. To produce the pink tint for these, we prefer powdered food coloring, since the colors tend to be more true. Unfortunately, natural, vegetable-based powders don’t produce colors that are intense enough, though if you’re looking for pretty pastels, they’ll work beautifully. Gels and liquid colors can come in a variety of intensities, but be careful: You can easily add too much liquid to your batter, throwing off the proportions. This could change the consistency and affect the final cookie.
- Yield: 30 regular or 40 small macarons
- Difficulty: Hard
- Total: 1 hr 40 mins
- Active: 1 hr
For the macarons:
- 150 grams powdered sugar
- 150 grams almond meal
- 110 grams egg whites
- 40 grams filtered water
- 150 grams granulated sugar
- Red food coloring
- Edible sprinkles, for decorating (optional)
- Edible gold leaf, for decorating (optional)
For the ganache:
- 1 medium fresh pomegranate
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 260 grams semisweet chocolate, chopped in small pieces
To make the cookies:
- Combine the powdered sugar and almond meal in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process until the sugar and almond meal are combined, scraping down the bowl a few times to ensure they’re evenly mixed and being careful not to over-mix (the almond meal will eventually turn pasty, which is you don’t want to happen). Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, scraping with a spatula to make sure you’ve transferred everything (losing even a small amount of the sugar-almond mixture can throw off the whole recipe).
- Add 55 grams of the egg whites and beat until well combined. Add the food coloring and mix well. Set aside.
- Place the remaining 55 grams of egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and set aside. Combine the filtered water and granulated sugar in a very clean saucepan over medium-low heat, using a candy or infrared thermometer to check the temperature of the syrup as it cooks. When the syrup reaches 220°F, start beating the egg whites until they’ve achieved soft peaks. When the syrup reaches 244°F, pour it slowly and carefully into the beaten egg whites by trickling it in a steady stream down the edge of the mixing bowl. Whip until the meringue cools to 104°F.
- Place the bowl containing the reserved sugar-almond mixture back in the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add about 1/5th of the meringue to the sugar-almond mixture and beat to combine. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and, by hand, gently fold in the remaining meringue until it’s evenly combined—make sure you can’t see any white spots in the mixture, which would yield uneven cookies. But don’t overmix, either: You want to avoid deflating the meringue.
- Scrape the macaron mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a small tip; twist the top of the bag closed. Alternately, scrape the mixture into a resealable plastic bag and snip about a 1/3 inch off a bottom corner.
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and pipe out 1 1/2–inch circles (these will spread to 2 inches as they bake). Note that for macarons, parchment paper works better as a lining than Silpat mats. Also, thinner baking sheets are better than heavier ones, since the greater heat conducted from the bottom allows for evenly baked cookies. If you’d like to decorate with candy sprinkles, now’s the time to add them, sprinkling over the macaron tops and gently tamping with a finger to make sure they embed in the batter.
- Bake in a convection oven at 295°F, or in a conventional oven at 320°F until done, 15 to 18 minutes. Avoid browning—the base of the cookies should be straight rather than slumped, and you shouldn’t notice any air gaps in the cookies’ texture.
- To check for doneness, lift a corner of the parchment paper and carefully slide a finger underneath the paper and a macaron while gently peeling the paper back. The bottom should be flat and come off easily and the tops shouldn’t give when lightly tapped by a fingertip. Do not check doneness more than once or twice during baking: Opening and closing the oven will mess with their baking time, and you’ll risk making the cookies collapse. When the cookies are done, transfer, on the parchment paper, to cooling racks. Once they’re completely cool, decorate with the optional gold leaf.
To make the ganache:
- Cut the pomegranate in half (through the middle, not the through the crown). Use a citrus juicer to juice the pomegranate. Strain the juice and measure 1/4 cup (reserve the rest of the juice for another use). Set aside at room temperature.
- Put the chopped chocolate in a medium heatproof mixing bowl and set aside. Place the cream in a small, heavy saucepan and set over low heat until it begins to simmer. Immediately pour the cream over the chocolate and let it sit for 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk, starting from the center and continuing until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Add the reserved pomegranate and whisk until well combined.
- Cover the ganache mixture with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic touches the top surface. This will prevent a skin from forming. Cool in refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or as long as overnight.
- Pair macarons of similar size. Remove the ganache from the refrigerator. If you choose to pipe the ganache, transfer it to a pastry bag fitted with a small tip or a resealable plastic bag with about a 1/2 inch snipped off a bottom corner. Squeeze the ganache to about the size of a cherry (about 1 teaspoon) onto the center of a macaron half. Top with another half and press gently so that it looks like a mini hamburger; the filling should not ooze out the edges. Refrigerate, covered, at least 24 hours before serving.