On boxing day I made my first batch of macarons and they were successful. This might be because I watched a video about making them or because I am some sort of genius. I think that if you do a bit of reading about them then just choose one recipe and follow it really well you will succeed. But because I have made them twice and they have worked both times, I feel somewhat qualified to give advice to macaron newbies.
This is a summary of the things you do when making them.
1. Separate and age egg whites.
2. Combine dry ingredients, seive to make super fine
3. Make meringue mix using castor sugar
4. Add dry ingredients to meringue (with colouring/flavouring if required)
5. Pipe onto tray and leave for an hour
6. Cook for 15-17 mins
7. Make desired filling and pipe into shells when cool
Below are more explicit instructions which I hope help you avoid any macaron stress.
First, you can't be in a hurry when you want to make macarons. You have to age your egg whites at least overnight but preferably for a few days. Separate about 4 egg whites (3 if you have bigguns) and leave them in the fridge for a couple of days (or just on the bench if you're doing 24 hrs).
When they're ready, organise your dry ingredients. Put 110g almond meal and 200g icing sugar (if you're making chocolate ones or if you have powdered food colouring, put your cocoa/coloured powder in now as well, about 3 tablespoons is good cause they get lighter when they cook) into a food processor and whizz that shit til all the lumps are gone. Take it out and sieve it to get out the lumpy bits from the almonds. Set aside.
Measure out 90g of your egg whites into another bowl. With an electric handwhisk, beat them for about 30 seconds til they're foamy. Still whisking, add 25g castor sugar (I've used just white sugar and it works fine). Whisk this til it's shiny and looks like shaving cream. It takes about 4-5 mins. If you've made pavlova or meringues before, then you're looking for something that looks like that.
Add the almond/sugar mix to your meringue mixture. It doesn't really matter which way you do this - you can break up the eggs with a few spoons of the dry ingredients if you want, but basically you just want to combine the two without overbeating, so you can put it all in at once if you want. If you want to colour them with liquid food dye, put a few drops in now.
Now when it's all combined it should be quite sticky and heavy. People say it looks like lava, but I have never seen lava before (and it frankly baffles me that so many cooks just understand lava as a reference point) so if you pick up a spoon of it and try to make a point but the point disappears back into the mix, then it is about right.
Line two trays with baking paper (or silicone tray lining things if you have those) and ready yourself for piping. People who know stuff about piping bags would know the correct term for which nozzle to use, but I just suggest the one that looks kinda like a star. If you put a tiny nozzle on then you will be piping for ages and your arm will start hurting and it will be harder to get nice circles. Stand the bag up in a tall glass while you fill it.
While you pipe, hold the nozzle in the centre on the bottom of the tray and let the mixture sort of seep outwards. Gives you nice round circles. It's up to you how big you make your macarons - that will determine how many you end up with. Diameter of mine averages out to about 3cm I think and I've managed to get about 44 shells out of a mix.
Me piping with a too small nozzle.
At this stage, you gotta leave those puppies sitting out for at least 30 minutes. They're meant to develop a "skin" and this is how your macarons get "feet" (I don't know the science for it, but the gooey insides like push the "skin" away from the tray and that's what the feet is). Basically the longer you leave them the better. An hour is good.
You need a slow oven to cook these guys, so preheat your oven to about 150 degrees. You do have to know your oven though, so if it is a hottie, scale it back appropriately. They take about 17 minutes to cook or some shit like that - again it depends on how big you piped them - but check them at 15 minutes to see how they're going.
After taking them out of the oven, you might find they don't come away from the baking paper. People say to steam them off the tray which just involves taking the macarons off the tray with the paper, spraying the tray with water, then putting the macarons back on the tray. I have not tried this though, I just wait til they're cold and gently lever them off with a spatula.
And after they're cold, fill them with whatever your heart desires. I've heard of people putting jam inside them, but that sounds weird and gross. Ganache is really good. Boil a quarter of a cup of cream and pour over like 125g of chocolate (white chocolate is quite good) and combine. You can pipe this too, but it's just as easy to spread if you're gentle. The shells are a bit delicate though.
Leaving the macarons before eating them is a good idea because the filling seeps into the shell and makes it uber uber tasty. I can't tell you how long they last for though because people just eat them all up. They are actually the best thing ever.
These were my second batch. They are super chocolatey.