I'll start with a brief etymology. Macaroon and Macaron both come from the same Italian word maccherone. In modern vernacular, a macaroon is a coconut-based, dense, cake-y blob. A macaron is a meringue-based patty containing some sort of nut flour.
Partly on a dare, partly out of curiosity, I made macarons following a recipe from AllRecipes. I prefer to cook by mass using a food scale, or electronic mass balance. The recipe recommended this, and I whole-heartedly agree with their stance. Measuring powdered sugar by volume is imprecise. The general process is as follows:
- Make a meringue. The recipe says to beat until soft peaks form, however I feel this may increase the average bubble size throughout the meringue causing too much air in the cookie while baking. The recipe says to add 1/4 cup granulated sugar to the egg whites. As stated here, sugar is added to meringue to retain water bubbles while the egg white sets up. Adding sugar during mixing presumably allows more even mixing and improves setup.
- Fold a homogenous mixture of powdered sugar and almond flour into the meringue. Several sources say to fold the mixture together in approximately 20 folds. During this process, the meringue deflates considerably and reaches a cake-batter like consistency.
- Pipe the batter onto a non-stick surface and let harden. The recipe says to use a silicone mat. My cookies released very easily from parchment paper. My rather old silicone mat worked no better. Some recipes say to rap the cookie sheet on the counter to encourage the release of air bubbles. I let the cookies stand for 1 hour, during which the outermost layer of meringue dries and hardens into a shell.
- Bake the cookies at 285 degrees F. This causes the cookie to rise, forming a seam between the hardened shell and the base of the cookie. I also believe this heats the sugar to the soft crack temperature creating a chewy-crunchy texture in some parts of the cookie.
Some of them had way too much air in them. It was almost as if the inside did not rise at all, leaving a cookie on the bottom, covered by a meringue dome.
I filed them with blueberry jam before feeding them to friends.