Makes 24 to 28 sandwich cookies.
Note: This recipe is adapted from several others, including Alice Medrich’s, and those on the blogs Joy of Baking and Sally’s Baking Addiction. We used Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour, available in groceries and co-ops. A pastry bag and tip come in handy for shaping. Let the egg whites sit at room temperature at least 2 hours before you begin. From Kim Ode.
• 2 c. (8 oz.) powdered sugar
• 1 1/3 c. (4.5 oz.) finely ground blanched almond meal
• 3 to 4 large egg whites, room temperature
• 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
• 3 tbsp. granulated sugar
• 3 to 6 drops food coloring, if desired
• 1/2 to 3/4 c. filling, such as Nutella, jam, lemon curd, chocolate ganache or buttercream frosting
Cut 3 sheets of parchment paper to fit 2 baking sheets. With a marker and template (such as a large spool of thread) draw on 1 parchment a series of 24 to 28 circles measuring about 1 1/4-inch across, leaving an inch between each circle. Place this on baking sheet overlaid with a second piece of parchment. You should be able to see the circles through the paper.
Combine the powdered sugar and almond meal in a bowl and whisk together thoroughly. Then pass the mixture through a sifter or medium-coarse sieve (mesh size of 1/16 inch) to lighten it. Discard any almond bits left behind. (There may be none.) Set aside.
In a clear measuring cup, add enough egg whites to reach halfway between the 1/3 and 1/2 cup marks; or use a scale to weigh 3 3/4 ounces of egg whites. Transfer these to a large bowl and add cream of tartar. With a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat the egg whites at medium speed until they form soft peaks when beaters are lifted. Add the food coloring, if using. Resume beating, now at high speed while gradually adding the 3 tablespoons granulated sugar. Beat until the mixture forms stiff, but not dry, peaks when the beaters are lifted. A peak of egg white should stand straight up, with no drooping.
Pour one-third of the almond mixture over the egg whites and, with a large rubber spatula, fold into the egg whites to lighten them. Then add the remaining dry ingredients and continue folding until fully incorporated. (See related story below for the best folding technique.) The egg whites will deflate quite a bit, but the batter should look moist and glossy and slowly slide from the spatula.
Using a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch tip, pipe disks of batter onto each circle. You also can drop heaping teaspoons of batter onto each circle, but the pastry bag gives you more control over a circular shape. Or place batter in a plastic bag and clip off one corner.
Rap the sheet several times on the counter to pop any lurking air bubbles and flatten any peaks. Slip template from the pan and repeat with remaining baking sheet, parchment and batter. (Save the template for future bakes.)
Let the macarons rest at room temperature for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the surface of the disks is slightly dry; this crust is what will help form the characteristic ruffled “foot” at the base of each macaron as they bake.
Place an oven rack in the center position and preheat to 400 degrees.
When macarons are ready, slide 1 pan into the oven and immediately reduce heat to 300 degrees. Bake for 14 to 15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Macarons are done when they are barely starting to color. Remove pan from oven and set the pan to cool on a wire rack.
Return heat to 400 degrees. Bake second pan in the same way, remembering to reduce heat to 300 degrees.
When the cookies are cool, lift a corner of the parchment and carefully peel the liner away from each disk. Lifting the cookies from the parchment may cause them to break.
Spread 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of filling on the flat side of a cookie and top with a cookie of matching size.
You can eat them right away, but macarons improve when allowed to mellow in the refrigerator overnight in an airtight container. They remain good for about 5 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.