Macarons

I’ve been making these little treats for several years, with varying degrees of success. I think I might just have nailed it this time, after researching on the internet, watching online videos, reading recipes, and speaking with the experts – the pastry chefs. I decided to write down the recipe, and capture those tips for success (along with the failures). I’ve also included a ‘what went wrong (this time)’ section! No doubt I’ll be adding to it…

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Ingredients

210 g ground almonds

210 g icing sugar

170 g egg whites (80 g plus 90 g, to be used separately)

240 g caster sugar

160 g water

Food colouring paste (not liquid)

Method

Use a macaron template (freely available to download from the web) to draw 14 (4 x 3 x 4 x 3) evenly spaced circles on 2 sheets of baking parchment (total of 28), then turn over and place on 2 baking sheets.

Whisk the ground almonds and icing sugar together, making sure you break up any lumps, then pour in 80 g egg whites and combine with a spatula. (I no longer bother to sieve the almond and icing sugar. Thank you for that tip, Verena.)

Pour the remaining 90 g egg whites into a mixer bowl and add 1 tablespoon of caster sugar (from the 240 g).

Put the remaining caster sugar and the water into a small, heavy saucepan, place over a moderate heat and bring to the boil. Allow to boil for a few minutes. When the sugar syrup reaches 110 °C (you need a digital thermometer at this stage), turn the mixer on, at a medium speed, and whip the egg whites to soft peaks.

Meanwhile let the sugar syrup continue to cook. When the syrup temperature approaches 120 °C (take care it doesn’t get hotter, as the temperature will start to rise rapidly) remove from the heat and slowly pour onto the egg whites, with the mixer on a low/medium speed. When all the syrup has been added, increase the speed to high (pausing to add a small amount of food colouring; adjust the amount to reach a colour slightly stronger than you actually want as it will become paler when mixed with the almond and icing sugar mix), and continue to beat for 5 minutes until the meringue has cooled and is glossy (the bowl may still feel warm to the touch).

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C / 150 degrees C fan.

Fold one-third of the meringue into the almond and egg white mixture. Add the remaining meringue and fold until the mix ‘loosens’, leaving a ribbon that slowly relaxes but still retains its shape. If the mixture is too stiff the macarons will have a nipple. If too loose, they will spread out too much.

Spoon the macaron mix into a large mixing bag. Put a small splodge of the macron mix onto the four corners of the baking parchment sheets to stick them down to the baking tray and hold flat.

Cut a 1 cm hole in the end of the piping bag, and – holding the bag upright – pipe evenly sized macarons onto the backing sheet templates. If the macarons are too stiff, put the mix back in the mixing bowl and continue to fold until the mixture loosens a bit more, then start again with the piping bag (trust me, it’s worth it).

Gently bang the baking trays on a work surface to smooth out the macarons and displace any air bubbles.

Leave the trays for about 20 minutes (depending on the room temperature and humidity), allowing the macarons to dry. When tacky (no longer sticky) put them in the oven, and bake for 7 minutes, then turn the oven temperature down to 150 degrees C / 130 degrees C fan and bake for a further 5 minutes. The macarons are cooked when they peel away from the baking parchment.

Leave to cool, then remove from the parchment.

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Here are two fillings to choose from:

Chocolate ganache

150 g dark chocolate, broken into chunks

150 g double cream

1 tablespoon light muscovado sugar

Pinch of Maldon sea salt

Put the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl.

Place the cream and sugar in a small saucepan and place on a low heat. When the cream comes to the boil (but not yet boiling) remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Stir with spatula until the chocolate has melted and then add the salt (to taste).

Pour the ganache into a small piping bag and allow to cool to room temperature.

When cool and thickened, pipe onto half of the macarons, then top with the second macaron. Don’t allow the ganache to go cold or it will be too hard to pipe.

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Mascarpone cream & fruit curd

Add icing sugar and vanilla paste (optional) to mascarpone cream, to taste, then transfer to a piping bag. Cut a small hole in the tip, then pipe onto the macaron base in a circle, leaving a centre spot for a dot of your favourite fruit curd or jam. Top with the second macaron.

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Maturation

Carefully place the macarons in a plastic container suitable for freezing, separating with sheets of baking parchment and bubble wrap. Freeze for 24 hours or up to 1 month, to allow the macarons to ‘mature’. Defrost in the fridge.

I usually freeze the shells without the filling, and then fill the frozen shells and leave in the fridge until ready to serve. I have, however, frozen the ‘complete’ macarons using the chocolate ganache and they survived with no ill effects.

Display

These macarons were stuck to a polystyrene cone. I coated the cone with melted dark chocolate, then dabbed a little more chocolate on each macaron and built up the tower.

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Oops! What went wrong?

The colour is ‘wet looking’ (see image with the miniature rose): don’t add flavours to the macarons, add it to the filling instead.

The macarons are hollow: the macaron mixture needed more folding.

The macarons turned brown: the oven temperature was too high.

No feet: the mix was too loose, or not left to dry sufficiently, or maybe even left for too long (who knows, but I think I made that mistake last time?!). The macarons take longer to dry in humid or wet weather. Make sure they are tacky (not sticky – test with your finger) when they are baked.

Too pale: not enough food colouring was added (it tends to bleach out during baking).

Nipples: the mix was not folded enough (too stiff).

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Burnt on the base or uneven: the oven is heating from the bottom or is uneven.

 

 

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