Macarons are constantly held up as one of the more tricky bakes to master and with good reason, my efforts have been to say the least a bit hit and miss. But before I get into that lets get one thing straight they are not macarOONs as in ‘You are likely to swOON if someone popped a ballOON too sOON!’ these biscuits are lovely and nutty often coconut sometimes almond delicacies beautifully demonstrated here by Cakey Cookery. MacarONs as in ‘One can find a macarON upON and plate for afternoon tea often served with a scONe’ – oh goodness or is it scONE as in give a dog a BONE. Ok I’ll stop now but it isn’t pretentious or posh to say macaron in my opinion they are just different things!
So to get back to the perfect macaron and my quest to master them. So what makes the perfect macaron? They should have a smooth shiny shell, they should have a good foot and a slight rise between the two, they will be crisp on the outside and soft and slightly chewy on the inside.
More than a few things have gone wrong for me!
Even all kinds of Instagram filters and a pretty plate can’t disguise that my first attempt was very very wrong
but thats was just the start……
they were too grainy – and had little peaks – bit cracked
then I tried to flatten the peak with a wet finger ( who ever says to do that just don’t!)
or they were too flat
or they had crinkly tops – and I dropped this lot in the oven too!
and even the ones Im proud of aren’t quite right either risen a bit too much or not quite shiny enough
Ok I agree now I’m being hard on myself and its true to say that they all tasted pretty good, but I have been keen to see where I was going wrong and try to consistently master these little devils. So along with a few friends we decided to book a macaron class at my house. Ability levels ranged from some degrees of success to never having tried to make them before at all but we were all up for the challenge.
In preparation for her arrival my kitchen was deep cleaned and my oven scrubbed til it sparkled Caroline arrives at the house with boxes of pre weighed ingredients and a couple of mixers and we were off!
Hurled straight in at the deep end Caroline recommends Italian meringue so we all started with melting sugar and using thermometers to ensure we reached the right temperatures. In the mean time the egg whites were being whipped to a soft peak consistency. We then slowly added the melted sugar to the egg white to make the meringue. Caroline believes that there are 3 key stages to macaron making and her first tip was to make sure everything is weighed accurately even the egg whites. She uses Italian meringue as it give a much more stable base to use in the next stage when the ground almonds are added.
Stage two (or the macaronage stage), this is one that I have never quite understood. In books you are often told to mix in the almonds & icing sugar along with some unwhipped egg white until it reaches ‘ribbon stage’. I never really knew quite what this meant and how careful did I need to be with my meringue. However I need not have worried as we were advised to beat in the rest of the ingredients, almost to my hearts content, but if we reached a true ribbon stage where the mix runs in a continuous stream from the spoon we have gone a bit too far! What you are actually looking for is the mixture to be glossy and settle back in place once stirred.
At this point use a template under a non stick baking parchment sheet to pipe out your circles.
Try to pipe directly from above the circle using a 1cm piping nozzle. once you have completely finished your sheet they need to be left to dry. If they still have little peaks you can slap the sheet on a worktop to level them but this stage isn’t essential.
Stage three is making sure the macarons have dried properly, they should get to the stage where if you touch them lightly with your finger they feel dry as though they have formed a skin and no mixture sticks to your finger.
Whilst we were waiting Caroline showed us how to make a few yummy fillings using up the left over egg yolks.
Finally to bake them Caroline used an oven thermometer to make sure my oven was true to temperature and baked the trays in rotation taking them out and swapping shelves half way through baking them.
I wont give you the full recipe here as I think that should be Carolines’ prerogative, but we did make some lovely macarons – still not perfect but the best Ive ever achieved and a little piping practice should make them perfectly acceptable. Suffice to say we all really enjoyed our day and despite looking a bit frazzled at the end we were all pleased to have succeeded in successful macarons.