I have grown to love making macarons and if you’ve read my blogs in the past you will know that my eureka moment was when I did a course with InlovewithMacs. I learned the key stages of the art of macaron making and with practice I believe I have mastered the art of getting a good mac most times. I wouldn’t dare say perfect, nor would I say everytime as they are still super tricky and prone to all sorts of hiccups at many stages, but in this post I will try to share with you the key things to look out for.
Firstly the stages are the same whether you choose to make them using the french meringue method with cold sugar or the italian method with hot sugar syrup. You need a stable meringue to be able to mix it with the almonds and still get a good rise on the final macaron. I now use the italian method as I find it makes for the most stable meringue which withstands mixing better – but it does mean you need to make a sugar syrup and the best way to make sure its at the right temperature is with a sugar thermometer.
Talking of equipment I don’t use silicon macaron mats, I just use a good quality baking sheets and thin silicon baking sheets, with an A4 template underneath of pre marked 3cm circles, you should be able to fit 20 on one page nicely spaced out. Finally a couple of piping bags fitted with 1cm plain open ended nozzles.
Make sure the bowls you use are scrupulously clean. I give the bowl and whisk on my stand mixer a go over with some white wine vinegar to make sure it is completely grease free.
Weigh everything out first ‘Blue Peter’ style! You will need lots of bowls! Two for the almond mixtures, two more small ones for the egg white and a final bowl in a stand mixer for the meringue. Finally you will also need a small heavy bottomed saucepan for the sugar syrup.
Blend and sift the almonds. I give mine a whizz in the food processor then sieve them into the bowl and make sure I have the exact measurement at that point. Sieve the icing sugar into the same bowl then use a small hand whisk to mix it altogether.
Colouring & flavouring the macarons. I like a lovely brightly coloured macaron but to achieve this you need good quality colouring pastes as they don’t interfere too much with the consistency of the macaron. I usually tend to leave the macaron shell plain in flavour and just add natural flavours to the filling. I use Sugarflair pastes and add the colour to the 35g of egg white that is add after the meringue is made with the almond mixture. for this really strong colour I used a good 1/4 tsp. Mix it well with the loose egg white until completely dissolved.
Weigh the egg whites. I use TwoChicks pasteurised egg white, couple of reasons for this, I don’t always have time to make things with the yolks and unlike the whites yolks don’t freeze as easily, also they weigh out more readily than fresh whites and weighing the egg whites is absolutely essential for macarons. I also let the egg whites come to room temperature before I use them
Lay out the silicon sheets on baking sheets ready and prepare the piping bags with the nozzles, stand them in tall cups with the top of the bag pulled over the cup ready for filling.
Ok we can get started now! This recipe makes two batches so you can colour / flavour in two lots
For the dry mix you need to weigh two lots of the ingredients below – weighed out in two separate bowls for the dry ingredients and two small bowls for the egg whites & colouring in each bowl weigh out the following:
100g ground almonds
100g icing sugar
35g egg white
Meringue Ingredients – just one lot of this – it gets split in half later
75g egg white – in stand mixer bowl
Place the 200g of sugar and water in a heavy bottomed, give it a gentle swirl to make sure the sugar is all wet before you start. Over a gentle heat warm up to dissolve the sugar. At the same time tune on the stand mixer to a gentle pace starting to whisk the 75g of egg white. Once the sugar starts to dissolve, turn up the heat and bring to the boil, once boiling also turn up the mixer. The sugar syrup needs to reach 112C – 116C (soft ball) and the egg white needs to reach soft peaking stage
Once the required temperature and consistency has been reached remove the sugar syrup from the heat, check the egg whites are at soft peaks and allow the bubbling to calm down on the syrup.
Then the fun begins!
With the mixer on a high speed SLOWLY add the sugar syrup by drizzling in a very thin stream down the side of the bowl. This is one of the potential hiccup points – add the syrup too fast and the meringue is likely to collapse, too slowly and the syrup starts to set and wont incorporate fully causing lumpy crystals
Once all the syrup has been added – and this can take a good few minutes – keep whisking for a good 5/10 minutes until the bowl feels cool to the touch again. At this point the meringue should be really stiff, stable and glossy.
This meringue now needs to be halved and added to the whisked almond & icing sugar. Finally add the coloured final 35g of egg white and fold in. This is called the macaronage stage. You are aiming to incorporate all the ingredients and achieve a ‘ribbon’ consistency. This is when the mixture falls from the spatula in a continuous ribbon into the bowl and settles after a few seconds into a flat surface. The mixture should be neither too thick or too runny (Hiccup point two).
You can mix one batch and pipe it then do the next batch afterwards.
Transfer the mixture to a piping bag and pipe 3 cm blobs from directly above the centre of each circle using all the mixture you will get about 60 circles.
To get rid of any excess bubbles or central peaks on the mixture you can either rap the baking sheet on the table sharply or I wiggle the circle template under the silicon sheet – mine is laminated!
Repeat with the second batch of mixture.
Turn the oven on to 140C – if you have an oven thermometer to check the temperature is correct – all the better. I have 3 shelves ready, evenly spaced, in my oven too.
The macarons now need to dry and form a skin. This usually takes around half an hour but is really dependent on the air humidity. They need to be dry enough that when you touch them they don’t stick to your finger. (Hiccup point three!)
So the ones above aren’t ready!
But these ones are as when lightly pressed my finger came away clean.
Put the first tray on the middle shelf and time for 8 minutes.
After 8 minutes take them out turn the tray my 180 degrees and put on a lower shelf. Put the next tray on the top shelf and time for a further 8 minutes.
After 16 minutes the bottom tray should be ready. Test this by seeing if the macarons will lift from the tray cleanly. (Hiccup point four – last one!)
If they don’t return to the bottom of the oven for a minute or two longer.
Meanwhile continue to rotate the trays of macarons every 8 minutes until they are all done. For the final tray when it moves to the bottom shelf place an empty tray on the top shelf – this helps the macarons retain their colour.
Leave to cool on the trays then carefully transfer to a cooling tray.
Macaron shells can now be stored in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for a month.
When you are ready to fill them you can use a number of fillings, creme patissiere, jam, curd, buttercream or ganache are all great. I prefer ganache – it can be coloured and flavoured really easily and keeps best in the fridge without sinking into the shell. You can fill and freeze ganache filled macarons too.
200g white chocolate
100ml double cream
natural flavouring drops ( I use Foodie Flavours)
Warm the cream, almost to boiling point in a small heavy bottomed saucepan. remove from the heat and add chopped chocolate. Stir well until all the chocolate has melted and is incorporated. Split into two bowls and colour and flavour to taste. Transfer to piping bags and leave to cool to room temperature.
When you are ready to pipe pair up the macarons. Mine are never all exactly the same size but strangely I always seem to find enough to make evenly match pairs! Line up the pairs with one side upside down, it makes piping and pairing so much easier. Pipe circles of ganache on each upturned shell and fill in the middles once you have piped them all if you have any mixture left.
Gently wiggle the pairs together using the edges of the shell , don’t try to press the middles as you will end up breaking the shells, pop them in the fridge for the filling to harden up and then they are ready to serve!