macarons

photo Marina Oliphant


I’m head over heels for French macarons! These delicious flights of fancy are made from almond meal and icing sugar mixed with egg white and sandwiched with a myriad of flavoured fillings to create a taste sensation. They are, however, a little tricky to make and can leave even experienced cooks as flat as their efforts. Great macarons are the result of technique, rather than simply following a recipe. There are several methods that can be used; the French method results in a creamy texture that can be eaten on the day it is made. However, it is difficult for the beginner to master. The Spanish method is similar, although some of the sugar is added at the end of the mixing process to aid stability. Most patisseries use the Italian method, due to the reliability of Italian meringue. It is very stable, which is important for a well shaped macaron with a good ‘foot’ or pied. When freshly made, they are quite crisp and need to be refrigerated or frozen to attain the soft creamy texture of the French macarons. I have found the Italian method to be the most fail-safe, so this is the foundation recipe I have written below, with lots of tips and tricks to help you. Whilst there are many recipes around, the lack of instruction will stymie the beginner and optimal results will be more a matter of luck than anything else. Don’t be disheartened if your first attempt isn’t perfect, as they will still taste delicious. Hopefully, a thorough explanation will help you to achieve the best results. Little tips really do make a difference, like allowing the almond meal to dry out for a few days, sieving the egg whites and allowing them to stand overnight, and the addition of egg white powder, which can be found at select food stores. See the Tips box for more useful information.

Tips for perfect macarons:

  • good quality equipment is essential; digital scales, digital thermometer, good quality baking trays, silicon baking mat, flexible plastic pastry scraper, piping bag and nozzles
  • use a double tray (two equal sized trays stacked) when baking macarons –this helps even heat distribution
  • use a silicon baking mat for perfectly shaped round macarons
  • for a batch of even sized macarons, use a black texta to trace circles around a 4cm round pastry cutter onto baking paper. Leave room for the macarons to spread. Then place the silicon mat over the top and use the circles as a guide when piping.
  • spread out almond meal on a tray and allow to dry out for 2-3 days to evaporate excess moisture
  • don’t use fresh egg whites! Break whites into a sieve suspended over a bowl and leave at room temperature overnight (use leftover yolks to make a curd filling). This helps the whites lose some of their water content
  • adding egg white powder helps with stability of the meringue
  • use bake stable food colouring. Powders are used for more intense colours. These are found at specialty cake decorating and food stores. Liquid food colouring will give paler colours and is available from supermarkets.
  • as you sandwich the macarons together, twist to ‘screw’ down as this helps evenly distribute the filling

Italian macaron method

This recipe is adapted from Kirsten Tibballs of Savour Cooking school. I have reduced the quantites, although you will still end up with lots of macarons. Luckily this is not a problem, as macarons freeze well. In fact, many patisseries refrigerate or freeze their macarons before selling, to improve the texture.

200g almond meal, laid out on tray to dry for 2 days

200g pure icing sugar, sieved

150g egg whites, that have been sieved and allowed to stand at room temperature overnight *note that the final (sieved) weight of egg whites needed is 150g

¼ (quarter) tsp cream of tartar

1 g dry egg white powder (optional)

200g caster sugar

50g water

few drops food colouring

Preheat oven to 150C.

Place almond meal and icing sugar in a food processor and pulse to get a finer consistency. Sieve through a drum sieve into a large mixing bowl.

Divide egg whites in two batches, each 75g.

Place one batch of egg whites in an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add cream of tartar and egg white powder and set aside.

Mix the remaining 75g egg whites into almond mix to make a thick paste, then set aside.

Make a sugar syrup with caster sugar and water. When thermometer reaches 110C, start whisking egg whites on low speed. Gradually increase speed until the egg whites are thick. (If the sugar syrup is getting too hot before the egg whites are ready, add 3 tsp cold water to syrup to reduce the temperature).

When sugar syrup reaches 118C and the egg whites are ready, slowly pour down the side of the mixer as you continue to whisk the egg whites on medium speed. Continue to mix for about 10 minutes until the meringue cools (the bowl should still feel slightly warm). Add food colouring.

Using a pastry scraper, start mixing the meringue into the almond meal paste. You don’t have to be gentle. Continue to mix until the paste is supple and shiny. (It is quite important to have the correct consistency. The mixture should be oozy and lava –like. When you fold the mixture over itself, it will spread slowly).

Use a pastry bag fitted with a 1cm plain nozzle and pipe onto lined double baking tray. Using two trays ensures even heat distribution. I have found that using a silicone baking mat on top gives the best result.

Rap the baking tray on the bench firmly a couple of times to get rid of any large air bubbles, settle the shape of the macaron and help make the pied or ‘foot’.

Bake in oven for about 16-18 minutes. Check that the macarons are dry by testing whether the top and the pied are firm (if they are soft and the sides are moist, leave them a few more minutes).

Remove from oven and allow to cool on baking trays, then remove and place on wire racks.

When cool, sandwich with filling (see recipes below).

Refrigerate overnight to obtain the correct soft macaron texture.

Can be successfully frozen for up to 6 weeks.

Makes 85-90. (42-45 filled macarons).

Some pics from making the macarons. This will show you tips like the consistency of the mixture, piping, etc.

macaronner

Use a plastic pastry blade to mix or “macaronner” the mix, until it is shiny and glossy. It will have a consistency like lava or mud.

Use a guide when piping for perfectly even macarons. We drew circles with thick texta onto the tray underneath. You could draw onto baking paper too.

tray of macarons

The macarons spread and look quite flat. See how shiny they are. There should not be any peaks from the piping.Chocolate macarons with chocolate ganache 

photo Marina Oliphant

The chocolate macaron is basically the same recipe as above, with cocoa replacing some of the icing sugar. Be sure to use good quality chocolate in the ganache. Adapt the recipe by using different flavoured chocolate.

 

200g almond meal, laid out on tray to dry for 2 days

175g pure icing sugar, sieved

25g good quality cocoa powder, sieved

150g egg whites, sieved and allowed to stand at room temperature overnight

¼ (quarter) tsp cream of tartar

1 g dry egg white powder (optional)

200g caster sugar

50g water

few drops food colouring

Preheat oven to 150C.

Place almond meal and icing sugar in a food processor and pulse to get a finer consistency. Sieve through a drum sieve with cocoa powder into a large mixing bowl.

Divide egg whites in two batches, each 75g.

Place one batch of egg whites in an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add cream of tartar and egg white powder and set aside.

Mix the remaining 75g egg whites into almond mix to make a thick paste, then set aside.

Make a sugar syrup with caster sugar and water. When thermometer reaches 110C, start whisking egg whites on low speed. Gradually increase speed until the egg whites are thick. (If the sugar syrup is getting too hot before the egg whites are ready, add 3 tsp cold water to syrup to reduce the temperature).

When sugar syrup reaches 118C, slowly pour down the side of the mixer as you continue to whisk the egg whites on medium speed. Continue to mix for about 10 minutes until the meringue cools (the bowl should still feel slightly warm). Add food colouring.

Using a pastry scraper, start mixing the meringue into the almond meal paste. You don’t have to be gentle. Continue to mix until the paste is supple and shiny. (It is quite important to have the correct consistency. The mixture should be oozy and lava –like. When you fold the mixture over itself, it will spread slowly).

Use a pastry bag fitted with a 1cm plain nozzle and pipe onto lined double baking tray. Using two trays ensures even heat distribution. I have found that using a silicone baking mat on top gives the best result.

Rap the baking tray on the bench firmly a couple of times to get rid of any large air bubbles, settle the shape of the macaron and help make the pied or ‘foot’.

Bake in oven for about 16-18 minutes. Check that the macarons are dry by testing whether the top and the pied are firm (if they are soft and the sides are moist, leave them a few more minutes).

Remove from oven and allow to cool on baking trays, then remove and place on wire racks.

When cool, sandwich with filling (see recipe below).

Refrigerate overnight to obtain the correct soft macaron texture.

Can be successfully frozen.

Makes 85-90. (42-45 filled macarons).

chocolate ganache filling:

300g dark chocolate buttons

5 tbsp (100 ml) thickened cream

Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Remove from heat. Place chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl over the pot and allow to melt (make sure that the bowl doesn’t come into contact with the hot water). Stir well and allow to thicken a little. Place in piping bag and pipe onto one macaron, then sandwich with the other macaron. Repeat with remaining macarons and filling. Place on a tray and refrigerate or freeze overnight before serving.

 

 

 

Raspberry macarons with white chocolate raspberry ganache

 

photo Marina Oliphant

white chocolate raspberry ganache filling:

240g white chocolate buttons

5 tbsp (100 ml) thickened cream

1 tbsp natural raspberry extract

red food colouring

Make the macarons according to the Italian macaron method above, adding red food colouring.

To make the filling, bring a medium pot of water to boil. Remove from heat. Place white chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl over the pot and allow to melt (make sure that the bowl doesn’t come into contact with the hot water).  When melted, add raspberry flavouring and colouring. Stir well and allow to thicken a little. Place in piping bag and pipe onto one macaron, then sandwich with the other macaron. Repeat with remaining macarons and filling. Place on a tray and refrigerate or freeze overnight before serving.

 

Mint macarons with white chocolate mint ganache

photo Marina Oliphant

white chocolate mint ganache filling:

240g white chocolate buttons

5 tbsp (100 ml) thickened cream

1 tbsp peppermint extract

green food colouring

Make the macarons according to the Italian macaron method above, adding green food colouring.

To make the filling, bring a medium pot of water to boil. Remove from heat. Place white chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl over the pot and allow to melt (make sure that the bowl doesn’t come into contact with the hot water).  When melted, add peppermint flavouring and colouring. Stir well and allow to thicken a little. Place in piping bag and pipe onto one macaron, then sandwich with the other macaron. Repeat with remaining macarons and filling. Place on a tray and refrigerate or freeze overnight before serving.

 

 

Caramel macarons with butterscotch cream

 

photo Marina Oliphant

butterscotch cream:

 

300g caster sugar

150g thickened cream (35% fat)

200g unsalted butter, softened

Make the macarons according to the Italian macaron method above, adding brown food colouring. To make the filling, melt sugar in large heavy based frypan, stirring with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat, add cream and stir until combined. Set aside and allow to cool.

Place butter in an electric mixer with a whisk attachment and whisk until light and fluffy. Add cooled caramel and continue to whisk until combined.

Place filling in piping bag and pipe a small amount onto a macaron, then sandwich with another macaron. Repeat with remaining macarons and filling. Place on a tray and refrigerate or freeze overnight before serving.