To be honest – macarons would be reason enough to learn how to cook, as far as I’m concerned…that’s how motivated I am by:
1. Greed. For me, to eat a macaron is to crave a second. What a sorry lack of willpower.
2. Tightness, as having paid out for a giant box of Ladurée’s specimens was a bit teeth-gritting…and not just because of the disdain of the Parisienne on the counter…
Anyway, I’ve read all the online guides I can find, and tried recipes from the following books, which I would highly recommend: Nigella Lawson (How to Be A Domestic Goddess), Harry Eastwood (The Skinny French Kitchen – although sadly,out of the recipes I’ve tried the macarons are the only one which really haven’t worked), Jill Colonna (Mad About Macarons – genuinely mad. some are flavoured with curry) and Parragon (Macaroons: 30 Recipes for Perfect Bite-size Treats) and through trial and (a lot) of error, have iterated to a formula that works UNLESS: 1. I get misguidedly confident and deviate from it and 2. it is an important macaron situation. I’ve heard that the smallest things can cause the macarons to go (as it were) nuts, e.g. the weather, the particular almonds/egg whites etc. – for me, the disaster variables tend to be oven temperature and emotional pressure. So if I could presume to give advice (which I can’t really) it would be to keep calm, enjoy it, and – pretty much my baking mantra) – a miss is not a fail.
This is the thing: most recipes give quantities based on a set number of egg whites – but if precision is so important, surely egg whites vary so much in weight? The easiest thing, especially if like me you keep excess egg whites in the freezer until needed, and then can’t remember how many were in the bag, is to weigh your egg whites (on a digital scale) and then work out how much you need of the other ingredients. Here goes!
2-3 egg whites = XX grams ideally aged (either frozen/defrosted, or left out at room temperature overnight)
Caster sugar = XX x 2/3 g
Ground almonds = XX x 6/5 g
Icing sugar = XX x 9/5 g
Pinch of salt
Line three baking sheets with baking parchment
1. Grind the almonds and icing sugar in a food processor until very fine and powdery
2. Make a meringue: whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt in a spankingly keen and dry bowl until soft peaks, gradually add caster sugar whilst whisking until stiff peaks form
3. Sift the ground almonds and icing sugar mixture into the meringue
4. Using a metal spoon, stir/fold in the mixture until combined, i.e. with no visible streaks of egg white or clumps of almond. If the mixture is runny (forms a ribbon which disappears) then stop, otherwise give it a few more turns until it reaches this point – proceed slowly and carefully. The description most often given in recipes is until a “magma-like” consistency. I include it for those of you who have actually poked the contents of a volcano. For the rest of us, it is useless.
5. Pipe the mixture into little rounds onto the baking sheets. I find it easiest to us a 0.7cm piping nozzle fitted to a disposable food/freezer bags with a corner snipped off, and to turn down the sides and stand it in a tall glass whilst filling. I also find it easiest to pipe into the corners first, and then halfway between each pair, and halfway again – this gives 5 x 5 grids of macarons.
[Do not, as I have often done, attempt to economically squeeze them too close together, ruining whole batches which merge together into a matrix of ugliness, because you cannot be bothered to get out another baking sheet. If necessary, pipe onto baking parchment and use the baking sheets to cook in batches. I’ve messed up so many batches this way. Sigh.]
6. Turn the oven on to 160°C, and leave the macarons to stand for at least 20 mins, until they are dry, not sticky on the top.
7. Bake in the middle of the oven for 15 mins, then check that they come away from the parchment; if not, continue in 2 min increments until they can be lifted off without utter macaron carnage. [I’ve messed up so many batches this way.]
8. Remove from oven and when cool, sandwich together with generous layers of filling, using a knife.
9. HARDEST PART: These are so much better after 24 hours, when the inner margins of macaron shell have unified with the buttercream and the whole thing is the right balance between fragile crunch, chewy interior and rich centre. The returns on your efforts are magnified at least tenfold. You can always lick out the bowl in the meantime.
Hollow Macarons – overmixed batter, too runny
Cracked shells with the flaw running across the baking sheet like being struck by a curse – undermixed batter, a strek of egg white which has bubbled up
Bubbly Macarons – undermixed batter, too stiff when piping – give it a few more turns
Crazy Macarons, which instead of a ruffly foot at the base, look like they are sticking a foot out in random directions, or even straight up in the air – oven too hot
Macarons which are pure goo beneath the shells and can’t come off the baking sheet – oven too cold – leave them in for longer/turn it up and check every couple of minutes
Genuinely though, a miss is not a fail, even the most comedy looking macaroons still taste pretty excellent.
White Chocolate Ganache Recipe
substituting white chocolate for the dark chocolate in Nigella Lawson, How to Be A Domestic Goddess
I was slightly horrified to realise that buttercream actually is made of butter and cream. Horrified and naive. Quantities are to fill 3 egg-whites of macarons, generously.
100g white chocolate, broken into its natural sections
60ml double cream
30g unsalted butter, cubed
1. Melt all ingredients in a pan over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until mostly melted
2. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl, whisk until thickened
3. Leave to cool – once it’s no longer hot, this can go (covered) into the fridge, but then remove about 10 mins before you are filling the macarons, otherwise it feels more like bricklaying than patisserie…