French Macaroons, a step-by-step recipe

Chocolate macaroons

 

That’s it, after a 6-hour class and two further attempts at home, I can finally say that macaroons are not that though to make! It might sound strange but it is true: macaroons require a good recipe, a good method and some precision. But if you follow all the steps and have a good eye to what looks like the right consistency, you’ve got it and you will be able to make batches and batches of fantastic macaroons.

In this post I will try and give as much detail as possible to help you bake perfectly cue little macaroons. But if you are serious about this, and live in London, I really recommend you take the macaroon class at Cakes4Fun in Putney (London, UK).

The price might put you off initially, but it is really worth it: the class lasts from 10 am until 4pm, there are max. 6 people there so the teacher really has time for you, and you will make 4 different flavours of macaroons (lemon, raspberry, pistachio, chocolate in my case). I came back home with a box of at least 60 macaroons. Thank go I had a dinner the same evening! The recipes are not that different, but because you make 4 batches, you really progress on piping technique and you become very confident with the recipe. In fact I baked a few batches at home just the week-end after the class and they turned out perfect. The cover picture from this article is actually from my latest “home batch”.

You will need:

Material: a scale that can measure to 1-2 g – a candy thermometer – a sifter – an electric whisk (hand held or not, does not matter) – at least one baking tray but ideally 4 – baking parchment – disposable piping bags – a large round piping nozzle – a plastic or silicon flexible spatula

Ingredients:

For the meringue:200 g caster sugar – 75 ml water – 80 g egg whites

For the almond paste: 200 g blanched ground almonds –  200 g icing sugar – 80 g egg whites – colouring paste (not liquid)

Note: If you are making chocolate shells, use 20 g cocoa powder and 180 almond meal instead of 200 g almond meal

First of all, it might sound  a bit crazy but it is best NOT to use fresh egg whites from whole eggs for this recipe. Before using egg whites, you have to let them age a it, for 1 to 2 days. This helps reduce moisture content while retaining the protein bonds from the egg whites the same. It will help you get a nice stiff meringue. If you use non-aged egg whites, you could end up with a runny meringue and a runny macaroon batter, which will not raise properly when baked.

But what if you can’t be bothered to plan you recipe 2 days in advance? What if you are worried about food safety linked with eating aged raw eggs? What if you don’t know what you are going to do with all the remaining yolks? That’s ok, I have  a little trick for you!

512203bIn the class we used Two Chicks egg white liquid. Their liquid egg white is pasteurised making it safe to use in recipes that require the egg white to be uncooked – such as your macaroons for example! I am sure you can find other brands depending on where you live, but in the UK it is the easiest one to find (available in large supermarkets and nature stores) I have been using the same at home – I have not tried aging my own egg whites, but to be honest, the liquid egg whites work, it is safe and easy. So I don’t bother! And then I can always use the leftover in an omelette or a quiche.

How to make them? 

1. First you need to prepare your material and ensure you have everything at hand. Prepare your piping bag (click here for method). Cut your baking sheet to the size of the tray(s) – not bigger otherwise the sides of the paper may lift in the oven and damage your macaroons.

The meringue and the “tant-pour-tant”

2. You are now ready to prepare your shells. Let’s start with the meringue. For this recipe we use Italian meringue rather than French meringue. What’s the difference? The Italian meringue is made with a sugar syrup, when French meringue is made by incorporating the caster sugar directly into the egg whites. Our teacher says you have less chances on failing with the Italian method, and the outcome is roughly the same. I have not tested both methods but that one has not failed me so far, so I stick to it!

Measure your caster sugar and water. Place in a low bottom pan on the stove (high setting). Leave it until you see it boiling – without touching or stirring in any way. While you sugar and water are boiling, beat 80 g egg whites to a soft peak (frothy but not fully whipped)

img_8264

3. When you see your water and sugar mix starting to boil and the sugar has dissolved, stick your candy thermometer into the water and wait until the thermometer indicates 114 C. When it does, you can remove from the heat.

sugar syrup4. Pour the syrup in a thin stream into the beaten egg whites and keep beating the eggs at the same time. Here a standing mixer makes it easier, but with a bit of dexterity you can pour the syrup with your left hand and beat the egg whites with your hand held mixer too. Continue beating for 5-10 minutes so the mix cools down and your meringue becomes shiny and stiffer. Here is how it should look. You are done with making the meringue, well done for getting so far! We are now going to make the “tant pour tant” (the almond paste).

The expression “tant pour tant” means “in equal parts”. it is used when making macaroons because you use equal parts of sugar and ground almonds.

IMG_06775. Mix together the icing sugar and ground almonds until well incorporated. Sift the mix on top of a large sheet of baking paper to make sure it is as fine as possible. This is so that the shells of your macaroons are perfectly smooth and shiny. If you skip this step you will have some bits and crumbs dotting your shells. (In the picture below the final dry mix looks a bit dark, this is because it is the chocolate version, with cocoa powder). You could accelerate the sifting process (the most painful and boring part for me) by pulsing the mix few times in a food processor until the mixture resembles a fine powder, and then sift. You should have less lumps to get rid of then.

IMG_06936. If you are doing the chocolate version, you can directly incorporate the unbeaten egg whites into the dry mix. The cocoa powder provides the colour. If you are doing any other version, first you need to add a large tea spoon of any colouring of your choice to the egg whites. Beat well to incorporate. Then add the dry mix and work it with a flexible spatula to form a paste.

Do not use liquid colouring as it will dilute your mix and your macaroon dough will become runnier than expected, which will make is difficult to pipe, your macaroons might not rise and make your shells will be more fragile. Chose good quality food colouring to get vibrant colours, without adding too much to your mix. SugarFlair is a great brand for concentrated food colouring. But there are plenty of others out there.You want your colour to be quite intense here, because it will lighten up when you add in the meringue. But don’t overdo it otherwise your tongue would take the colour of your macaroon!  Below an example of a paste for lemon.

macaroonWhen I did the class I was really surprised that there was actually no flavouring of the macaroon shell (except for the chocolate ones). Basically you only add the colouring to indicate which flavour your macaroon is, but all the flavouring is in the ganache. If you have tried eating a macaroon by first removing the shell and then licking off the cream, you still feel the taste in the shell. How come? This is because the macaroons are best enjoyed after having been left in the fridge overnight. The shell then soaks up some of the flavour from the cream. I have seen some recipes which use flavouring in the shell, but that’s asking for trouble when you just begin!

The macaronage

7. Brace yourselves, this is the tricky part, the “macaronage”!This is the bit when you incorporate the meringue into the “tant pour tant”. You need to be careful not to overdo it. You’ll want to incorporate all the meringue in the tant-pour-tant until you get an homogeneous mix. But work the macaroon batter as little as possible as it will become runnier and runnier otherwise, and you can’t get it back. Here is a good video found on Youtube to show you the technique.

And your macaroon batter is now ready! Another milestone completed!

The piping

8. First you will need to fill your piping bag. I would explain exactly how but this article on Brave Tart explain it perfectly! It even tells you how to keep your batter from running away before you are ready to pipe.

9. Before you pipe your macaroons, you need to prep the surface. You will want to make sure that nothing moves while your macaroons are in the oven, and therefore you need something to hold the baking paper in place. For this you are going to pipe a dot of batter directly on the baking tray, one in each corner. And you are going to position the baking sheet on top of them. That will hold it in place, as the batter will dry up in the oven. See in the image below, the yellow dots under the baking sheet.

IMG_0685

10. Now you can pipe! Some people use a special silicon mat with circles to make perfect size macaroons, but to be honest, once you have piped a couple of macaroons, you should be able to get a batch of similar sized ones pretty easily. Video below again from Youtube that shows you how to do it. It takes abit of practice to get there, but not huge practice either – in the class I attended there were a lot of newbies to piping (like me) and we all got the hang of it after a few lines of macaroons.

The baking

11. Once you have piped the macaroons, drop the tray three of times from a slight height. This will help to flatten the mixture.

12. Let the shell crust over before baking the macaroons. This usually takes anywhere from 20-40 minutes. It is a crucial step and one not to miss: by drying the top of the shell it forms a protective film on the surface which becomes crisp when baked and prevents the shell from cracking on the surface and helps form the ridged “feet” around the base.

Preheat your oven to 150 C while you leave your macaroons to dry. The drying is the reason why it is better to have several baking trays. My kitchen is too small to store many trays, so I only have 2 small ones. I can pipe 6 trays with the amount of batter in this recipe but I can only pipe them two by two, then I need to let them dry 30 mn in between each so it can take ages. But it’s all worth it!

You know your macaroons are ready to put in the oven when you can lightly run a finger over the top without any batter sticking to you. You will also notice that the batter loses its shine as it dries. On the picture below you see the difference quite well: on the left, macaroons batter just piped, on the right macaroons batter that has been left to dry for 20 mn.

macaroons drying

14. The oven tempearture cannot be too high otherwise the macaroons will start to brown and lose their colours. If you have decided not to colour your macaroons, or you are using pastel tones, be extra careful as the browming will show more quickly. For small macaroons (about 3-4cm diameter) baking takes about 9-10 mn. For medium ones (6-8 cm diameter), count about 14-15 mn. But really this depends on so many factors (mainly your oven) that you will need to stay next to you oven for the first batch to check on your macaroons and ensure optimal cooking time and temperature.

To check whether your macaroons are ready, crack the door of the oven open, with your thumb and index finger, grab the sides of a macaroons shell (preferably one you have not piped too well, just in case you damage) and gently move from side to side. If the bottom stays stuck, but the top is moving (top dissociates from bottom), the macaroon is not ready, leave a couple more minutes in the oven. If the top stay stuck to the bottom, then it is ready. Typically, the chocolate shelles will need a couple more minutes, as the cocoa make the batter wetter. If the shells start to brown before the macaroons are cooked, crack the door open about 5 cm to release some hot air and bring the temperature down.

macaroon green

15. As soon as your macaroons are baked, slide the baking sheet off the tray and let them completely cool down before trying to take them off. If the macaroon shells stick to the sheet it could be because they are under-cooked, or because you have not let them cool down properly.

The filling

16. You can use pretty much anything to fill your macaroons: ganache, buttercream, lemon curd, fruit paste etc..

Here below 2 examples of simple fillings are: a chocolate ganache and a lemon mascarpone filling.

Chocolate ganache: 200 g dark dessert chocolate – 200 g double cream.

In a bowl, break the chocolate into small pieces. In a pan, bring the double cream to the boil. The pour over the chocolate and mix energically. Let it cool down to room temparature before using. Fill a piping bag with the ganache.

Lemon mascarpone cream: 200 g mascarpone – 100 g lemon curd

Mix both together in a bowl and fill a piping bag with the mix.

17. Once your macaroon shells have cooled down, take the all off the baking sheet, and pair them up by size. Then pipe your filling onto one of the shells, and press the other down gently on top of it.

macaroon pink

18. To store, place them side by side vertically in a box, this will keep them from moving too much.

macaroons stacked

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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