Florence’s Food: Macarons

Today, I’m handing you over to my sister Francesca because she is going to share her tips on making (the notoriously tricky) macarons. After she had cracked the recipe and bake, I asked her to teach me, and you guys, how to make them, with stunning results. You can find the basic macaron recipe here on The Pink Whisk – the baking blog by Ruth, who came second in the first Great British Bake off series. Francesca is going to talk you through the how-to step by step sharing her hard won tips so you can skip to the perfect macarons!

A very lovely friend recently brought a box of macarons all the way back from Brussels for me and I instantly fell in love. Each was a different flavour with a tangy delicious filling and the colours were beautiful! I decided I wanted to make them myself and knowing how notoriously difficult they were to make I took the time to read around the art of making them. With a fair bit of baking experience under my belt I foolishly went into my first batch feeling quietly confident. I followed the recipe and heeded the few warnings about common stumbling points but mine were still misshapen, unrisen and very firmly stuck to my extra greased grease proof baking paper. The silver lining to this baking disaster was the macaron eaton mess I made with the broken pieces I managed to prize from the baking paper! A futher 4 batches were made with varying degrees of success and failure and I now believe I have mastered the tricky little macaron! I hope with these tips you will avoid the 4 unsuccessful batches and skip right to the proud moment of sandwiching two together and having your friends/family tell you how great they look (and taste!)

My first piece of advice is not to try making macarons without a silicon Macaron Mat! Other people recommend different brands of baking paper but the only success I had was with my purpose made silicone Macaron Mat (link to the one I bought). As long as they are cooked at the right temperature, for the right amount of time and left to cool completely, they will peel off this mat with ease. (Make sure you put a baking try under your mat before you pipe anything onto it or you’ll have great difficulty moving the floppy silicon mat into the oven without your mixture going everywhere!)

I start by mixing the ground almonds and icing sugar very thoroughly. This can be done with a food processor or enthusiastically by hand! Once they are mixed, I weigh out the egg whites ensuring the mixing bowel is squeaky clean and no egg yolk gets mixed in. They need to be whisked to a stiff peak and then the sugar can be added in bit at a time. Be careful not to over whisk or they egg whites will become flat again. This is the best stage to add in the food colouring. Gel colouring is best as it does not affect the consistency of the mixture as much as a liquid colouring. I personally like ‘sunshine yellow’ for my lemon macarons but pick whichever colour takes your fancy! You do need quite a bit of colouring, they fade a little when cooked. I use about half a tube for each batch.

The ground almond and icing sugar mixture can then be sieved into the egg whites, I usually do it in thirds. Each time you sieve the mix over the egg whites some larger almond grains will be left behind (above top right), these will make the maracons grainy if you force them through the sieve so throw these away. Fold the almond and icing sugar mix into the egg whites being careful not to knock out too much air as you go. Once they are fully mixed together, the macarons are ready to pipe.

I like to make lemon macarons which requires the addition of the zest of 2 lemons and ½ – 1 whole juiced lemon. I add this once all the mixture is combined and add the second half of the juice slowly and see how loose the mixture becomes, depending on the size of the lemon only half may be needed, or the macaron mix will not hold its shape on the mat.

I have two fancy piping devices, neither of which helped me with the macarons as the nozzle sizes weren’t right. I decided to fill a plastic sandwich bag full of mixture and seal it at the top, then hold the mixture upside down so the tip is pointing in the air and carefully cut off the corner tip. You can then turn it around and start piping onto your mat.

Once your mat is full of macarons, you need to help the mixture flatten by lifting the tray about 10cm and dropping it flat onto the work surface. Do this 3-4 times until your macarons have flattened out nicely, then leave the mixture on the side for 30 minutes to form a skin. At this point you can preheat the oven to 140, (fan assisted.) You should be able to gently touch the top of the macarons without any mixture sticking to your finger. They need baking for 1416 minutes in my oven, but I’m afraid it can be a trial and error situation as every oven varies. They then must be left to cool completely before trying to remove them from the baking mat or they will stick and break.

You can be a creative as you like with the filling. I have to confess I’m not sure I’ve mastered that part yet but I do like using whipped cream with the addition of a generous handful of raspberries and a little icing sugar. Anything from jam to nutella can be used to fill them or special macaron buttercream filling, for which there are numerous recipes on the internet for, I just haven’t found one I like enough to use yet! My last bit of advice is to only sandwich the shells together with filling just before you eat them, otherwise they tend to go soft if left for too long. The shells will keep fresh for about a week in an air tight container.

Good luck and remember, if at first you don’t succeed – try, try again! I think this motto was made for macaron making!

Thank you Francesca! I was so impressed with this batch – now to make them myself!

Will any of you be joining us in attempting macarons, or have you mastered them already – I’d love to hear any tips!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

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14 thoughts on “Florence’s Food: Macarons

  1. I succeeded at making perfect macarons the first time I tried. I was so proud of myself. Then I made them again, and I had cracks in many of them. It’s weird because I followed the exact same process. I am blaming the oven or the moisture in the air (even after an hour, my shells were not fully dried). I have read the oven temperature (if there are drafts in your oven, or if the temperature is too high, can also cause cracks, so an oven thermometer is a good investment).

    Here are however some tips (I have read extensively, for me the most helpful source has been the book ‘Le macaron’ by Jose Marechal. It is full of photos, scientific explanations of the process and it’s very easy to understand)

    -macarons need precision. A scale to weigh your ingredients (from the egg whites, to the icing sugar and ground almond is necessary). Changes in proportion (even minimal) can cause changes in texture.
    -it is very important to mix the icing sugar and ground almonds (le “tant pour tant”) until they are homogenous and sieve it several times. There should not be any big pieces left (or they will cause your macarons to be grainy, or worse, to crack). A processor is a big help here.
    -tapping the trays is important not only to flatten the macarons, but to break any bubbles of air. Air bubbles trapped during baking will find it’s way up and crack the shells.
    -having fully dried shells, letting a film form (call this: “le croûtage” if you’re feeling fancy) is crucial. It allows macarons to stretch sideways, (not sideways AND upwards while baking, causing them to crack). The air escapes through the “feet” forming the ruffles on the bottom, instead of through the top of the shell, causing them to break, hence the film also prevents cracks.
    -I used a silicon mat for the first time yesterday, and in my opinion, I had a better experience with waxed paper. (So I guess it depends per mat? Mine is from pâtisse, and I don’t recommend it for macs.). My macarons stuck to the silicon and it seemed that they did not cook properly even after more than half an hour (unusual). My guess is the silicon does not get as hot as the (thinner) paper.
    -for the filling, ganaches are delicious. I used 200 ml whipping cream + 200 gr dark chocolate + 50 gr butter. You just warm up the cream until it is just about to boil (but it shouldn’t), pour it over the chopped chocolate and stir so it melts, then add the butter. Let it cool to form a cream. You can even make a fruit-ganache (replacing the cream with juices / jam). I have also used lemon curd and homemade jams. Buttercream, cream-cheese frosting, nutella can also work.

  2. Oh, and another tip:

    -it is important to leave the filled macarons at least a few hours (preferably overnight) in the fridge. The shells absorb the flavours and moisture of the filling and they reach the perfect chewy/ crunchy consistency.

    This video, made at the Pierre Hermé atelier in Paris explains the process (though it uses the Italian meringue technique). Don’t be scared though, Italian meringue is not at all difficult to make, all you need is a candy thermometer. Some people say the resulting macarons are smoother, shinier and glossier and the meringue itself is more stable (because the air bubbles are coated in syrup, which acts more like a film, instead of by a solution, which is what happens when you add raw sugar).

  3. I shall definoty be having a go with this recipe! I had a got at making macaroons earlier this week and it is safe to say they were disastrous!! Not even faintly macaroon shaped (but tasted great!) Thanks for the tips!xxx

  4. They look scrumptious. Great tips as well – I’ve always shied away from making them definitely going to try them soon. Thanks Francesca!x

  5. I quite like Nigella’s recipe & have made her chocolate & recently pistachio flavours with an edible, if not aesthetic level of success. I like your plastic bag as piping nozzle having had a fight with mine last time I used it that ended up with it in bin & me using a teaspoon.

  6. These look far too tricky for me, but they are beautiful and I bet they taste amazing! I also love the fact that they match your nails.

    Kate
    xxx

  7. I’m a keen baker but I think I’d baulk at making macaroons – they’re just too scary so plaudits to all you intrepid and skilled macaroon-makers out there. I am however quite brave enough to eat them!

  8. Gosh, these look fab! Well Done!

    I have tried twice and failed twice! I did, ashamedly give up after that! So much hard work, and I really didn’t want to fail a third time!

    However, this looks much easier! Might give them another go!

    Sx

  9. The macaroons were absolutely delicious, I know as I had first tasting, scrummy!! great post Francesca!!

  10. Hi! I know this is quite an old post now but I am currently considering buying a macaroon mat and have looked at the one you used. I have never made them before and the comments on the mat on Amazon are very mixed, with some people saying they stick quite badly. I was wondering if you’ve used the mat again and how easy it is to get the macaroons off without breaking?!

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