Celebrate, dear readers, for today I bear tidings of the QUEEN of all patisserie.
She is demanding, fiddly and hard to please, but if treated correctly, you are graced with the most regal presence of all.
Her name? The French macaron. Interestingly, the name is derived from the Italian word ‘macarone’ for Italian meringues, although it is widely believed to be invented by the French themselves.
Regardless of who invented it or where it was invented, there is one definite universal fact: they are hard to make.
Since there are many pitfalls that a home baker can fall into, a lot of people (including myself) are initially scared of making them but as long as you follow the instructions carefully, they really aren’t that bad.
If I can make them, you can make them.
So, what are the things that make a perfect macaron?
- A crispy outside to the macaron shell which then contains a soft and creamy filling -> the secret to this is beating the egg whites to the right stiffness.
- The presence of the little ‘feet’ on the bottom of the macarons -> making sure the mixture isn’t over-beaten/rested sufficiently/having the oven on the correct temperature.
- Smooth, not cracked macaron shell without the uneven outside you see on some macarons -> finely grounding the almond meal/not over-beating/resting to form ‘skin’ on outside.
- Delicious & smooth filling -> it is easy to forget that the filling is what gives most of the flavour to your macaron so it is important to ensure that you don’t over-beat your buttercream or curdle your chocolate ganache.
The recipe I used for the macarons in my pictures is for vanilla macarons which I suggest you start with and master before moving on to different colours/flavours which can go wrong more easily. This recipe makes around 12 small/medium macarons.
For the macaron shells:
- 100g (1 cup) icing sugar
- 100g (1 cup) ground almonds (put the shop-bought ground almonds into the food processor until they are super fine and
sieve them after that to ensure that you get a smooth shell.)
- 2 medium, free-range egg whites (some people say you should do this and others think you don’t have to but ‘aging’ the egg whites really makes a different to my macarons. This is super easy, all you have to do is seperate the egg white from the egg yolks and place in the fridge the day before you want to make the macarons and then leave them to get to room temperature on the day you want to use them.)
- Small pinch of fine sea salt
- 55g (¼ cup) caster fine sugar
For the filling:
- 150g (1 ½ cups) unsalted butter, softened
- 75 g ( 2/3 cup) icing sugar
- 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste or good quality vanilla extract (I use Nielsen Massey)
- Macarons need a steady, reasonably low temperature to cook, too high and they easily burn, too low and they don’t cook through. Therefore, set your oven temperature to 140C (300F) without the fan.
- Sieve the icing sugar and ground almonds into a large mixing bowl after grinding in food processor to make them ground almonds as fine as possible. Throw any lumps left behind away. Mix the two together.
- In a separate, grease-free bowl (wipe with a vinegar soaked paper towel to ensure this) whisk the egg whites and salt until they form soft white peaks. Add the caster sugar, a little at a time and continue to whisk until the whites are very thick and glossy (ideally, a spatula placed into the egg white should be able to stand up without you holding it!) Gently stir in the icing sugar and almond mix. The mixture will lose some air and become quite loose, don’t worry, this is the way it should be. However, be exceedingly wary of over-beating the mixture as this is where A LOT of people fail.
- Using a piping bag with a 1cm (1/3″) nozzle, fill with the macaron mixture. Place a macaron silicon mat or paper template onto a baking sheet. Pipe small blobs onto the sheet remembering that less is more at this stage because the mixture will settle and form into the allotted spaces.
- Gently tap the baking sheet a few times on the work surface to help the macaron mixture to settle and to break any air bubbles, then leave to dry for at least 20 minutes – the surface of the macaron will become smooth and shiny.
- Bake the macarons in the preheated for 7 – 8 minutes minutes, open the door to release any steam, close the oven door and cook for a further 7 – 8 minutes. The macarons are cooked when they feel firm and are slightly risen.
- Slide the mat or greaseproof paper onto a wire cooling rack and leave to cool completely Do not be tempted to remove the macarons from the mat until they are cold or you will break them.
- Make the Filling: Beat the softened butter until it is fluffy, then gradually beat in the icing sugar. At this point add the vanilla bean paste or other flavouring you might prefer.
- Place approx 1/2 a tsp of the filling to the flat side of one macaroon and sandwich together with another then twist ever so slightly to create a bond. Continue with the remaining macarons.
- The macarons can be eaten immediately but will benefit from being refrigerated for 24 hours (that’s if you can resist them!) as this will make them even more chewy and delicous. Enjoy! 🙂