Macarons

I've always had a bit of a love affair with Macarons. They conjure up images of all my favourite things, Ladurée, pastel hued crockery, vintage cutlery and afternoon teas filled with an array of intriguing flavours and sweet delights. I really wanted to try and re-create a little of that magic in my own kitchen. So I set about whisking egg whites and sifting almonds and covering myself and my kitchen in food colouring and fruit powders.

Then terrible thing happened, I lost my macaron mojo. 

Well I know you'd not think it to look at the photos now, but let me tell you, I gazed on in bewilderment as inexplicably, my sugary delights emerged from the oven a shrivelled, hollow, footless mess. This was not the plan, and caused me quite a few sleepless nights. I decided to persevere and go back to basics. My solution to most culinary disasters (And I do have my fair share) is to read up as much as I can about process to work out where i've gone wrong. Turns out Macarons really are the divas of the cake world and need special care and attention at every stage in order to achieve perfection. Now I wouldn't say i've quite achieved perfection as yet, but i'm certainly working on it. I'm glad I took the time to work on them too, as on Friday I was asked to bake 300 of the little tinkers in a kitchen i'd never worked in before. I'm happy to say the resulting macs were actually quite acceptable! 

So here follows my recipe, and an attempt to explain how to achieve the best results. Mostly for my own reference, just in case my mojo fails me again. I use a french macaron base. I have read that using an Italian meringue base is quite a bit easier, but i've nearly cracked this method so i'm sticking with it for now...

You Will Need...

  • 110g icing sugar
  • 85g ground almonds
  • 2 egg whites (around 80g of white)
  • 100g caster sugar

This recipe makes 18-20 macarons

Pre-heat the oven to 120°C. Sift the icing sugar and ground almonds, any large lumps of almond that aren’t fine enough to go through a fine sieve can be ground further in a coffee grinder but discard any pieces that are too large.

Whisk the egg whites along with a pinch of salt until stiff, then add the caster sugar a spoonful at a time and bring the whites up to stiff peak, and when I say stiff, I’m talking hold the bowl over your head stiff. This may take around 5 minutes. Add any colouring at this stage also.

The next integral step is to fold the almonds and icing sugar into the whites. This is called macaronage. Getting the right texture here is crucial, the batter must be a shiny, silky smooth consistency that will find it's own level when piped. So it shouldn't be too runny and it mustn't be too firm. Use a spatular to fold the almond mix into the whites in two halves, fold in the first half to lighten the mix, then add the second. Keep working the mix until it flows from the spatular. Essentialy this is deflating the egg white to create a smooth pipeable consistency. I test for this by gently tapping the mixing bowl on the worktop, any trails left in the batter should disappear and the mix should find it's own level.

Transfer the mix to a piping bag and pipe even circles around an inch in diameter onto a baking tray lined with silicone paper. Once piped lift the tray up and drop it onto the work surface, this will encourage any air bubbles in the mix to rise to the surface, repeat this 5 times. Allow the macrons to sit for 15 to 20 minutes to skin over.

Place the macarons into the pre-heated oven 1 tray at a time. All ovens have hot spots so the positioning of the tray in the oven can also affect the finished result of the macarons. For me the second shelf up from the bottom gives me the best bake. Bake for 10 minutes, turning the tray around after 7 minutes to ensure an even colour all over.

Once completely cool the macarons can be filled with a filling of your choice. A few of my favourite flavours are earl grey tea and lemon, raspberry and hazelnut, rhubarb and custard, salted caramel and most recently Truffle (my cat is called Truffle, for anyone reading this that knows Truffle, no I don't put the cat into the macarons!) Let me know if you have any flavour suggestions to try, and of course, contact me if you would like me to make some for you!