Oh macarons. You are such tasty creatures but so fickle when it comes to creating you! I've had intentions of tackling macarons for a long time, but it wasn't until recently that I mustered up the courage and found the time to attempt them. My sister even bought me a macaron set from France which included a little book on macarons published by Larousse and a piping bag, which I took as a sign that I should hurry up and make them already!
So I started off the long road to making perfect macarons and began by asking people on twitter for macaron tips. And I got replies from seasoned macaron makers who told me to make sure I don't overmix my batter, not to overbeat my egg whites and to be prepared for failures.
My 2nd attempt - there is something that resembles feet...?
And oh so many failures there were! The first time I overmixed my batter so that when I piped it out, the circles ended up flowing into one big mess. My second attempt was mildly successful, the macaron shells had little feet which made me excited but I initially undermixed the batter so I had to put it all back into the bowl and mix it again before re-piping it.
The third time I was so sure I was going to get it right - the macaron batter was the perfect consistency and they looked great coming out of the oven. But alas they were stuck! Really really stuck! Most of the insides ended up being stuck onto the baking paper and I was left with thin, hollow macaron shell outsides. I was so upset I just threw the lot in the bin.
4th time lucky - successful macaron shells! Happy dancing ensues
After a few days I was over my disappointment. I did some reading and consulted some fellow bloggers for advice about my macaron situation. Billy suggested that I bake my macarons at a lower temperature and for a longer time, and what do you know, it worked! I got beautiful macaron shells with FEET! YAY!
Since then me and macarons have been friends. Most of the time the macarons are kind to me and turn out great but I have had a couple more battles with them when the shells crack or when they get stuck (especially chocolate macarons, they seem to hate me).
But I'd like to think this is something else that I can add to my baking repertoire, even though I am far from being a macaron master. To all of you thinking of attempting macarons - despite the disappointment and frustration from all the failures it really does feel awesome when you finally get it and it's well worth the effort!
I started out simple so the macaron shells in this post are plain with no colourings or flavourings. For one batch I filled them with homemade lemon curd using the leftover egg yolks, and for another batch I filled them with passionfruit butter. But now I'm armed with powdered food colouring so there will hopefully be some macaron madness coming to you from this blog in the near future!
adapted from Tartelette
100g (approximately 3) egg whites
30g caster sugar
110g almond meal
200g pure icing sugar
1. Age your egg whites by leaving them out for 24-48 hours or 3-5 days in the fridge. This allows the excess water to evaporate from them.
2. Line two baking sheets with baking paper. Place almond meal and icing sugar into a food processor and pulse to get rid of any lumps. Sift it into a mixing bowl. If there are still lumps or large bits of almond, place these back into the food processor. Sift again and discard any bits of almond that don't fit through the sieve to ensure you get a smooth macaron shell.
3. Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks. Gradually add the caster sugar to the egg whites and continue beating on high speed until all the caster sugar is added and you have stiff peaks. Be sure to not overbeat your egg whites or the macaron mixture will be dry.
4. Add the almond meal and icing sugar mixture to the egg whites in two additions. With a rubber spatula, mix quickly at first to combine the dry ingredients with the egg whites and to get rid of the large air bubbles. Once the ingredients start to incorporate and the mixture becomes shiny, slow down and start folding the mixture. Keep folding and checking to see if it is ready - the mixture should 'flow like magma', should fall like ribbons from your spatula and a blob of the mixture should merge back into the mass after 20 seconds. A wise woman once told me that it is better to undermix than overmix - if it is undermixed you can always put it back into the bowl and mix it again.
5. Put your piping bag (fitted with a 1cm tip) in a tall glass to make it easier to fill. Try to seal off the end otherwise your macaron batter will start oozing out. Fill the piping bag and pipe circles onto your prepared baking trays about 3cm in diameter. Leave about 2.5cm in between each piped circle to allow for spreading. You can draw circles on the underside of your baking paper as a template to ensure that the macaron shells are the same size.
6. When you have finished, confidently rap the baking sheet once onto the counter to allow any air bubbles to rise to the top. Pop these carefully with a toothpick. Leave the shells out to form a skin so that when you touch the surface none of the mixture sticks to your finger. This takes about 30 minutes to 1 hour. During this time preheat your oven to 140ºC, although the temperature will vary depending on your oven. If the baking sheets you are using are thin, put another baking sheet or overturned baking tray into the oven so that you can place the baking sheet with your macaron shells on top of it. This allows for more even heat distribution so your macaron shells bake evenly.
7. When the macaron shells are dry to the touch, place in the oven (on top of your baking sheet or overturned baking tray if you are using it) for 15-20 minutes (depending on your oven). You can tell when they are ready by gently poking the feet - they should be hard and no longer spongy to the touch.
8. Remove the macaron shells from the oven and gently peel off the baking paper and place on a wire rack to cool. If the shells do not come off easily, you can try spraying the underside of the baking paper with water to 'steam' them off. Make sure you don't leave the macarons on the damp baking paper for too long otherwise they will become soggy. Another way is to place the baking sheet with the macaron shells back into the turned-off oven for 10 minutes. I've also read that allowing them to cool completely on the tray can make them easier to peel off but I haven't tried this.
9. When your macarons are cool, place a spoonful of your choice of filling in the centre of one macaron shell and sandwich with another one that is a similar size. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 24 hours to mature. Trust me, it's hard to not eat them there and then but they taste a billion times better after sitting overnight in the fridge :)