I never entertained myself with the idea of making such delicate pastries like macarons, until one of my good friends offered up his home made macarons to me. He told me if you have the right technique, they are quite easy to make. That was lie #1. I thought, I have baked all my life from lemon meringue pies to German cakes, so how hard could it be?
I started with the recipe he generously and secretly sent me, and while they tasted like a macaron, they lacked feet, cracked, unfortunately hollow. FAIL. Where was I going wrong? The problem was that making the perfect macarons was subject to several variables, ones that you can hardly control. The disappointing batches was discouraging, but my innate competitive nature led me to eventually finding the perfect recipe, eventually one year later.
Okay, that is lie #2. This recipe isn’t perfect, but its success rate is higher than any other recipes I’ve tried. To be honest, it isn’t about the recipe, but the baker. Let me explain.
Cloud Egg Whites
Macarons are composed of whipped egg whites, and if you have made meringues or angel food cakes before, you would undertand that these egg whites need to be whipped at room temperature with absolutely no greasy residue. Sugar is to be added when the mixture is frothy, because sugar LOVES moisture. When added at the perfect time, the egg whites will build a stronger elastic bond, enabling the meringues to fluff up to stiff peaks. Don’t overbeat your egg whites because that will just reverse its method and create a soupy mess.
The macaron in macaronnage
Another important ingredient to macarons is of course, the almond meal and sugar. Folding in this concoction to the egg whites is also called macaronnage. My biggest mistake when I first made macarons was that I never “macaronnaged” them enough, so they were filled with air bubbles and as a result, no feet. Macaronnaging is important because you need to deflate some of the air pockets out of the mixture, until the mixture resembles lava. Hard to explain, but when you get the perfect mixture, you will know. They say under macaronnaging is better than over. That’s lie #3. Who wants to bite into a seemingly gorgeous macaron, only to have your teeth sink into a sugary hollow macaron, with reminents of the cracked shell all over you? Not yummy, nor lady-like. I say, if it’s not perfect, it’s not a macaron.
Rain, rain go away so I can make my macarons today
Finally, NO unecessary liquids. Macarons are highly tempermental and any additional liquids or even humidity in the air will affect the delicate pastries. I tried making these on a rainy week and it was disastrous. Of course, you cannot control the weather, especially in Raincouver, so let the macarons sit out to “dry” longer before you put them in the oven. To add colour to the macarons, use powder or gel food colouring. For flavouring, try avoiding liquid extracts and use powdered flavourings instead.
For those brave baker souls, here is my “perfect” macarons recipe. I only have one photo because I had no time for distraction, because distraction = prone to error.
120g egg whites – at room temperature
40g granulated white sugar
140g ground almonds
240g confectioner’s sugar
1) Sift together ground almonds and icing sugar and set aside.
2) Whip egg whites on medium until frothy. Gradually add granulated sugar, then turn up the mixer on high. Whisk until stiff peaks (about 6-8 minutes). During this time, you can add your food colouring.
3) Once at stiff peaks, add your ground almonds and icing sugar mixture in the bowl all at once. Fold (or macaronnage) your mixture vigorously to ensure air pockets are deflated, until the mixture is shiny and resembles lava. To test, use your spatula to make a line and it should take approximately 10 seconds for it to close together.
4) With a 16 inch piping bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round tip, pipe round circles on your baking sheet lined with parchment paper. If they don’t spread or the nipples don’t seem to soften, then you haven’t mixed it enough.
5) Bang the baking sheet on your counter top a few times to release the air bubbles. Don’t worry, your macarons will not shift. Let the baking sheet sit for at least 20 minutes to dry, or until a dull skin forms.
6) Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bake for 5 minutes on each side for a total of 10 minutes. Be careful not to over bake because they burn easy, or under bake. If your macarons are still sticking to the parchment paper, it means it is under baked.
7) Let the macarons cool on the baking sheet before removing. Remove from baking sheet and fill with your favourite buttercream icing, curds, jams!
A few more tips:
if you like smooth macarons, ground your almonds extra fine
macarons freeze well, up to 1 month
aged egg whites work best
measure ingredients precisely with a scale
don’t open oven doors before the first 5 minutes as cool air can affect the macaron whether they are cracks or prevent them from forming feet
feet should have been formed in the first 5 minutes