The first time I ever attempted the macaron, I experienced success. I figured all the things I kept hearing and reading about how difficult they were must have just been crazy talk. And so, I tried them again – with perhaps a little too much confidence. Fail! I picked my pride up off the floor and tried another time. And another, and another, and another. All resulted in a big fat Fail! Gee, those people really were talking some truth!
I’m going to come right out and say it – I don’t really love Macarons. I love how beautiful they look, how they create magic on any table setting and how they can be colour coordinated to suit any palette. My true obsession with perfecting them is purely due to the fact that I want to conquer the creation of them. I adored the Salted Caramel macaron I had a couple of weeks ago from J’aime Les Macaron in Christchurch, but that is honestly the first time I’ve been wowed by them since that very first time I tasted one a few years back.
I had been using the traditional French method of making these lil’ beauties, and had tried recipes & tutorials from Martha Stewart, Annies-Eats, Tartlette & SprinkleBakes. But I decided before giving up completely, I would try a new technique. While there were things about these that were not quite perfect – feet didn’t grow as high as normal and some of them randomly exploded like little volcanoes (I’m incredibly fussy!), the majority of these turned out the best looking by far – completely smooth tops, beautiful colour and perfect texture!
This recipe made a huge batch and so after taking them to a family lunch, with still plenty left over, I delivered to two different households to share the love. The feedback I received was enough to make me want to keep trying – new flavours, different colours, two toned jewels even.
“Amazing. Simply A.M.A.Z.I.N.G!”
“Food of the gods – and that is coming from a savory-lovin’ girl!”
“Those macarons were the most magical thing I’ve ever eaten.”
“Oooooohhhhh myyyyy goodness. Your macarons are to die for. Delicious!”
“Oh my flippin’ goodness!!! Did you make those???”
I received a bunch of texts and even a phone call to report back. I was a little taken aback to be honest. But that tells me that these were good.
Basic Macaron Recipe
212 grams almond meal (or you can as I did blitz up 212 grams of whole almonds in a food processor until finely ground)
212 grams icing sugar
82 and 90 grams egg whites, divided
236 grams granulated sugar, plus a pinch
158 grams water
Preheat the oven to 180˚ C and place a rack in the middle of the oven. Line baking sheets with baking paper or silicone baking mats.
In a large bowl, combine the almond meal and icing sugar. Whisk together to blend and break up any lumps. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the 82 gram portion of the egg whites. Using a rubber spatula, mix the egg whites into the dry ingredients until evenly combined. The mixture should be thick like paste. Set aside.
Meanwhile, combine the sugar and water for the syrup in a small pot over medium-high heat. You will need to use a candy thermometer to gauge the temperature of your syrup mixture and when the temperature of the syrup is about 93˚ C, in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, begin to combine the 90 gram portion of egg whites with a pinch of sugar. Whipping on medium-low speed, continue to whip, increasing to medium speed until the egg whites form soft peaks. If you reach soft peak stage before the syrup has reached it’s final destination temperature of 120° C, turn the mixer down to low to keep the egg whites moving.
As soon as your syrup mixture reaches 120˚ C, remove it from the heat immediately. Turn your mixer up to medium and slowly add the syrup down the side of the bowl in a steady even drizzle until it’s all mixed in. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and whip the meringue until it is stiff and glossy peaks form. (Add your gel food colouring and/or flavouring now if you wish to colour and flavour your macaron shells *)
Using a rubber spatula again, gently fold in a third of the meringue mixture to the bowl with the almond/egg white paste mixture and mix until smooth. Adding a little at a time, continue to gently fold in all the meringue until the batter is smooth and runs in thick ribbons off the spatula back into the bowl. Be sure to add your meringue slowly as you may not require it all and the consistency of your final mixture is paramount to success.
Transfer the finished mixture to a large pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip with an approximately 1cm opening. Holding the pastry bag about 1 cm above the baking tray at right angles, steadily pipe rounds 3-4cm in diameter. The batter may create small peaks as you pipe it, but if the consistency is correct, they should smooth away on their own as the mixture settles. If the batter is too thin, the rounds will spread further, resulting in a flatter shell.
You do not need to leave these to form a crust as with the conventional method of preparation.
Transfer the baking tray into the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 160˚ C. Bake for 9-12 minutes, until the tops are smooth and set and you can see “feet” around the bottom. Let the shells cool briefly on the baking tray, approximately 5 minutes, and then peel away from the baking paper. They should come away easily and fully intact. Place gently on a wire rack. Repeat as needed with the remaining batter, replacing the baking paper with each batch. (Turn the oven temperature back up to 180˚ C before baking a second sheet, and proceed as before – remembering to turn the oven back down to 160° C before baking.)
Once the shells are baked and cooled, match them up in pairs by size and sandwich together with the filling of your choice.
They will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 day, but are best enjoyed on the day they’re made.
It is very important that macarons be made by weight as this is the only way to keep them accurate and because they are so temperamental, it’s important to minimise the ‘issues’ that could arise.
Champagne Buttercream Filling
200 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups icing sugar
1 tablespoon Champagne flavouring (available at Milly’s Kitchen) or 4 tablespoons Champagne or Dessert Wine
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer with a paddle attachment, whip the butter until creamed. Add the icing sugar and the champagne essence. Mix until the ingredients are evenly incorporated and the frosting is smooth and creamy. Add more icing sugar or flavouring until the desired flavour & texture is achieved.
* My macaron shells were unflavoured in this instance, but I did add brown colouring to achieve the colour.