My love affair with French macarons
I love macarons. Ever since my partner brought home some Laduree macarons for me from Paris in 2008, I have been obsessed! When I started becoming a little more serious about my baking last year, I decided that I would try more challenging recipes, and from what I had read, French macarons do require some technical skill being the hardest type of macaron to make (more difficult than the Italian and Swiss meringue). For a little while, I was apprehensive about giving macarons a crack, until Cath Chen from Confessions of a Glutton blogged about making Raspberry Tea & Honey macarons. After reading her post, I was inspired to have a go. I decided that I would use Cath’s recipe and method to make the shells and fill them with a choc-mint ganache. When I popped the cookie sheet into the oven, I sat down to watch the maracons bake. I was so nervous! As soon as I saw the little ‘feet’ on my macarons, I was dancing for joy around the kitchen! I couldn’t believe that my macarons turned out so well!
I felt so great about my first attempt that the next week, I made another batch. The second batch didn’t turn out so great. I hadn’t folded the dry ingredients enough into the meringue and the mixture was too dry. They ended up really ugly and not very tasty.
After that horrid attempt, I was scared off making macarons again, but then Cath blogged about making Mojito macarons. These Mojito macarons looked so lovely, that I just had to get back on the horse and give macarons another go. If you’ve never made French macarons before, it’s really hard to get your head around how much you need to fold in your dry ingredients. To help me with this, I found an amazing troubleshooting guide on the HowToCookThat blog. This troubleshooting guide has helped immensely, and I haven’t had any issues since. Once you’re able to recognise what your mixture should look like after folding in the dry ingredients, you’ll make perfect macarons every time! I like to use Cath’s macaron recipe as a starting point because it makes roughly 15 macarons and that is the perfect number to share between two people! The macaron filling I chose for this batch was lemon curd. Lemon curd is a wonderful way to use up left over yolks! I used the same recipe as my lemon tart post from a little while back.
Basic macaron shell recipe
110g icing sugar
60g almond meal
60g egg white, aged (approximately 2 large eggs)
40g caster sugar
Colouring, if required (I use Wilton’s concentrated colouring gel)
Note #1: To age the egg whites, carefully separate the whites from the yolk into a small bowl. Cover the bowl with cling wrap, poke a few holes in the cling wrap and chuck the bowl into the fridge for at least 24 hours. This will help reduce the moisture content of the whites. When you’re ready to use the egg whites, take them out of the fridge and let them come up to room temperature before making the meringue. I usually like to age my egg whites for about two days. It also might be worth making the lemon curd the day before you bake the macarons, because the curd will need to be completely cooled before you fill the shells. Once you’ve added the butter to the curd, place some cling wrap directly on the curd before putting it in the fridge to cool. This will stop any skin forming over the top of the curd.
When you’re ready to make the macaron shells, combine the icing sugar and almond meal and sift the mixture twice. Discard any bits too big to pass through your sifter; you don’t want these bits in your macarons because they’ll make the shells look ‘gritty’.
Transfer the egg whites into a larger bowl. If you’re planning to add colour to your macaron shells, now is the time to do it. I’ve read that using colouring gel instead of liquid food colouring is better because it doesn’t affect the moisture content of the egg whites, which will ultimately dictate how well your whip up. Using an electric hand mixer, start beating the egg whites on medium speed until foamy, then switch to high speed and gradually add sugar. Keep beating the egg whites until stiff peaks form. To check whether or not your meringue has formed stiff peaks, turn the hand mixer off, pull the mixer straight upwards and turn the mixer on the side. If the meringue does not fold over itself, then your meringue is perfect. Another trick you could try is to turn your bowl upside down; if your meringue holds tight and doesn’t move, it’s ready to go!
Gently fold half of the icing sugar/almond meal mixture into the meringue until combined. Add the other half of the icing sugar/almond meal and gently fold until the mixture has an oozy, magma-like texture. This will take about 50-60 folds.
Line two large cookie sheets with non-stick baking paper. Transfer the macaron mixture to a piping bag that has a piping nozzle with a 1cm round tip fitted. Hold the piping bag at a 90 degree angle to the cookie sheet (that is, directly upwards). Squeeze out the mixture to form a 3-3.5 cm circle, then stop squeezing and move the bag in a half circle from a ‘six o’clock’ to ‘12 o’clock’ position. Make sure you leave a few centimetres between the macarons as you’re piping to allow for spreading. Once you have piped your mixture, tap the cookie sheets (hard) against a flat surface. This will get rid of any air pockets in your shells. Leave the macarons to rest and form a ‘skin’ for 30 minutes. 15 minutes into resting time, preheat oven to 140°C/120°C (fan forced). The surface of your macarons should be dry and not sticky when lightly touched. Shove the cookie sheets into the oven for 12-15 minutes. The ‘feet’ should start appearing after 5 minutes *insert happy dance here*
Leave to cool slightly on the tray then give the shells a gentle wiggle to lift them off the baking paper. Once they have completely cooled, match up the shells, place a dollop of lemon curd on one of the shells and sandwich the filling with the other shell.
If you’re not going to eat them straight away, store them in an airtight container in the fridge. From what I’ve read, filled macarons can be kept in the fridge for up to a week (I can’t vouche for this as the macarons are usually all eaten by the second day!). When you’ve pulled them out of the fridge, make sure you leave the macarons to warm up for 10 minutes before eating them.
Note #2: Please take the time to check out Cath Chen’s blog if you haven’t had a chance already, it’s absolutely fabulous! I’ve added the links to Cath’s blog as well as to her macaron posts at the beginning of my post. After making the lemon curd macarons, I also made a batch of choc-orange macarons too. It was raining macarons at The Cooking Chook household! Happy macaroning!