Macarons, one for the banes of baking. They truly test how scientific baking can be given changes to their methodologies and variables, such as temperature, can make all the difference. Typically macarons are made using either a French or Italian meringue. I decided to give Swiss Meringue a go as I find it easier to make than Italian and the end result is the same. A cooked meringue typically is better for macarons as it makes a more robust shell compared to using French meringue. The key to baking them is actually down to a few things. Firstly, the oven can't be too hot, but if the temperature is too low then your macarons are likely not to rise enough. Secondly, the timing has to be just right. Not enough and the macarons will be underdone, too much and although they will have baked bottoms they will discolour and be too hard, losing their gooey insides. To combat this I have found it's better to bake them on a lower shelf in the oven and to pre-heat your baking sheet. It also helps to use a dark metal sheet. Typically I would recommend aluminium (as it prevents the bottoms of bakes burning) sheets for baking but on this occasion it helps ensure the bottoms bake and you can peel them off the baking parchment. Anodised steel sheets are great as they don't warp when put into the oven. If you want to colour your macarons I always recommend gels over liquid colouring. With gels you are adding less liquid to the mix and so aren't messing with the recipe too much, although I appreciate you may not be a fan of e-numbers. If you want to achieve a look similar to my blue porcelain macarons then you will need to divide the mixture, dye half of it blue, and use 3 piping bags. Add each mixture to a piping bag before carefully sliding both bags into a third. Yes, it is fiddly, yes it is worth it. Look for yourself if you don't believe me.
I hate to waste egg yolks and so here are some ideas for fillings should you be similar minded. My go to is always an infused custard, especially when using tea, as you can make so many different flavours:
Makes approx. 44-50 shells
Hands-on Time 20 minutes
Baking Time 13 minutes
160g Ground Almonds
160g Icing Sugar
150g Egg whites
140g Caster sugar
Jam or electric thermometer
Electric or hand whisk
Reusable piping bag
2 Dark metal baking sheets (as opposed to aluminium, anodised steel is recommend as it doesn’t warp in the oven)
Spray bottle filled with water
Sieve the ground almonds and icing sugar over a large bowl. You will need to use a spoon to do this. Take your time as it will take a little while.
Fill the saucepan with enough water so that when you place the heat-proof bowl over the pan it doesn’t touch the bottom.
Put the saucepan over a medium heat and bring the water to a simmer.
Add 75 grams of egg whites and the caster sugar to the bowl and place over the saucepan. Set aside the remaining 75 grams egg whites.
Gently stir until combined and leave to sit, stirring occasionally until the mixture has reached a temperature of at least 75°C/167°F. This may take 5 or so minutes.
As soon as the mixture has reached this temperature remove the bowl from the pan and place on top of a tea towel.
Whisk on a high speed until you have a thick glossy meringue with stiff peaks.
Add the remaining egg whites to the ground almonds and icing sugar and combine using a clean spatula. If you want make macarons of a single colour add your food colouring to the paste now and mix.
Add a dollop of the meringue to the almond paste and beat until combined.
Add half of the meringue and fold it into the paste before adding the rest.
Keep folding the mixture. You want to fold at least 50 times, ensuring you scrape the bottom of the bowl every now and then to make sure everything is incorporated.
If you want to make macarons of varying colours divide the mixture up and add your colouring now.
Transfer the mixture into a piping bag.
Take a couple of sheets of baking parchment, I find I need at least 3.
Place your first piece of parchment on top of one of the baking sheets. Pipe small rounds about 3cm wide and at least 2cm apart onto the baking parchment.
Lift the baking sheet a couple of feet above the worktop and let go. The shock of hitting the worktop should release any air bubbles trapped inside the macarons.
Slide the parchment somewhere whilst you pipe the remaining macarons, I leave mine on a table.
Leave the macarons to rest for at least 30 minutes. They need to form a skin. You can tell when they have as they should look a little less shiny and shouldn’t leave any mixture on your hands if you very gently touch one using the side of your finger.
Whilst the macarons rest place one of the baking sheets onto the lower shelf of the oven and preheat it to 140°C/120°C (Fan)/275°F/Gas mark 1.
When the oven has warmed up and the macarons have formed a skin you can get on baking!
Slide one of the baking parchments onto the room temperature baking sheet. Swiftly open your oven, slide the parchment onto the preheated tray, close the door and bake for 13 minutes.
The macarons should be risen, have a feet around the bottom and be hard to the touch when they are baked. If they are cracked it is likely you didn’t leave them to rest long enough or your oven is too hot.
Spray a worktop with water, mind as don’t want it drenched!
Carefully remove the macarons and slide the baking parchment onto the wet worktop. Pop the baking sheet (that is if you removed it) back into the oven.
Leave the macarons to sit on the worktop for one minute before attempting to peel them off the paper. You should find when they do they have baked bottoms.
Pop them onto a wire rack to cool fully while you bake the remaining batches.
Assemble using a filling of your choice.
Here are some ideas for fillings: