Country of origin: France, with some Italian ancestry?
What comes to mind when you think of macarons? A Ladurée rainbow of pastel colours, Pierre Hermé’s magical lychee, rose and raspberry creation and elegantly dressed ladies nibbling on them delicately in between sips of tea but to tell the truth I think that they may be slightly over-rated. With coffee, a piece of cake is perfect, with tea, bring on the scones and for dessert I don’t automatically think macaron. However, they are still very fun to make and sometimes nothing but their chewy, nutty sweetness will do. The fruitier flavors like lemon or raspberry allow you to cut through the sweetness with more tart fillings like curd or jam (although these Salted Caramel macarons are delicious).
The recipe I used was from Macarons which has all sorts of interesting flavor combinations and is very easy to follow. In the basic recipe:
1 Combine almond flour and icing/confectioner’s sugar: sift, blitz in a processor until well mixed
2 French meringue: whip egg whites and gradually add caster sugar
3 Add any color or flavors
4 Pipe out and let them sit until not sticky to the touch, and then bake
Another method (e.g. Ketchup macarons from Pierre Hermé) uses egg whites in step 1 above and step 2 is Italian meringue, made by adding hot sugar syrup to the whipped egg whites. To be attempted soon.
I find judging when the macarons are ready to take out of the oven the most difficult part of the process. It depends on your oven of course, but I think mine works best starting at 162°C/325°F as per the recipe, and then lowering it as soon as the macarons go in, to 150°C/300°F, cooking them for about 12 minutes. To check their done-ness, I open the oven towards the end and push the shell part to see if it slides around too easily, which indicates that they need another minute or two. I’m sure I’m doing some damage to the little chaps by opening the oven and checking like this, but I’m not sure how else to tell.
I used white chocolate ganache with fresh raspberries and raspberry jam with berries as fillings. I “tested” them straight after sandwiching and then again after 24 hours in the fridge – the latter definitely tasted better.
My top tips for macarons:
– Take your time, don’t make these if you are in a hurry! It’s Ground Almond’s Law that they will go wrong.
– Draw circles on the underside of your baking paper, it makes piping them out much easier.
– Allow them to dry properly before they bake – mine took an hour and a half before they developed their “skin”.
– I learned the hard way that if you make multiple flavors with one batch you should weigh the egg whites and almond/sugar mixtures that you split