The Ultimate Home Cook Macaron Guide

Hazelnut Macaron
Cooks are creatures of phases.  My Macaron phase passed  when for my disappointment Mac Donalds (or Macca's as we say here in Australia) started selling them.

Before I forget them completely I would like to share with you the "wisdom" acquired pursuing the perfect  Macaron bite.


My obsession for Macarons had started several years ago whilst traveling around France and Belgium and trying the best Macarons I ever had.    However, what really fired me up was the fact that everybody used to say they were bloddy hard to make!

The Perfect Macaron
Well, in fact, they are far from being the easiest thing you will ever whip up in the kitchen and part of it is because you really need some kitchen equipment and a decent oven to thrive but there is a lot of myth and BS around it (BS meaning something rude I should not write in a blog, sure you get it!).

It's a long post so for the sake of those that are here only for the recipe I am posting it right on the start and then I will get into my Macaron experience.  I do advise you to read the rest of the text:  smart people are the ones who learn from their mistakes, smarter people are those who learn from other people's mistakes - Learn from mine :-)

Macaron Recipe 

Italian Meringue Macaron (for 20-25)
Ingredients
  • 150g Almond Meal
  • 150g Icing Sugar
  • 150g Caster Sugar 
  • 43g Water
  • 110g Aged whites divided in two parts of 55g
  • A pinch of Cream of tatar
Instructions
  1. Weigh all ingredients
  2. Put the almond meal and the icing sugar in a food processor and process to a fine powder.  Sift it into a large bowl.
  3. Put the water and the sugar in a small sauce pan 
  4. Put 55g of the aged whites inside the mixer bowl
  5. Combine well the rest of the 55g of whites with the icing sugar / almond meal mixture
  6. Turn on the mixer and start whipping the eggs in low speed
  7. When the whites start to foam add the cream of tatar
  8. Put the sauce pan with the water and the sugar over medium heat. Keep an eye on the pan while you finish whisking the whites.
  9. Continue beating the whites increasing the speed until it form hard picks that will not fall when you turn the bowl upside down.  Turn off the mixer.
  10. At this point the water and sugar syrup in the pan will be starting to boil.   
  11. Add the food coloring to the sugar syrup stirring just until incorporated - Use a clean pastry brush to clean up the side of the pan to avoid crystallization. 
  12. Constantly check the syrup temperature with a candy thermometer until it reaches 118C (244F).
  13. Turn on the mixer with the whites that you have just beaten to hard picks and carefully pour the syrup into the white bowl, without stopping whisking.
  14. Whisk until warm (about 50C (122F)) 
  15. Add the Meringue to the dry ingredients bowl and with a large spatula fold them until combined. 
  16. Continue working the mixture until it soften slightly, there are no dry ingredients pieces and the mixture has the texture of a very thick cake batter. 
  17. Tranfer the mixture to a pipe bag
  18. Pipe the Macarons over a tray lined up with a Silpat (check text below) and covered with baking paper. 
  19. Set it aside for about 30 min, until the Macarons form a skin
  20. Heat the oven to 165C (329F) (Please check the Topic Baking at this Post)
  21. Bake the Macarons for 15 min, until they form an outer shell, remove from the oven, and set aside for 2 min, then carefully remove one macaron to check if the base is cooked and dry.  If not, put it back in the oven for about 2-3 minutes more and check again.
  22. Cool the Macarons completely by transferring the baking paper to a cooling rack and leaving it at room temperature for about 10 min.
  23. Remove the Macarons from the baking paper only when they are completely cool
  24. Pair them up according to their size
  25. Fill the Macarons with whatever you like (Please check the Filling Topic at this Post)
Recipe Variations

For a Hazelnut Macaron replace half of the Almond Meal for Hazelnut Meal.  As they are more "rough" You might want to weight whatever is leftover in the sieve and replace it for the same amount of half/half almond meal and icing sugar.

For a Pistachio Macaron replace half of the Almond Meal for Pistachio Meal.  As they are more "rough" You might want to weight whatever is leftover in the sieve and replace it for the same amount of half/half almond meal and icing sugar.

Macaron, Macaroon, Maccaroon, Maccaron

Is Macaron.  Forget the other spelling!!!!!!

Aging the Whites  

First thing I thought when I read this in a recipe:  What a hell they are talking about?  Is it some sort of Anti Wrinkle program for very white people?????? :-)

So, aging the whites is basically breaking the eggs, separating the whites from the yolks and leaving the whites for some days in a container on your bench top or fridge.

The objective of aging the whites is to make them more acidic, make the egg proteins stronger and as a final result a more stable foam when whipped. 

Is it really necessary? Well... I am an Engineer by profession so I believe in numbers:  I can safely say that about 70% of the times my Macarons failed I didn't have aged the eggs, that does not mean that not aging the eggs was the reason for the failure though.    I made many successful Macarons without aging the eggs but the numbers say that aging improves the chances of getting it right and we really want to make sure the odds are in your favor right?

How to age the whites?  If you Google  "aging the whites" you will find all sort of things:  people that leave it drying for a week, a couple of days out of the fridge, in the fridge and even putting it 20 seconds in the microwave  (not recommended, I manage to cook a few whites trying that).

It does require some good sense here, if you live in a country with a mild weather, leaving the whites in the counter for a few days might not hurt anyone but here in Queensland where temps are over 40C (104F) in summer, it might be your ticket to the ER.

What I do here is leave it 24 hours in my Kitchen bench, loosely covered with plastic wrap to prevent insects to have a little swim in the whites.    It does work for me and should work for you.

Valentine Macaron
Moist

BS 1 - Moist Almond Meal - No, your almond meal is not so moist that will ruin your Macaron, you don't have to dry the almond in the oven and definitely, grinding it again while it still hot will result in Almond paste:  Don't do that!  All you need to do is process the icing sugar with the almond meal in the food processor, again don't over-process or the almonds with realease their natural oils and you will end up with almond paste.  

BS 2- Macaron Tend to Fail in rainy days - Oh well... maybe because you got all the kids inside the house and you can't concentrate on what you are doing.   Macaron will make your rainy days brighter!!!!!!

Whipping 

Rules for whipping the whites are the same for any Meringue based recipe:
  • Whites have to be at room temperature to ensure volume when beating
  • The bowl that you will beat the whites have to be very clean, with no traces of water or fat
  • Avoid using plastic bowls.  
  • Needless to say spoons, beaters also should be immaculate clean and dry.
  • Any small bit of yolk will ruin your meringue - use a piece of eggshell to "fish" them out. 
  • Start beating the whites in slow speed and increase the speed gradually.  
  • Pinch of Cream of Tatar right when the meringue starts to form peaks helps increase their volume and helps to maintain the peaks
  • Fact:  there is such a thing of over whipping the whites - they will ready when turning the bowl upside down the white does not fall down.
Whipping the whites with the sugar syrup:
  • Pour the hot sugar syrup on the borders of the bowl to avoid spills
  • Meringue will be ready when the temperature of the whites is around 50C (122F) - about 5-8 min whisking.
Measures 

I consider merely luck that I managed to make Macarons in some pretty precarious conditions like
Guinness Macaronmeasuring quantities with tablespoons and cups.    It can work? Yes it can but the idea here is improving your odds right?  So, measuring everything before you start actually increases dramatcly your chances of success.

Forget the measure cups and use a scale to weight everything and I mean really everything, even the water!

Syrup Temperature

Here is the most critical point when making Macaron - not even try if you don't have a candy thermometer.

After several failures I found out that I was getting the syrup temperature wrong -  There are lots of different instructions on internet but the general recommendation is something about 115-118C (239F-244F).     Too cold and it wont the thick enough, too hot and your wont be able to pipe the Macarons later.    I use Adriano Zumbo recommendation to 118C (244F).

It  is easier if you make the syrup in a very small pan.   When it starts to bubble I usually incline a bit the pan to keep the syrup at one side and keep measuring with my other hand with the digital thermometer until it reaches the right temperature.

Don't stir the sugar to avoid sugar crystallization and if there are any sugar crystals at the pan borders, clean them up with a clean wet pastry brush otherwise they will burn.    As a Kitchen rule of Thumb you NEVER should leave a sugar syrup unattended.   Use the Syrup immediately after it reaches 180C (244F).

Dyeing Macaron Shells

Guinness Macaron
I really dont think a very pink, fluorescent green or even worse bright blue macaroon are very appealing (unless they are the perfect Belgium one of course :-) Because you KNOW they are good). 

Unless you are going for a thematic Macaron like my Guinness and Valentine day Macarons, go for a more natural color.   

I use a french powdered food coloring that is specific for Macarons, only because just a tiny bit of it give me a wonderful color.      You can use any non oily food coloring if you dissolve it in the syrup. Food coloring brands vary a lot so you might try a few until you find one that you like best.

Macaronage

Is the process of actually making the Macaron batter and I don't know why the hell people likes to describe the correct point of it as "a lava texture", "lava-like", "flows like lava".  BS!

Oh My!!!!  Have you ever seen Lava???  When I was young and fit I climbed a volcano in Chile and not even there I saw Lava!!!!  Who had a chance of having a good close look at some Lava and lived to tell the story...  Macaron BS :-)

After Mixing up the Meringue with the Almond Meal/Sugar/White mixture you will whip it with a spatula, scooping the mixture bottom up until it's all incorporated and after that keep doing it until it resambles a thick Cake batter.   That's it!

Too little mixing will result in a lumpy Macaron batter that is hard to pipe and make ugly Macarons,  Too much mixing will result in a runny batter that will make "pancake" like Macarons.   In any case you will end up with a ugly still tasty cookie.

Piping

When I say I made Macarons in pretty precarious conditions I really mean it!  Once me and a Chef friend used an empty Rice plastic bag to pipe the Macarons and they still turned out perfectly good :-)  The right thing to do though is to use a piping bag (I like disposable ones as I think permanent ones smell bad after a while) with a 7mm plain nose.

How to Pipe?  Here is what Zumbo says in his book Zumbarons:  "Holding the piping bag about 1.5cm above a lined baking sheet, pipe straight down to make a 4cm diameter rounds, leaving a 3 cm gap between each.  As you finish pipping each macaron, move the nozzle from 12 o'clock to 6 o'clock quickly to finish the piping action"   Thank you Zumbo the King of the Aussie Macarons - I could never describe it better.

I got a little trick to Pipe them more or less at the same size. I print a A4 Sheet with the circles with the size I want and use it under the baking paper to guide my piping. Works as a charm. It's important though to keep the a consistent size otherwise they will not bake evenly.

You can Pipe your Macarons in different shapes, just require some practice and imagination :-)

Drying the Shells 

Best practice says you should leave the Macarons at room temperature for about 30 min or until a skin forms.   Is it really necessary?  NO.   But, it makes them more pretty and as you have to wait for the oven to heat up and you will very likely pipe all Macarons at once and will not have enough space in the oven to bake all of them,  you will be losing nothing to let them dry so... Just do it.

Baking

You can bake Macarons in a very ordinary oven, it does work but a decent oven truly increases your chances of success. If your oven is a bit so-so, invest in an oven thermometer to control the temperature better - it is pretty cheap and worth the investment.

Again, if you Google you will find that baking recommendations will vary from 135C (275F) to 180C (356F). The facts are: If the oven is too hot it will crack your Macaron, If the oven is too cold you will not have a "foot".

You have to know your oven and adapt the recipe to it. Mine works really well with 165C (329F) and I think this is a good start temperature for you to try. Bake a couple of Macarons with this temperature and adjust it as needed.

For a home cook that does not own a professional oven, it helps to leave the oven on for 10-15 min to make sure that the temperature is homogeneous. Bake the Macarons in the middle oven shelf.

You might also want to invest in a Silpat - a Silpat is wonderful thing to have in the kitchen anyway! Is a silicon non-stick mat that you can use for bread, for macarons, for cookies... It's just an awesome product.

Bake the Macarons in a completely flat baking tray, covered with the Silpat. Some people use double Trays, I use only one and it has always worked fine.

It's also handy to cover the Silpat with a baking paper as you will most likely not going to have 3-4 Silpats and you can just carefully transfer the baking paper sheet with the piped Macarons to the Silpat once you finish a batch.

What about those special Silicon Mats for Macaron? I bought one of them and hated! Macarons stick to the rinds of if, is hard to take the Macaron out and is more expensive than a Silpat!!! If you want something with the circles on it, there is a new Silpat that comes with it now.

To check if the Macarons are baked, remove them from the oven, wait a couple of minutes and check if they are stable and you can move them slightly. The bottom should be dry but you will only be able to check it properly once they cool down so again... bake a couple as a test batch and you will have a pretty good idea of how long it will take.

Wait for them to cool completely before removing them from the baking paper.

Pairing

Not all Macarons are born to each other :-) The trick is, before piping the filling, pair them up by matching their sizes. After they are filled nobody will notice the small size differences.

Filling 

Can I spoon the filling in the Macarons? Of Course you can! But since you went all this work to make beautiful Macarons let's make it pretty and pipe the filling too? :-)

I find it easier to pipe filling circles inside the Macaron to make sure they are completely covered and that when you stick the other one in the top and gently press it you will be able to see some of the filling at the sides.

You can use all sorts of filling, there are heaps of recipes and I will not go into each one of them here. A basic Ganache one is 200g of melted Chocolate + 3 tablespoons of double cream - you can reduce the amount of cream and add one tablespoon of flavors such as fruit pulp, liquor, Rose Water.

Just don't make the filling way too sweet! The shells are sweet enough and a fresh filling makes them much more pleasant.

Some people say you should fill it close to serving, other say 24 hours before you serve so the flavors will infuse. I say If you are using a very humid filling, wait to fill your Macarons right before serving otherwise they go soggy, if it is a firm filling fill it 24 hours before.

Keeping it 

Room temperature: 2 days. In the fridge inside an air tight container: 3-4days.

You can also freeze the shells in an airtight container, take them out of the freezer about 30 min before filling and serving it (that is a pretty good way of impressing last minute visits).

Store

I created a special folder at Cooking 101 (The Untamed Cook Store) with all equipment described in this post that you will need for making Macarons. If you are buying them please consider buying it from here and supporting my work.  Go To Store
  
Finally, final words

I think I covered everything but if after all you still can't get it right just Contact me and I will be happy to help.

Are my Macarons perfect? No they are not - but they have quite a few fans, they are pretty good and better than most dry ones I find in stores. Perfection comes with practice!

Ignore what people say about them being hard to make. Don't be afraid to make mistakes, even if they are not perfect I am pretty sure they will still be lovely and your family will adore them and you :-)

Hazelnut Macaron

Rachel Elich

Rachel Elich is a globetrotting, computer engineer, project manager, designer, untamed cook extraordinaire who backpacks around the world. Along the way on adventures, Rachel has adopted and incorporated international influences into all aspects of her creative work endeavours.

2 comments:

  1. Wow, that seems like a lot of work! I've been wanting to make macarons again these past couple of weeks, but I'm put off by the either humid or super hot weather...ugh. I agree, macarons are not as difficult as everyone makes them out to be. The very first time I made them, they came out perfectly! Yours look delish!!

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    Replies
    1. Well I was not so lucky :-) I had to try several times until i got it right but now i can do it by heart at any time. :-)

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