Petite things can be daunting. It doesn’t matter how many reassuring blogs of detailed, step by step, macaron troubleshooting guides you have gone through, how many little notes you have made at the end of every failed attempt, so much so that over time, all of your refrigerator magnets have stacks of little macaron-making notes beneath them. And in my case, it didn’t even matter that I had attempted making macarons 12 times; I still didn’t manage to get them right. It still beats me how such a small, wonderful thing which technically has all of 4 ingredients, can be so excruciatingly painful to make.
My intention here is not to scare you away; there is light at the end of every tunnel and mine was at the end of tunnel No. 13, in the form of smooth and shiny surfaced, brittle, little biscuits with perfectly formed feet. I wouldn’t typecast macarons to be impossible or difficult. It’s the unpredictability bit that throws you off and makes it more or less a baking nemesis. You might have used all those ingredients in perfect proportions, triple sifted the dry ingredients, whipped your “aged” egg whites to a glossy, stiff peak without the beak and allow them to rest for about an hour before they are baked. You might have followed the recipe to a tee, time and again, but the damn cookie still defeated you and you don’t know why. The bad news in my opinion is you’ll never know why.
The good news, however, lies in the fact that every baker has his or her own method to making macarons. You first get acquainted to the cookie through few/many failed tries, and then you arrive at a comfort zone, you stay put at the comfort zone for a while till your success rate is substantial and then you get adventurous. I kind of feel like a love guru giving advice to someone dating a commitment-phobe except a macaron is not commitment phobic and if you get it right, believe me, the feeling is much better than dating some commitment-phobe you have dated or dating.
Enough with my trials and tribulations in making macarons; though I said every baker has his or her own personal equation with macaron making but in my experience, there are some basic caveats one has to follow while making macarons, to smell success:
- Use good ingredients. When I say good, I mean quality.
- This is when being obsessively clean pays off. Your bowls have to be clean. Your whisks have to be squeaky clean and they all have to be dry.
- Use stainless steel bowl to whip the egg whites.
- I don’t age my egg whites, I never have. But I ensure my eggs are of good quality and I have them at room temperature. Separate them when they are cold though and sit the whites at room temperature.
- Double sift your icing sugar and almond meal. If you want to make your almond meal at home, then grind the blanched almonds along with the icing sugar and sift them twice on to a parchment paper. You don’t want lumps.
- Use gel food colouring, I use Wilton, and don’t go overboard with it. Use it minimally, otherwise your macaron batter will end up runny.
- Humidity makes it far difficult to make macarons and this is Mumbai. Picking a day which is pleasant will work in your favour.
- For me, silicone works better than parchment paper. I purchased a silicone macaron mat with macaron circles embossed on it.
- I have found that the Italian meringue method works for me. If you feel that the French method works for you, go ahead and stick to that, like I said, there is one right method for every baker when it comes to macarons.
- I know I said it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve attempted making them, but practice kind of makes your macarons perfect. So figure out your method and keep practicing.
If these tips aren’t enough, you should go through the following links. They certainly helped me find my way to perfect macarons.
Now, let us make some macarons, shall we?
- 125 g ground almonds
- 125 g icing sugar
- 50 g egg whites in bowl no 1, at room temperature
- 40 g egg whites in bowl no 2
- 110 g caster sugar
- 2 tbsp water
- Drop of yellow gel colouring
- In a food processer, grind ground almonds and icing sugar together to a fine powder. Sift them twice using a sieve on a parchment paper. Set aside.
- Pour 40 g egg whites into the sifted almond-icing sugar mixture. Using a spatula, mix well till the mixture becomes a paste. Use a tooth pick to add the food colour now. Mix well till the colour is incorporated into the mixture.
- In a saucepan, bring caster sugar and water to the boil. Once the sugar melts into the water, increase the heat and allow the mixture to boil till your food thermometer reads 115 C.
- In a clean, stainless steel bowl, beat the egg whites till frothy. Allow the sugar syrup to trickle down slowly into the egg whites while still beating. Beat till the egg whites are stiff and shiny. Just before they become stiff, the egg whites will have a little droop or beak. Continue to beat for a few more minutes till you arrive at a stiff peak.
- Fold the egg whites into the prepared almond paste. Now remember, it apparently should only take 50 turns to fold in the egg whites completely into the almond paste. Once done, the batter should be of ribbon consistency. That is, when you lift the spatula, the batter should fall off as a ribbon.
- Fit a 1 cm plain tip nozzle to a piping bag. Set the bag into a tall glass. Fill the piping bag with macaron batter. Hold the bag at 90 degrees to the baking mat and pipe 3 inch wide circles.
- Rest the macarons for 30-45 minutes for the shiny skin to form. Now, preheat the oven to 170 C.
- Once the macarons have rested, bake them for 18 to 20 minutes, with your oven door slightly ajar.
- Once they are done, cool them. Place the cooled macarons in an airtight box and sandwich them using the chocolate pastry cream filling the next day.