Macarons: What Works for Me (and a recipe)

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The macaron-phobe has finally become a macaron-pro. I know, modesty isn’t one of my strongest suits, but hey, this is a moment I’m really proud of. The amazing thing with confidence is that it allows you to experiment, break a few rules. And I want to share the fruits of my success with you.

2a

I think I’ve spoken about my disastrous macaron episodes in my previous posts. No amount of going through macaron troubleshooting guides helped me. I mean, by the end of it, I’d have little amoebas connected to each other on my parchment paper. I’d have to heartlessly ditch it. Yeah, quite a bit of ingredients have been wasted; but badly gone macarons according to me are not salvageable, they are inedible.

10a

9a

After 12 attempts I was about to give up. And then I discovered the miraculous Lekue macaron mat. I’m not sure if the mat is silicone but whatever material it is, it prevents overheating and allows for uniform cooking. The mat is predesigned with little macaron circles, so you don’t have to bother with the whole drawing circles on parchment nonsense.

5a

Now, the mat is only one side of the success story. I also made changes to my recipe. As I had continuous failures with the French meringue method, I erased it from my mind. I latched on to the Italian meringue method; a little technical but totally reliable. Though I had inconsistencies with it the first few times, I at least got something that looked more like macarons and less like amoebas.

7a

I practiced the Italian meringue method a few times and the third time was a charm. I got beautiful shiny macarons, with perfectly formed feet. I also made alterations with my quantities and I’ve only had successes after that. I will explain what Italian meringue method is in the recipe that follows but before that, I’d like to tell you what to do and what not to do with macarons. And no, this is not a troubleshooting ramble.

  1. If you already have a successful macaron recipe that yields you beautiful macarons, then don’t bother reading this. Too much information is never that great, especially in this case.
  2. Every oven is different. When I say that, I’m obviously talking about the temperature. It took me a few trials to figure out the temperature that works best for macarons in my oven. While most macaron recipe calls for 160 C, I found that 170 C works for my oven. The same recipe might work perfectly well at 150 C/160 C/170 C in your oven.
  3. The recipe proportion I use is very simple: equal amounts of icing sugar and almond meal, (125g:125g), 90 g of egg whites divided into 40g and 50g separately, 110 g caster sugar and 2 tbsp water.
  4. I only use gel food colouring. I prefer Wilton to any other brand.
  5. I don’t age my egg whites. I don’t think it’s necessary. What’s necessary is to invest in good quality eggs.
  6. If you crack this recipe, then you can replace almond flour with any nut flour; cashew nut flour, peanut flour, pistachio or hazelnut. But I’d say try with almond flour the first couple of times.
  7. Every ingredient you use has to be at room temperature. So if anything is lying in the refrigerator, leave it out well ahead of time, I’d say 4-5 hours prior to baking.
  8. I double sift my ingredients, just to make sure there are no lumps.
  9. I also make sure I use a clean, dry stainless steel bowl to whip my egg whites. I steer clear of glass bowls.
  10. I don’t allow my piped macarons to sit at room temperature for the skin to form. There’s too much moisture in the air, in most parts of India and leaving it out is only detrimental to making perfect macarons.
  11. Invest in a good candy thermometer. You need it for this recipe. If you are an avid baker, you’ll need it anyway.

8a

Now off to making macarons:

Ingredients

For macarons

  • 125 g (1 cup) pistachio flour
  • 125 g (1 cup) icing sugar
  • 90 g egg whites (from 2-3 eggs)
  • 110 g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • Few drops of green gel colouring

For ganache filling

Makes 48 macaron shells, 24 sandwiched cookies

Method

Pistachio flour

  • Preheat the oven at to 160 C. Chop the pistachios roughly. In a food processor, pulse the chopped pistachios for 5 seconds for 30 times. Sift the flour onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Toast the pistachio flour for 30 minutes. Apply the same method for any nut. Blending the nut minutes together, will release the oils from the nuts and give you a paste, which you don’t want.

Italian meringue method

  • Preheat oven to 150 C/160 C/170 C (depending on your oven’s heating)
  • Separate egg whites when cold and let them sit at room temperature. Divide egg whites into 40 g and 50 g into two bowls.
  • Add pistachio flour and icing sugar back to the food processor. Pulse 10-15 times until both the flours have blended well together. Sift the flour into a clean bowl. Add 40 g egg whites to the prepared flour. Using a rubber spatula blend together until combined. Add the food colour at this point and mix until the entire colour has been incorporated. I used quite a bit of colour because I wanted a nice, bright green. Set aside.
  • In a saucepan, add caster sugar and 2 tbsp water. Swirl the pan gently so that the water covers all the sugar. Place on medium heat and stick a digital thermometer. Bring the sugar mixture to the boil until the temperature reaches 113 C.
  • Meanwhile, transfer the 50 g egg whites into a stainless steel bowl. With an electric beater, beat until the mixture becomes frothy, in medium speed. Once the sugar syrup reaches 115 C, take it off heat and trickle down the syrup over the side of the bowl, into the egg whites mixture while continuing to whip the egg whites on medium. Continue to beat the egg whites on medium for 3 minutes. Increase the speed and beat the whites until the bowl from outside becomes cold to the touch. At this point, your egg whites will be shiny and stiff.

Note: at every point, don’t think twice to stop the beater and look for the egg whites’ consistency. Just before arriving at stiff peaks, you will arrive at the beak stage, where your egg whites will droop ever so slightly. You have to go for a minute or more with beating to go from beak to stiff peak stage. Once you get stiff peak, don’t bother beating the egg whites even for a second more.

Macaronner

  • Fold in half the egg whites into the pistachio flour-egg white paste. Scrape the bottom and fold the egg whites in one quick motion, on to itself, a few times. Fold in the remaining egg whites and fold in the similar manner till the egg whites have been completely incorporated.

Note: people often say not to over fold the macaron batter. But I’d rather take the extra few turns to ensure that my batter is homogenous. You are looking for a ribbon consistency.

Piping

  • Fit a 1” plain tip into a disposable piping bag. Rest the piping bag into a tall glass. Fold back the remaining part of the piping bag that is sticking outside towards the glass. Add 2-3 rubber spatula full of batter into the piping bag. Pick up the piping bag using the folded bit, push the batter towards the tip and twist the top part of the piping bag to seal it.
  • Lay the mat over a baking sheet. Hold the piping bag ½ inch above the mat at 90 degrees. Squeeze the bag gently and release when you arrive at the desired size.

Baking

  • Bake the macarons for 15 minutes, until the macarons look shiny and have fully formed feet. They should also easily come off the mat when they are fully baked.
  • Place the macarons on a wire rack to cool.
  • Store the cooled macaron shells in an airtight box and refrigerate. Always fill the macarons one day after baking.

Filling

  • Bring cream to the boil. Pour over chopped chocolate. Stir until combined. Cover the bowl with cling film and allow to sit at room temperature.
  • Fit a disposable piping bag with ½ inch plain tip. Fill the bag with the ganache. Pipe a dollop of chocolate ganache on the underside of 24 macarons. Sandwich with remaining 24 macarons.

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Filed under Cookies, French Desserts, French pastries, macarons

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