I have really got into my groove with making macarons and really love them but plain round macarons are never going to satisfy my creativity. Yes, you can make them in any colour of your dreams and any flavour combination you can think of but with a little bit of patience you can make them any shape you desire too. There are some amazing macaron/food artists out there and they really inspire me to try a little harder and bake something super cute!
There is a lot of mystery around making very temperamental macarons but I’d like to share some lessons I’ve learnt. These are my opinions from trial and error and research I’ve found online. As much as I wish I was a French Patissier, I am not.
This is the macaron recipe I used for these super cute cactus macs.
French Macaron Recipe
100g egg whites (aged for 24 hours)
130g ground almonds
130g icing sugar
90g caster sugar
A pinch of salt
Age the egg whites for 24 hours. This means separate the whites from the yolks into a clean oil free bowl. Cover the egg whites with cling film and poke a few holes in the top. Place back in the fridge for 24 hours.
Draw up a macaron template. Keep in mind that your baking time will increase if you make them larger than 1.5″ or may decrease if you have any delicate pieces sticking off. Also take into account that the back will need to match up to the front, if your front has lots of details you may want to consider making a simplified back. For e.g. my cacti only had arms on the front not the back.
When ready to make your macarons take the egg whites out the fridge first, before you do anything else, giving them time to warm up to room temperature.
Weight your caster sugar into a small bowl.
Weight and sieve your icing sugar and into the same bowl weigh and sieve your ground almonds. I’ve yet to buy a bag of ground almonds where the whole bag will pass through the sieve, almost half is always too big. If you place the required weight of almonds into a food processor along with a couple tablespoons of your weighed out icing sugar and blend, they will become smaller and usable in macarons. Waste not, want not.
Time to whip the egg whites. If you get this part right, the rest will go smoother! When they start to foam add a pinch of salt. When you start to see trails in the egg white, left by the whisk, slowly add your caster sugar. Whip until stiff peaks. These are short sharp peaks that do not fold over on themselves. The meringue looks solid white and marshmallow like. If you tip the bowl, it won’t slide.
A lot of recipes recommend that you add colour just before reaching this stage but then you end up with everything one colour. I prefer to halve the almond and icing sugar mixture into 2 bowls and then halve the meringue mixture into each bowl. Knowing how much your bowl weighs empty will make this easy. I then add the colouring on top of the meringue before starting to fold the mixture together.
Macronage: there are many videos online showing this and maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to make a video but for now, fold, fold, fold, no mixing as you want to keep as much air in the macarons as possible while still reaching a ribbon like dropping stage with the mixture. If you don’t mix enough your macarons will not become smooth on top. Mix too much and your mixture will spread too much. There is no trick here, only practice will help you know when the mixture is ready.
I always thought that once the mixture was ready you had to be super quick to use it and had to use a large piping tip so as not to deflate the mixture. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. With a smaller opening in the piping bag you can get much more detail on your macs. To add additional details on top of the macs or with visible join lines you need to wait for your base to dry first. This surprisingly does not ruin the mixture which has been patiently waiting for you in the piping bag. I piped a second tray of macs after the first was already in the oven and you could not tell the difference between the mixture that was piped straight away or the mixture that sat around for 30 mins.
Baking temperature, time and place in the oven is all very volatile as all ovens are so different. Using an oven thermometer gives you a bit more control over the temp as you can usually see any changes in temperature in more detail. Start with your tray in the middle and next try your tray at the bottom, see what works better for you. Sit in front of your oven the first few times and see what your macs are doing. You may need to turn the tray half way through if your oven has a hotter spot.
Bake at 160°C for 10-12 mins.
If you’ve read to the end of this, I hope you found it useful. If you are a French Patissier please don’t shake your head too much if I don’t do things the right way, this is how it works for me.
If you decide to make macarons after reading this please tag me in a pic as I’d love to see.