I can almost draw the conclusion from the reactions of everyone I know upon seeing macarons that everybody loves macarons. Almost!
You can’t deny that macarons are very, very eye catching for the cheerful colour assortments and for the beautiful and perfectly round rows of macarons neatly lined up in the display window. The crunchy bite through the outer shells met with the chewy texture combined with sweet, rich buttercream filling inside make them irresistible to many people. I guess another reason for popularity of these sweet treats is that, despite sweet, they usually come in bite-size, making a perfect companion with a cuppa or a quick snack, and it is easy to try different flavours making eating macarons even more enjoyable. On the other hand, I am glad they are small because they are … not cheap 🙂
Getting a handful from the shop seems to be the easier option than making them at home for a couple of reasons. Firstly, making at home means a batch, guaranteed to be more than what you may want to eat at any given time. Secondly, macarons are well known to be a tough cookie to tame. However, for those keen bakers who are interested, you can try the recipe from Brave Tart. Stella from Brave Tart gives fantastic advice on making macarons with useful tips in case of mishaps. Of note, I really like her attitude and her encouraging approach on macarons.
Here is the recipe from Brave Tart:
115g blanched almond flour
230g pure icing sugar
144g egg whites, temperature and age not important!
72g castor sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp (2g) kosher salt
300g French or Swiss buttercream to fill the shells or other fillings such as chocolate ganach (half chocolate and half cream)
Here is how:
1. Preheat oven to 130-140 degrees Celcius.
With oven temperatures, you would better off be testing your own oven yourself to work out the best setting. This is because all ovens are different. Just use the temperature from any recipe as a reference only and work from there. In general, high temperatures will cause your macarons to crack and brown fast. They need enough heat to rise and produce those so much-desired feet and time to stabilise their internal structures. If things get too hot, it may rise rapidly and collapse rapidly leaving you hollow shells. You can read more about this from Brave Tart.
2. Line your baking tray with baking paper.
If you prefere consistency, you can draw circles of desired size on the back of the baking paper to help guiding during piping macaron batter.
3. Blend almond flour and icing sugar together and sift through.
I found blending the almond flour really helps in producing a very smooth and shiny surface on the macaron.
4. Combine egg whites, sugar and salt and whisk on medium speed. When you can see very fine bubbles, increase speed to medium high and whisk till stiff peak. Add vanilla extract and colour can also be added at this stage.
It’s better to use gel colour or powder colour. Whisk on high speed briefly to evenly combine colour to the meringue, which when done would look very stiff and clump to the whisk itself. I use a Kenwood mixer and this whole process took about 7 minutes and I did not even go up to the maximum speed.
5. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the meringue and start “macaronage”.
This basically is folding flour and icing sugar into the meringue, while pressing against the wall of the bowl to deflate the meringue. This is one recipe that does not require you to babying your meringue so go for it. Deflate it or your shells will crack. I don’t count the number of strokes as suggested by other bloggers because I think this varies greatly from person to person. I think judging from the consistency of the batter is much more reliable. When incorporated enough, the volume of the whole mixture would have reduced significantly, the batter would be smooth with no obvious lumps and should flow from the lifted spatula in a slightly discontinuous manner.
Undermixed batter won’t flow but rather drop from the lifted spatula.
Overmixed batter will flow freely and continuously. When you have this in a bag, piping is not easy as it seems like you can’t stop the batter from oozing out of the nozzle. You can not fix overmixed batter so it is best to work slowly and check constantly if needed in order to avoid that.
6. Pipe your batter onto baking tray.
Once you’ve got the batter ready, transfer to a bag fitted with a round tip that is less than 1cm wide and pipe into the circle outlines drawn at the back of the baking paper.
I had tried piping the batter without a tip fitted, I just cut the piping bag to give the equivalent opening size and this worked fine for me. When piping, try to stop before the batter reaches the actual size that you are after as it will spread and flatten a little. Bang the tray a few times on the bench to remove the hidden bubbles.
7. Drying or not drying the shells?
A lot of macaron recipes would stress on resting the piped macarons until they are dry to touch before baking and drying time I have come across goes from 30 minutes to 2 hours. If I started baking after dinner, this won’t be possible for me if I want to go to bed before midnight. That’s why I am so grateful to come across Brave Tart. Stella is just simply brilliant. According to her, you don’t have to wait for the shells to dry. Just put them straight into the oven and bake away. Trust me, I have tried this and it worked perfectly fine. No need to spend 2hrs waiting. Or you could try both ways and see how it works with your own oven 🙂
8. I baked mine at 130-140 degrees Celcius.
(My oven does not have a digital setting so I turn the knob to between 125-150 degrees Celcius)
Feet would normally start to appear after 6 minutes and I usually need to bake my macaron shells for a total of 18-20 minutes. I don’t know if this is just me, but I found my coloured shells bake slightly different and generally take a little longer to cook thoroughly. I would wait until the macaron shells can be lifted off the baking paper before taking them out. I also inverted them once they’re out to help avoiding hollow shells. Sometimes I did a test with a couple uninverted and found they are not hollow either, but inverting has become a habit for me now 🙂
Once they are cooled, you can fill with buttercream filling with flavours of your choice, be adventurous. Another common filling is of course chocolate ganache. I tend to lean towards citrus fruit flavour buttercream because I found the slight tang cuts through the sweet macaron shells so well.
The good thing about making macarons, I guess, is that every bake is a success regardless. You will end up with delicious almond cookies that filled your house with warmth and sweet aroma even if they crack or don’t have any feet. They are so good just peeled off the tray, crunchy and nutty, different to the chewy texture after they have matured. And if we are lucky to get feet on all or some of them, we now have pretty and yummy macarons, don’t we?
I made 100 macarons of five different flavours (green tea, black sesame, mango, raspberry and salted caramel) for my friend’s wedding tea ceremony. Thankfully they were well received and were gone very fast. I had very good success with this recipe and had also explored other flavours since, such as in the picture below, I made passionfruit buttercream macarons, all boxed up and ready to go out to a friend 🙂