Over ten years ago, I moved to France. One of the (many) advantages of living here is that the French love their pastries. And so do I! Especially the well-known macaron. As a home cook who likes a bit of baking, I really wanted to learn how to make these macarons myself. However, attempting it almost caused a nervous breakdown…
Funnily enough, the first batch of macarons I made was simply perfect. This optimistically made me think I was brilliant, as everybody told me how difficult it was to bake macarons. Unfortunately, I think that was just beginner’s luck, as the second batch completely failed. Like the third one, and the fourth, and, well, you get the idea. As a result, hundreds of too cracked, too flat, too hollow; basically too crap macarons ended in the bin. Although our brood thought they still tasted fine.
Luckily a French friend came to the rescue and offered for me to attend a macaron workshop with her friends. One of them knew how to bake these little bastards and was willing to share her recipe. Oh joy! Finally, I understood how to bake the perfectly round and crispy yet chewy macaron, INCLUDING feet!!! Chéri was very happy too; he couldn’t see a single failed macaron anymore. So if you are in desperate need of this French delicacy, here is the recipe on how to make them. Including five top French secrets!
Basic macaron recipe
Makes: 50 small macarons
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Oven: 15 minutes per batch of macarons
200g white granulated sugar
200g almond flour
200g icing sugar
150g egg whites
optional: food colouring paste
digital scale (to weigh your ingredients for the best result)
disposable piping bags
silicone macaron mat
Secret 1: Making macarons is all about the preparation. Start by preheating the oven to 150 degrees. After that, I prefer preparing all the ingredients like this:
Put the silicone macaron mats (I use four mats in one go) on the baking tray. For the best result, the baking tray needs to have little holes. I like the ones you can buy here in France; however, I couldn’t find the English version of it. You can buy them here if interested (no affiliate link, just mentioning).
Prepare the colours you want to use. I use Wilton’s icing colour gel. Never use colouring liquid, as it will change the texture of the batter.
Prepare the disposable piping bags. Use one piping bag for each colour you are going to use, and one piping bag for each filling.
Separate the egg whites from the yolk. Put 75 g of egg whites in a scrupulously clean bowl and the other 75 g in a larger bowl. You can have a difference of 5 grams, but absolutely no drops of yolk.
Sieve the icing sugar and the almond flour into the larger bowl with the 75 g of egg whites. Mix it together with the flexible spatula, so you obtain a thick paste. Set aside.
Meanwhile, put 200 g granulated sugar with 65 g of water in a saucepan and heat to 120 degrees. No stirring allowed, just let it cook.
While the sugar is turning into a syrup, start whisking the other 75 g of egg whites until they form firm peaks. And here’s secret 2: the trick is that you should really whisk the egg whites firmly enough so you should be able to hold your bowl upside down without the egg whites falling out. You can’t overbeat them, so don’t worry.
Once the sugar syrup has reached 120 degrees (this takes some time, but towards the end it always heats up quickly, so stay close by), you can add it slowly to the beaten egg whites and whisk it all together for another minute or two. Now you will have an Italian meringue, which should be thick and glossy at this stage.
Then the fun part starts: the “macaronage”. Add the Italian meringue in batches of three to the thick almond flour/icing sugar/egg whites mixture. After adding one-third of the Italian meringue, start folding (not whisking!) it into the thick paste. Once the meringue is completely homogeneous with the paste mixture, you can add the following batch of meringue. Secret 3: in the end, you should have a batter that runs from your spatula like a thick ribbon.
This is where I divide the batter into the number of colours I want to make and add the colour paste to the batter. Do not overbeat the batter, as it will flatten your macarons!
Fill the piping bags with each colour of the batter and pipe small circles into the rounds of the silicone macaron mat. You should stay well inside the border of the round, as the batter will overflow a little.
Secret 4 is one of my favourites: to get the air out of your batter before baking them, tap the baking tray a few times on the counter (from about 20 to 30 centimetres above the counter). This looks – and sounds – impressive, but it is the best way to get rid of the little bubbles of air in your batter. Once you see the batter is smooth and there are no little bubbles left, you are done. It is also a good test to see if your batter is ok. If it stays within the circles, you are A-Okay!
Maybe you have read about drying your macarons to get a thin layer of skin on them before putting them in the oven. I never do, and they come out fine.
Bake the macarons in the oven for 14 to 15 minutes. Secret 5: quickly open the oven while baking the macarons, it’s best to do this every 4 minutes or so. This will give the macarons the perfect feet.
Get the macarons out of the oven and let them cool off a bit before removing them from the silicone mat. Then, you slightly crack the inside of the macaron with your thumb so that you can put in more of the filling.
Speaking of fillings, you can find hundreds of recipes for the perfect fillings on the internet. One very simple filling is this: heat up 150 g of double cream and melt 150 g pure chocolate into it. Put in a piping bag and put it in the fridge until you are filling your macarons.