Macarons/Macaroons

Aug 30th, 2010 by Gemma

Now, I’ve always known these delicacies by the name Macaroon.. I’m starting to learn that most people think of the wrong type of macaroon when I say that, the French style Macaron is more known in relation to these treats. Of course, if I said it with the true French pronunciation I’d probably still face lots of confusion. For the purpose of the post I’ll carry on saying macaron, know that in my head, I’m secretly saying macaroon!

They are most well known in France where patisseries will have whole cases full of differently flavoured macarons, they actually came from Italty though. They were introduced to France when Catherine de Medicis married the Duc d’Orleans (who later became King of France). They became the version we know today when Pierre Desfontaines, the grandson of Louis Ernest Laduree came up with the concept.

Macarons are less well known in America though they’re slowly making their presence felt, sadly sold at exorbitant prices at the moment ($2 for one bite sized morsel) we can only hope that changes when every bakery carries them!

Maybe I’m just lucky, but while some bakers seem to struggle and struggle with the “perfect” macaron, after making them a few times in class with different methods I found the method I like and it works for me (praise to whichever baking deity listens). Of course, if I’m having a bad day, if the weather is wrong, if I’m not paying attention, they can still go bad.

So here’s my caveat, this is my method, it works for me, in this house, with this oven. I wish you the best of luck with your endeavours and sincerely hope this helps you on your way to making delicious macarons, but maybe, if it doesn’t work out, this just isn’t “your” method.

I start with my egg whites, nice and fresh, whisked in a metal (copper is best but stainless does. Don’t use plastic!!) bowl that is cleaned thoroughly, no specks, no drips of water, perfectly clean. They’re finicky like that! Once they’re foamy all the way through add your sifted granulated sugar and half your sifted powdered sugar. I don’t usually bother with sifting but it is important here, I will stress it at every point. Whip to medium-stiff peaks, they’ll stay nice and glossy.

Gently fold in your food dye and any flavour oils you may be adding (I’ll get to that in a minute). Then in thirds fold in your sifted powdered sugar and sifted almond meal (mine has larger chunks as I blitzed down whole almonds – cheaper than buying almond meal).

The mixture will be really thick. Here’s the strange part. In a method known as macaronner (named for the treats it’s used for) we’re now going to gradually work out all of that air we’ve just worked into them. Rather than run the risk of over folding when adding the almond meal we took everything too far and added way more air than we needed so that we can then work back to the perfect consistency.. does that make sense? For me, it means I don’t have to worry about folding the mixture that one time too many and ending up with puddles.

So, in the first photo here, you can see all the peaks, the mixture is holding it’s shape. Further along a little bit it’s starting to blend together, but if I make a peak it stays there. Finally, there’s barely mark, I can pip this and any peak from the tip will blend back into the macaron. This was actually right at the edge of taking too much air out so my macarons spread a little more than expected.

Pipe into¬† discs, about the size of a half dollar (a 50 pence piece, without all the corners for all the Brits), and here’s the really important part – leave them alone. That’s right, put them to one side and leave them to sit until they form a skin. In humid conditions this might take a hour or they may never form one, in a nice, air conditioned house, they took 20ish minutes.

Now they can be baked, 325F and don’t forget to turn them so they cook evenly. When they’re done you’ll be able to gently pick them up right off the tray.. you may need to sacrifice one or two to making sure they’re done. They should have barely any colour on them, if any at all. Maybe small amounts of light golden-ness around the edges.

Leave to cool and then sandwich together. There should be not too much filling, of course you want enough for flavour though. It shouldn’t ooze out the sides when you take a bite. Ganache or jams work well and French buttercream is somewhat traditional as a filling, it should be not overly sweet, the flavour should hit you way before any sweetness does.

I discovered, that letting them sit for a day or more allows the flavours to mellow and blend well and changes the texture a little, though they still retain the trademark crisp bite with the chewy centre.

Flavours! More often than not the ‘biscuit’ part isn’t actually flavoured, it’s just coloured to match the filling (like I used pink here for a raspberry jam filling). Now, that’s not to say you can’t flavour the biscuit, you just need to be careful about it. You can substitute out a little flour for cocoa powder, and flavour oils and extracts will work perfectly. You could even change out the almond meal for other nut flours. I wouldn’t want to try adding fruit puree or anything like that.

Once you add flavours to the biscuit, the filling doesn’t necessarily need to match, you can do parings, how about chocolate, with a caramel filling, or orange with a ganache centre, the possibilities are endless, experiment and above all have fun!

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