The macaron fad is still very much alive. Maybe it’s here to stay, like fellow sweet stuff – the cupcake. Maybe.
For now, I just like the way it looks, tastes and not to mention the joy you get when your macaron has feet! For those who think I may be bonkers – to achieve the standard beauty of a macaron, it has to have a smooth shell and a ruffled bottom edge which is otherwise known as the feet. A macaron with no feet is like having creme brulee without the caramelised crisp sugar top layer – tastes okay, looks meh and totally unsatisfying to the person making it. A macaron with no feet is also otherwise known as a meringue cookie isn’t it? Which can be a major let-down if you’ve set your mind on making macarons. Trust me, I’ve been there.
I have found that the french method (macarons au blanc monte) of making macarons (which is what I learnt at a course last year) is very unstable and you’re never guaranteed feet success. The italian method (macarons au sucre cuit) which requires the use of hot sugar syrup produces a more stable meringue base for the macaron and success (feet and all) is much more achievable.
There are so many do’s and don’ts when it comes to making macarons, here are a few which I have come across:
1. Humidity is not a friend. Apparently it causes the mixture to be too damp.
2. No overmixing. When there’s over enthusiasm in mixing the batter, it will cause the macaron to collapse in the oven. Not pretty.
3. Beauty nap. The piped batter needs to be rested before baking. This allows the shells to form a layer and that’s what produces the smooth tops.
4. A clean bowl is a good start. If there’s oil in the mixing bowl, your meringue may not be happy and will not co-operate. It’s a clean freak. What a diva.
5. Age is a good thing. Egg whites that have been aged (left out for a few hours or a day or two – eew) produces meringue that holds their shape better as there’s less moisture in them.
I have also found that rotating the oven trays halfway through baking helps produce more evenly baked macarons. Maybe it’s because I have an oven as temperamental as the macarons. But it’s worked for me so I’m sticking to it.
Generally, the flavour from the macaron is from the filling. I used marmalade and marscapone (just because I had them) for my filling. The bits of orange rind from the marmalade was a nice citrus-y surprise when you’re lucky enough to get them in your little macaron.
Just a few simple ingredients and a whole load of fingers-crossed peering through the oven door and you get these pretty babies. What fun.
MARMALADE CREAM MACARONS
200g almond meal
200g confectioners’ sugar
150g egg whites, divided into two 75g portions
1. Stack two baking trays on top of each other. Line with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
2. Process almond meal with confectioners’ sugar in a food processor. Sieve out any large bits of almond.
3. Combine sugar and water in a saucepan. Heat on medium until all the sugar is dissolved.
4. Continue cooking until the sugar syrup reaches 118 C/245 F. While the sugar is cooking, begin whisking the egg whites. They should reach stiff peaks by the time the syrup is at 245 F. If it whips too fast, turn down or turn off the mixer.
5. Turn the mixer speed to low. Carefully pour the sugar syrup in a slow stream into the mixer.
6. Turn the mixer speed to high and whip the meringue for several minutes until it has cooled and appears glossy and firm.
7. In a large bowl, combine the almond meal mixture with the remaining 75g of egg whites until partially combined. It’d look a little gloopy here, but it’s okay.
8. Scoop the meringue on top of the almond meal mixture. Using a spatula , carefully fold the meringue in, trying not to deflate it. The final batter should be thick and flow slowly like magma. Do not overmix.
9. Scoop the batter into a piping bag fitted with a ½” diameter plain tip.
10. Pipe 1 ½” rounds of batter onto the prepared baking sheets. Let the sheets sit for about 20 minutes before baking.
11. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 160 C/320 F.
12. Bake one set of macarons for 15 minutes, rotating once. The cooked macaron should lift off the parchment easily.
13. Let tray cool for a few minutes before removing from the silicone mat or parchment. Let finish cooling on wire racks.
Marmalade Cream Filling
4 tbsp fine cut marmalade
2 tbsp icing sugar
drop of food colouring (optional)
Simply mix all the above ingredients together well. Taste and adjust sugar amounts if necessary.
Let it chill in the fridge while the macaron shells are cooling to help firm it up a little.