This biscuit of meringue and almonds + loads of sugar, so well loved by the French and practically everyone in the world because it’s so iconic, so pretty, so ethereal. Displayed grandly in windows in the form of towers or even just on its own but people just can’t seem to get enough of it. And I can see why.
Many tend to get obsessed over creating the perfect macarons, with the perfect feet. I’m not going to lie, it’s hard. And because it’s so hard, when you perfect it, it’s quite an impressive thing and people go “woah” and you yourself feel accomplished, as though you’ve just hiked the tallest mountain in the world. I’ve made so many in my life (and with some failures at that) that I’ve come to realise that macarons are really more about technique than the recipe. You can google (because I have) countless of macaron recipes and most of them are pretty much the same.
Equal parts almond powder, icing sugar and caster sugar for the meringue
Equal parts egg whites for the dry ingredients and the meringue
Water for the sugar syrup for the meringue.
That is assuming you are doing macarons using the Italian Meringue method. I’ve also done a fair bit of it and worked with some of the best pastry chefs in Paris to know that macarons done using the Italian Meringue method churns out the best macarons. I used to think those using French meringue had prettier feet, much similar to Ladurées so I was always stuck between the two ways until J told me, “all the best macarons in Paris are done using the Italian Meringue method.” I was a convert instantly.
Look at her beautiful hands!!!
There are so many factors that can cause macarons to become a complete failure. And to be honest, I don’t even understand why sometimes. You google it (because google’s our best friend especially when it comes to macarons and we all have so many questions as to why ours don’t bloody work out) and people from everywhere give you so many reasons you’re not sure which ones are true and for you to bear in mind. Sometimes it works, and then sometimes it just doesn’t. Mind boggling? Not quite. Based on my experience from Antoinette and Paris, I’ve come to learn some of the reasons why sometimes les macarons don’t look picture perfect and concluded that some instructions are just, myths. Perhaps I could clear up some of those question marks for those of you who have met with some problems.
1. Fold it. Don’t be afraid of knocking the air out. Fold it pretty vigorously till you achieve a flowing consistency of your batter when you hold your spatula from a height. It should leave ribbons but disappear after awhile. That’s a perfect consistency.
2. If you don’t fold it enough, the feet doesn’t come out. Fold it too much and it’s too watery, the feet comes out and gets really ugly and flat.
3. You don’t have to leave the shells to dry for 2 hours or till they’re all dry on the surface. REALLY. And it saves you so much more time!
4. Always bake in a fan oven if you can. It’s possible for a deck oven but risky because if it gets too hot, the surface cracks.
5. Tap the tray slightly once you’re done piping them to remove flatten them just slightly and get rid of the air bubbles.
6. Rest them at least overnight for the textures to mature.
Here’s my handy dandy recipe for macarons. To be honest it’s not even mine, I just got it off the Internet but input all the knowledge and techniques I’ve learnt from wherever I’ve been and been trained under.
I would have done a much detailed step-by-step tutorial by it’s rather hard when you’re catching daylight (and I’m not exactly an early bird) and rushing for time and macarons need to be worked with pretty fast. But I promise I’ll try to do it the next time round, I’ll need a photographer for that!
Simple Lemon Cream Macarons:
For the macaron shells:
almond powder – 300g
icing sugar – 300g
caster sugar – 300g
water – 75g
egg white – 220g
For the lemon cream:
(best to prepare a day in advance)
sugar – 125g
lemon zest – 1 no.
lemon juice – 80g
eggs – 2 no.
gelatine sheets – 1g
butter – 150g
Once you’ve got all that settled and tackled, baking macarons can be so much fun! They look gorgeous, photogenic, pretty, colourful and you can go wild with the flavours. So don’t be afraid of them anymore, give it another go when you can! ;)
For the shells:
Prepare several trays (about 4-5) and line it with silpat (recommended) or baking paper.
Combine your colouring, sifted almond powder and icing sugar together in a bowl big enough to hold the meringue later on.
Half the egg whites and place 110g in the bowl of a standing mixer and the other 110g together with your dry ingredients. Using a spatula, briefly combine it together.
In a saucepan, combine your sugar and water together and heat to 118C. Once your syrup reaches 115C, you can start whisking your egg whites on high. Once the syrup hits 118C, take it off the heat and wait till the bubbles disappear. Pour in the syrup slowly, streaming it down from the side of the bowl. Let it whisk till it cools to about 40C.
Working in three additions of the meringue, add the one-third of the meringue into your almond-sugar paste and mix vigorously till well combined and the mixture loosens up. Add in the second third and start folding the mixture. Add in the third and fold till shiny and glossy and the mixture is pretty runny. It should flow down nicely and continuously when you lift your spatula from a height.
Using a plain round nozzle of about 11 or 12mm, pipe rounds of 3cm (not too much as they will spread) and space them at least 2cm apart. Once you have piped an entire tray, tap it lightly to remove the air bubbles in it and flatten them slightly. Set it aside for 30 minutes and continue piping the rest of the trays.
15 minutes before the resting time of the first tray is up, preheat your oven to 160C with fan and bottom heat. Bake for about 12-13 minutes till it’s firm on top and the feet don’t wriggle too much. Remove the silpat/baking paper from the hot tray and place it directly on a cool surface.
Repeat for the rest of the trays. Once they’re cool, you can start removing them from the silpats and match their sizes.
For the lemon cream:
Bloom the gelatine in cold water for at least 20 minutes.
Over a bain marie, heat the sugar together with the zest until it is fragrant and the sugar crystals are almost yellow from the zest. Add in the lemon juice followed by the eggs and whisk keep whisking until the mixture thickens. Once thick, add in the gelatine and whisk well to dissolve it. Using an immersion blender, blend in the butter until smooth and creamy. Take note not to incorporate air in the curd as you blend as you want it extremely smooth. If the bowl is too big and you have too little mixture, transfer to a smaller bowl for the blending process.
Pour the mixture over the baked filling and level the surface with a long spatula. Leave to set in the fridge for at least 1 hour or until firm.
Pipe dollops of the lemon cream onto one half of the macaron shell and sandwich with the other half. You may decorate it however you like or leave them plain. They’re pretty impressive even on their own! Leave to chill in the refrigerator overnight.
// Note: Macarons are best eaten at least a day old in the fridge. //
// Note II: For long term storage, you may fill them and freeze them for several months and thaw them in the refrigerator the day before serving. //