At my Glögg Party last year, Dr Cutie gave me a book on macarons.
Not only did it have lovely photos of those fab sweets, it also had some very useful advice on how to succeed.
For starters, it recommends that the ground almonds and icing sugar are mixed together and run in a blender in order to get it as finely ground as possible.
Another useful tip is to fold in the dry mixture in three parts, I think this allows for a bit more control over the whole thing. It also said that after the last part has been incorporated, the meringue mixture will likely be quite stiff, so one should just continue to fold until it loosens up a little and is ready when the mixture runs down in a thick ribbon from the spatula into the bowl, where it will stay in shape for about half a minute or so.
The most crucial piece of advice is that once the macarons have been piped and banged/dropped to flatten, they must be rested for about 30 minutes. I had this instruction in my patisserie master class, but I failed to realise why this part is so important and I haven't come across this explained elsewhere. The reason is that during this rest, the macaron surface will start drying out and form a skin. Once it can be touched without sticking to the finger, the macarons can go in the oven. This will help form the crunchy surface and force any steam trying to escape to go out through the edges and thus form the curly bit on the sides.
And of course the recommendation of doing a few batches to understand how one's oven works and find the right temperature and baking time.
I guess I also have gained some experience in working with meringue to have a better feel for the whole thing too.
So yesterday, Bip and I made the first recipe in the book - classic vanilla macarons.
1.75 dl finely ground almonds
2.5 dl icing sugar
2 medium egg whites
0.5 dl caster sugar
0.5 tsp vanilla extract
- Put the almonds and icing sugar in a blender and process for no more than half a minute.
- Sift the mixture into a bowl. Return any large pieces to the blender and blend again and sift.
- In a large glass or metal bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks. Then while whisking slowly add the caster sugar until stiff peaks and a glossy meringue forms. Add the vanilla extract at the very end, whisking just enough so it is mixed in. I demonstrated to Bip that you're supposed to turn the bowl upside-down over your head as a test.
- Now carefully add one third of the dry mixture and use a spatula to fold into the meringue. Once fully incorporated, add the second third etc.
- Once all dry mixture is fully mixed in and the meringue is just a little runny, prepare a piping bag with a round nozzle and transfer the meringue into it.
- Line two baking sheets with clean baking paper and pipe small blobs onto them. They should spread out on their own.
- Once all the mixture has been piped, either pick up the whole baking sheet some 5 cm over the worktop and drop it down or bang the baking sheet with the palm of your hand, so that trapped air bubbles come up to the surface of the macarons.
- Pop these gently with a needle, so they don't bake into the macarons later.
- Now leave the macarons to stand for about 30 minutes so that they form a skin. It should be possible to touch them without getting meringue mixture onto your fingers.
- Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees (or 130 degrees if fan assisted), then bake one sheet at a time for 10 - 15 minutes (fan assisted will be around 10 minutes).
- Take out of the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes, then carefully remove to a wire rack to cool completely. If the top and bottom separate, the macarons can go into the oven for a couple of more minutes.
The recipe recommended to use a vanilla flavoured butter cream, but Bip and I opted for chocolate mousse of the Angel Delight type.
I was so happy when the macarons turned out like they were supposed to! Although next time I won't use the large piping tip, it was too big and my macarons ended up just a little too large to be eaten in one bite and with the filling so soft, they were hard to eat. A smaller tip will allow more control.
I also need to take more care when sifting the ground almonds, it was still not sufficiently fine and I had a few lumps here and there. I did use the blender to grind whole blanched almonds. The problem is that if you run the blender for too long, the almond fat melts and forms a paste rather than flour like substance. Next time I'll try using the coffee grinder, that might give better results.
But I feel very proud to have sussed the trick, leaving only a couple of minor adjustments to do in order to get things perfect.
There are 29 more recipes in the book and the quantities are all based on 2 egg whites, which result in about 20 complete macarons.