Demystifying macarons…

French chocolate macarons with coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache

Here’s my basic recipe, with lots of extra hints and tips (as demonstrated at The Chocolate and Coffee Show, Auckland) plus two filling recipe options.

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Makes 60-80 macaron shells = 30-40 sandwiched macarons, depending on size

Step 1: Basic French Meringue Macaron batter and baking

INGREDIENTS:

200 grams icing sugar

125 grams finely ground almonds

15 grams quality cocoa powder

100 grams egg whites (approx. 3 eggs), at room temperature

65 grams caster sugar

PREPARATION:

– Preheat oven to 180°C (do not use fan bake). Place oven racks in the lower part of the oven.

– Draw 3cm diameter circles onto baking paper, leaving 3cm between each circle to allow for macarons to expand during cooking. Turn papers over and place on baking trays.

– Measure accurately, using digital scales.

METHOD:

  1. Use a small food processor to process icing sugar, almonds and cocoa together to pulverize until fine and aerated. Sieve mixture to remove any remaining lumps and set aside.
  2. Place egg whites in a clean bowl, and using and electric mixer, whip egg whites until foamy soft peaks hold their shape. Gradually add caster sugar and beat for 2 minutes until sugar dissolves and ‘meringue’ mixture is glossy.
  3. Add cocoa/icing sugar/almond mixture in 2 batches. With a spatula, mix using broad strokes against the side of the bowl, to combine – you can be quite vigorous at this stage. Don’t worry about deflating the mixture, as this needs to happen, to reach the right consistency. Stroking the mixture in this way is known as ‘macaronnage’ – it may take up to 50 strokes to reach the correct texture (known as the ‘lava’ stage).
  4. Test a small amount on a plate, if necessary – if tips flatten on their own then you have reached the correct consistency. If the tops are lumpy and small peaks stay in shape then give the mixture a few more folds. There’s a fine line, so do not over work the mixture or it will be too runny to pipe; the macarons will be flat, and the characteristic ‘feet’ may not form.
  5. Transfer mixture to a piping bag fitted with a 1cm plain nozzle. Using the drawn circles as a guide, pipe 3-cm rounds onto baking paper lined baking trays – pipe from the side and flick off in a circular motion to complete – the rounds will be approximately 1-cm high at this stage. Bang trays against a bench-top 3 times, turn trays around and bang 3 more times – this breaks any air bubbles and helps settle the mixture.
  6. Leave to sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes so that the surface dries out. This will help produce smooth, crisp crusts. The surface should be glossy and not sticky when touched, indicating the macarons are ready to be baked.
  7. Place one tray in the oven at a time – work in a production line so while one tray is baking the next tray will be being piped and sitting and resting. As soon as the tray goes into the oven, immediately turn temperature down to 140°C. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until macarons are crisp and set and can be gently lifted off the baking paper. After 10 minutes, very carefully open oven door to let steam out and turn trays around, for even baking.
  8. Slide the baking tray out from under the paper; leave macarons on the paper on a cold bench top. Or, spray a little cold water under the paper to help loosen the macarons. Leave shells to firm and cool on the paper, then carefully peel off.

Note: When making other flavours, remove the cocoa powder and replace it with an equal amount of icing sugar. If using edible food colouring it is important to use a powder or gel food colouring (not liquid). Once the meringue is made, mix in colouring briefly to incorporate. It is best not to use liquid food colouring, as this can effect the meringue consistency and make it too wet and sticky (remember, liquid is the enemy of meringue!). Alternatively, leave out the colouring altogether and add a few drops of vanilla extract or essence flavourings, such as coconut. Freeze-dried fruit powders also work well, as these are dry powders so do not affect the meringue mixture. Plus they add both natural colour and flavour to the macarons.

Step 2: Coffee butter-cream

INGREDIENTS:

75 grams butter, softened

225 grams icing sugar, sifted

2 tablespoons hot milk mixed with 1 tablespoon instant coffee

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

METHOD:

  1. Place butter in a bowl, and beat until pale and creamy. Beat in icing sugar, hot coffee/milk, and vanilla until the mixture forms a smooth icing.
  2. Place mixture in a piping bag fitted with a 1-cm plain nozzle. Pipe small amounts onto flat sides of macaron shells and sandwich together with remaining shells.

Step 3: Chocolate Ganache (alternative filling)

INGREDIENTS:

150 grams quality dark chocolate

100 grams cream

10 grams unsalted butter

METHOD:

  1. Break up chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl. Heat cream until just below boiling point.
  2. Pour hot cream over chocolate and set aside for a minute or two, to melt. Stir until blended and smooth. Add butter and stir until melted and incorporated.
  3. Cool to room temperature so the ganache thickens and can be spread or piped easily onto macaron shells.

Step 4: Assembling and storage

  1. Once cold, pipe or spread flat sides of half the macaron shells with a teaspoon-sized amount of chosen filling.
  2. Now sandwich together with remaining shells, keeping flat sides together. Match same-sized macaron shells into pairs.
  3. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Best made the day before so that flavours meld and macarons set.
  4. Store filled macarons in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  5. You can store unfilled macaron shells in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost shells before filling in the usual way.
  6. Good luck and enjoy!

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