If I am to name one thing that I miss about Paris, it has to be the petite macarons. Every patisserie in Paris, big or small had tons of these dainty little colorful cream filled cookies. I was (am!) crazy about them. Most evenings while walking back from le Cordon Bleu school, I would hop into a Laudree or Pierre Hermé, and get one single macaron. Come out, sit on bench and relish that almondy ganache filled cookie before going home.
Now the French Macarons (pronounced mah-kah-ROHN) are different from the Coconut Macaroons. Both names are derived from Italian maccarone or maccherone meaning ‘paste’, referring to the original almond paste ingredient. But the final outcome is vastly different. The french macarons are elusive, and I was told that many a Parisians also did not know how to make the perfect macaron. In most elite patisseries, the macarons are made from a centuries old recipe. But the sandwiched macarons as we know now, have supposedly been invented by Pierre Desfontaines Ladurée, who, at the beginning of the 20th century, had the idea to join two meringues and fill them with ganache.
The first time I tried a small batch of these macarons, I had very little faith in myself. I was sure that they might taste okay (its almond powder, sugar and egg whites, what’s not to taste good?) but they would not be photogenic at all. So I did not take any pictures. Duh. But then, just a few weeks later, I had to make them again. I just had to.
And here they are:
These are still not perfect. But technically, they are there. Smooth tops, crinkled feet, a lovely pastel color and a generous amount of white chocolate ganache. What more do you need?
Now, it is not as complicated as people make it to be, but it is not very simple either. It takes some pre-planning, some sitting around time, and a lot of bend-over-the-workspace time as you pipe little rounds of the macaron shells by the dozen.
I studied the Pierre Herme macaron book and several other websites for a long time before I decided to use one recipe for Pierre Herme’s book Macarons.
I will list out a few commandments for making these macarons. They are not exhaustive and every time I will be adding some more notes and tips and dos and donts. If you find any important must-dos, let me know in the comments section.
- The separated egg whites used to make the macaron shells have to be carefully separated, and should not contain any part of the fatty yolk, which makes whipping the egg-whites difficult.
- It is essential to use “liquified” egg-whites. Liquified egg-whites are those which have been sitting in the refrigerator for a week, so they lose their elasticity.
- To get perfect round shapes, you can make a stencil on a parchment paper with shot glasses and use that stencil underneath another parchment paper for piping the shells.
- I grind my almonds at home to make almond powder, and in that way I can use the best almonds and sieve it a couple of times to obtain a very smooth consistency. No crumbs at all.
- An electronic thermometer is essential, because the sugar syrup has to be cooked to a specific temperature and then whisked again with the egg whites till it cools down to a particular temperature. Any over-heating or over-cooling will disturb the macarons perfect texture.
- Sugar plays a crucial role in the meringue. If you decrease the sugar, the meringue will lose its stability.
- After piping the macaron shells, tap the baking tray on a towel on a kitchen counter, so that the top flattens out and all air bubbles are released. Then you have to let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, until a skin forms on the surface. The batter shouldn’t stick to your finger.
- The shells have to be baked for 12 minutes in a convection oven (the one with a fan), briefly opening and shutting the oven door twice to let out the steam. Open the door first time at eight minutes (at that time the ‘foot’ of the shells will be cooked) then a second time after 10 minutes.
- The baked shells have to be carefully unstuck from the baking sheet, because they are quite fragile. You can use an offset spatula to gently nudge the shell.
- After filling the macarons whith ganache, they should be kept in the fridge for 24 hours to let the ganache/buttercream set in. Or the macaron feels very dry and crumbly. And they have to be best eaten at room temperature, an hour after taking them out.
Makes about 72 macarons, 144 shells.
What you will need:
For the macaron shells :
- 300 gm ground almonds
- 300 gm icing sugar
- 110gm liquefied egg whites
- About 5 gm red food coloring
- 300 gm caster sugar
- 75 gm water
- 110 gm liquefied egg whites
For the ganache :
- 200 gm white chocolate, finely chopped
- 150 gm fresh cream
What to do :
- A week before making macarons, separate egg whites from egg yolks. For this recipe you will need about 8-10 eggs. Separate the egg whites, place them in a tight lid glass bottle, and keep it aside in the refrigerator for a week. This will liquefy the egg whites. (See commandment above)
- On the day of making macarons or one day prior, finely grind almonds and sieve them a couple of times to get a smoother consistency without any crumbs. I like the nutty flavor and hence use un-blanced almonds, but you can very well use blanched almonds.
- Then once again sift together icing sugar and ground almonds.
- Stir the food coloring into first portion of liquefied egg whites
- Pour them into the bowl of icing sugar and ground almonds but do not stir.
- Bring the sugar and water to a boil at 118C. When the syrup reaches 115C, simultaneously start whisking the second portion of liquefied egg whites to soft peaks. (Take help if available.)
- When the sugar reaches 118C, pour it over the egg-whites. Whisk and allow the meringue to cool down to 50C. Then fold it well in the mixture of ground almonds and icing sugar.
- Now spoon the batter into a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle. Be careful that there are no air bubbles getting trapped while filling the bag.
- Pipe rounds of batter about 3.5 cm in diameter, 2 cm apart on baking trays lined with baking parchment paper. It is essential for air to circulate from all sides of the macaron shell, and hence space them considerably. You can use the stencil made with a shot glass as a measure.
- Leave the piped shells to stand for 30 minutes until a skin forms on the surface.
- Meanwhile, preheat the fan oven to 180C. Put the baking tray in the oven and bake for 12 minutes, briefly opening and shutting, twice. (See commandment)
- Take the baking tray out and slide the baking parchment on to a work surface, or it will continue cooking further on the tray, which we don’t want.
- Put in the other tray to bake and continue doing so till all the shells are made. Once fully cooled, release the shells from the baking paper with a slight nudge with a spatula. (Careful, they are still fragile.)
- Take chopped white chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream and switch off the heat just when it starts to boil. Pour the cream on white chocolate, let it rest for 2 minutes and then whisk to form a smooth ganache.
- Spoon the ganache in a piping bag and pipe a generous mound of ganache on half the shells. Top with remaining shells, and keep in fridge for 24 hours.
- Remove and let it sit at room temperature for minimum one hour, before serving or eating.
- Macarons are a bit time-consuming, but not difficult. And the joy of having made them at home is enormous. Try it, and everybody around you will be super impressed.
- These little things improve every time you practice. I sure did crack a few macaron shells, one batch got burnt, one batch was undercooked and some macarons totally browned on top. you have to know your oven and keep practicing to get the perfect shell. Also, this recipe can be easily halved.
- The flavor combinations are tremendous and only sky is really the limit.