Perfecting macarons requires more than just a good recipe. It requires, time, practice and a lot of patience. But once you get the hang of it, what was once a day long struggle suddenly transform into a very quick, easy task. Before returning to Australia last week, I was completely obsessed with making them. Packing my bag and preparing my visa paperwork became second priority to creating an endless supply of brightly coloured and intensely flavoured macarons. Attempted flavours include: wild handpicked blackberry, strawberry white chocolate, after dinner mint and my favourite, salted caramel. Yes, it was a busy – and sugar laden – week, during which I learnt a few tricks to ensure my macaron shells were perfect every time. I’ve noted these tips below and I highly recommend reading them before starting the recipe. I’m always keen to learn some new techniques so if you have any suggestions, leave me a comment below and let me know.
Tips for perfect macarons
- Get to know your oven. It is rare to find an oven that has an accurate thermostat. My oven is 20°C colder than the temperature reads so I know I need to account for that when I preheat it. If you’re not sure, buy an oven thermometer and double check.
- Invest in a silicon macaron mat like this one here. This will save you so much and will result in perfectly round, even sized macarons every time.
- Don’t rush the drying stage. After you have piped your macarons, it is crucial that you allow the shell to rest until you can touch it and it’s no longer sticky – a little like testing to see if your nail polish has dried. Depending on the weather, this can take anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours. If they haven’t dried enough they won’t develop their ‘feet’.
- Blend your almond meal. This ensures that your macarons are perfectly smooth and slightly glossy. However, if you don’t mind rustic looking macarons you can skip this step.
- Once the macarons have cooked, slide the mat or baking paper onto a damp surface. This will stop the cooking process and prevent them from drying out.
- The most important step in making macarons is when you fold the meringue into the dry ingredients. You need to be careful not to over fold or under fold it. The mixture is the right consistency when it falls off the spoon/spatula in a thick ribbon. As it falls back into the rest of the mixture, the outline of the ribbon should be visible at first, but should then be incorporated into the remaining mixture after a few seconds.
Ok, feeling confident? I think you’re ready to get started!!
Makes 20 macarons or 40 shells
For the macaron shells:
- For the macarons
- 75 g ground almonds
- 75 g icing sugar
- ¼ tsp of cream of tartar
- 60 g egg whites
- 25 g water
- 92 g caster sugar
- gel or powder food colouring
For the caramel filling
- 280g of sugar
- 130g of cream
- 200g of butter, cold and cut into cubes
- ¼ tsp of salt
For the macaron shells: Preheat the oven to 180°C and very lightly grease the silicon tray.
Weigh out 30 g of egg white and set it aside. Blend the almond meal in a food processor then sift it along with the icing sugar and cream of tartar into a large bowl. Stir in the 30g of eggwhite. It will feel very dry at first, but keep mixing and you should have a thick paste.
Next, make the sugar syrup – Add the caster sugar, water and food colouring into a small saucepan and cook over a medium heat until the temperature reaches 118°C. There is no need to stir, I just give the pan a swirl every so often to pick up any bits of sugar stuck around the edge. This takes roughly 3-5 minutes.
Place the other 30g of eggwhite into a clean, dry bowl. Once the sugar is at about 100°C or just starting to bubble, start beating the eggwhite with an electric mixer. Once it starts to slightly bubble and stiffen, and the sugar has reached 118°C, slowly start drizzling in the sugar into the eggwhites while continuing to beat. Once all the sugar syrup has been added, continue beating until the meringue cools down to room temperature. This can take around 5-10minutes and your meringue should be so stiff that you can hold the bowl upside-down without anything falling out.
The next stage is the macaronage – the folding in of the almonds/icing sugar into the meringue. You have to very careful not to overmix or undermix. For best results, use a spatula and vigorously stir in roughly ¼ of the meringue into the almond mixture. Mix really well to loosen up the mixture. Fold in the next ¼ more delicately and continue gently folding until all the meringue is incorporated. The mixture is the right consistency when it falls off the spoon/spatula in a thick ribbon. As it falls back into the rest of the mixture, the outline of the ribbon should be visible at first, but should then be incorporated into the remaining mixture after a few seconds. If the mixture looks quite lumpy still, continue mixing. If it looks really runny, you’ve mixed too much and unfortunately you’ll need to start again.
Transfer the mixture to a piping bag. Hold the piping bag vertically, about 1/2cm from the surface of the silicon mat. Pipe enough mixture so that it is a couple of mm from the outline of the template, the mixture will spread slightly. Once you’ve piped enough mixture lift the piping bag up quickly to give a peak which will gradually disappear into the rest of the mixture.
Give each of the trays a firm tap on the counter top, this will flatten the peaks and bring any air bubbles to the surface. Break these air bubbles with a tooth pick.
Leave the macarons to rest until they are dry to the touch. The time could vary from anywhere between 15 minutes to two hours depending on the weather.
Place the macarons in the oven and bake at 180°C for 10 minutes. Once cooked, slide the macaron mat onto a damp surface and allow to completely cool before attempting to remove them.
For the caramel filling: Heat the sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Use a whisk and stir constantly until all the sugar has dissolved. Stop stirring and watch carefully as the caramel starts to darken. You want the caramel to be dark amber in colour. The moment it reaches this colour, quickly remove the pan from the heat and add the cream – be careful as it will bubble and splatter a lot. Stir until the cream is completely incorporated. Place back on the heat until the caramel reaches 108°C or if you don’t have a thermometer allow to boil for 2 minutes. As soon as the caramel is 108°C, remove it from the heat and add the cold butter. Whisk constantly and the mixture is smooth and homogenous. Allow to cool before filling the macarons.
To fill the macarons, fit a piping bag with a large tip and fill it with the caramel. Pipe a large blob onto one side of each macaron. Place the other side on top and squeeze it down until the filling has evenly spread to the edges. Store your macarons in an airtight container in the fridge and if you have any excess shells place them in the freezer for next time.