How to make magical macarons – practice makes perfect

This meringue-based confection can be tricky, and it takes practice to get them right every single time

Macarons: a recipe for confident bakers. Photograph: Harry Weir

Macarons: a recipe for confident bakers. Photograph: Harry Weir

 

Even professional chefs will say that macarons can be tricky, and it takes practice to get them right every single time. I use a Swiss meringue technique.

This is a recipe for confident bakers and a good excuse to finally get around to investing in a kitchen temperature probe – they are not too expensive (basic models start at about €20).

With trial and error I have learned that once the almond-sugar mixture is the correct consistency before piping, you will end up with good results. Often, a failed consistency is down to over zealous folding at each stage.

Read the recipe fully before you start and have ingredients and equipment weighed out and ready – it will stand to you. Stick with one favourite colour to start. As your confidence grows, you can look forward to experimenting with a world of elegant pastel colours. 

Ingredients
Makes 15

150g ground almonds
150g icing sugar                
Food colour paste or gel (never liquid)
Egg whites at room temperature, divided into 63g and 50g
150g caster sugar
White chocolate ganache
70g double cream
Zest of 1 orange
200g white chocolate, chopped

Method

1. First make the ganache filling. Heat cream to just below boiling with orange zest. Strain and pour the hot cream over the chocolate, leave for 1 minute, stir until smooth. Allow to cool.

2. Cut 2 sheets of parchment paper to fit 2 large oven size baking trays (if you like, draw rows of 4cm circles on the reverse of the paper as a guide for piping).

3. Combine ground almonds and icing sugar in a food processor and pulse to a powder fine consistency, then pass through a medium mesh sieve into a bowl (this is important to remove large bits of almond skin).

4. Weigh out the egg whites into two separate bowls. Dip 2 cocktail sticks in the food colouring and stir colour through the 63g portion of egg whites, then add the coloured whites into the bowl of sieved ingredients (lightly mix to a paste with a spatula – avoid over-mixing).

5. To make the swiss meringue combine the 50g non-coloured egg whites and caster sugar in a large heatproof mixing bowl and set it atop a medium saucepan filled with an inch of water. For the next step it is important that the meringue temperature does not rise above 50°C, so if you have a thermometer keep it handy. Heat the saucepan of water and whisk the sugar and egg whites inside the bowl until the sugar has dissolved and the temperature of the mixture turns warm but not actually hot (keep it under 50°C). Remove the bowl to a work surface, use an electric whisk to beat the mixture on a low speed to start, then increase to a high speed for 5 minutes until it is glossy and has a ripple effect (it is ready once the base of the bowl is cool to the touch). 

6. Fold one-third of the meringue into the almond mixture (two cutting and folding turns with a large spatula should be enough), then carefully fold in the remaining thirds – avoid over-folding. Stop when the mixture leaves a visible trail when it falls from a spatula (a good indication that the mixture will hold its shape once piped). 

7. Fill a piping bag fitted with a 1cm diameter round nozzle and pipe downwards into circles leaving a half width between each. 

8. Tap the trays on a flat surface to remove air bubbles. Leave the macarons to rest for 20 mins to allow a skin to form. 

9. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C conventional setting (avoid the fan setting). When ready to bake, reduce the oven temperature to 140°C and bake one tray of macarons at a time on the middle shelf of the oven for 15 mins (when baked they will have a “frilly foot” and should not move on the parchment if you press the shell). 

10. Once completely cool, gently peel off the parchment. Pipe ganache on to half the shells then sandwich with a second macaron flat side down.

Variation
You can fill macarons with flavoured buttercream, lemon curd or if you are stuck for time, use Nutella.

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