If you've been keeping up with my Instagram lately you will know that I recently embarked on a couple of weeks of macaron making. In my attempts to crack the notoriously difficult method of making macarons, I trialled a couple of different recipes and meringue methods with varying success. I also read A LOT about macarons.
From the reading I've done so far (though believe me, there is much more reading I could do) it seems that how old your eggs are, too much mixing, not enough mixing, a slight variation in oven temperature, if or how long you rest the macarons for, and how dry vs. humid your resting place is all seem to have an effect on how your macarons come out. That's just a small summary though. The list could go on for quite some time...
Four attempts later - two successful attempts, one sort-of-successful-but-not-quite-right attempt, and one absolute disaster - and I think I'm done with making macarons for at least a little while. However, I thought I would share with you the fruits of my labour from my two successful attempts. My first successful attempt were these Pink Peppermint & White Chocolate Macarons, which I'm posting the recipe for in this blog post. My second successful attempt were my Pistachio, Lime & White Chocolate Macarons, which I'll be posting the recipe for in a separate blog post in the next couple of weeks.
For this attempt I used the Swiss meringue method. This involves whisking egg whites and sugar over a pan of simmering water until the egg whites are hot and the sugar has melted. After this, the egg whites are removed from the heat and whisked to stiff peaks before ground almonds, icing sugar, flavours and colours are added. Making the meringue this way creates a much more stable meringue than the classic French method.
There is some debate about what temperature to heat your egg whites to when making Swiss meringue. In this case I would say not to worry about it too much because you're going to cook the meringue in the oven. In this recipe, you won't need a thermometer as you can judge by touch whether the eggs are ready to take off the heat or not.
However, if you want to be particularly cautious or you're making Swiss meringue to then make into a buttercream, I would suggest heating the egg whites to at least 71°C (though some recipes suggest much lower, e.g. 50°C, and some suggest higher, e.g. 85°C, so you may find it useful to do your own reading before deciding what temperature to go for).
Utensils: Small saucepan, large mixing bowl (preferably a metal bowl), handheld whisk, thermometer (optional), electric hand or stand mixer with whisk attachment, food processor or grinder (optional), sieve, spatula, 2-3 baking sheets lined with non-stick baking paper, large piping bag, round piping tip, cooling rack.
Top Tip: Macarons are fickle things and can be affected by anything and everything it seems! So try not to be disheartened if they don't come out quite as you hoped on your first, second, third or even fourth attempt. From my experience, I would recommend doing some reading, trying out different recipes and methods and working out what works best for you. Trial and error (and a little patience) is a key part of the macaron making process.
Pink Peppermint Macarons
100g egg whites, at room temperature
100g granulated sugar
100g ground almonds
100g icing sugar
1 teaspoon peppermint extract (this works best in paste form)
Pink gel food colouring (or a different colour if you prefer)
Multi-coloured hundreds and thousands cake sprinkles (or similar)
White Chocolate Ganache
100ml double cream
250g good quality white chocolate, finely chopped
Makes: Approx. 20 - 30 macarons, depending on what size you make them.
1. Get prepped: From my four attempts at making macarons, I thoroughly recommend prepping absolutely everything before getting started on any baking. So let's begin! Crack your eggs and separate them. Place the yolks covered in cling film back in the fridge to use in another recipe and leave 100g of egg whites in a small bowl on the side covered with cling film to come to room temperature.
2. Place a small saucepan with about 1 inch of water on your stove top. Weigh out 100g granulated sugar and place in a clean large mixing bowl (preferably a metal bowl). If there is any grease in the bowl this will prevent the eggs from whipping properly so make sure the bowl is clean and dry before adding the sugar. Place the mixing bowl on top of the small saucepan, ensuring that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Do not turn on the heat yet. Ensure that your electric hand or stand mixer with whisk attachment is also clean and dry, and ready to go when you need it.
3. Place the ground almonds and icing sugar into the bowl of a food processor or grinder. Pulse the mixture until it is super fine and well mixed (don't overdo it though as the oil from the almonds can turn the mixture into a paste). Pass the mixture through a sieve into a bowl to get rid of any large pieces of almond. If you think your mixture could be a little finer, pulse and pass through a sieve again before placing to one side.
4. Get your peppermint extract and a teaspoon, food colouring and some cocktail sticks or another teaspoon, and hundreds and thousands out and place to one side for easy access later. Line 3 baking sheets with non-stick baking paper and pre-heat the oven to 140°C fan.
5. On a separate piece of baking paper which is slightly smaller on all sides than the paper lining the baking sheets, draw yourself a macaron size guide sheet (or you could print one off, as there's plenty of guides online). Depending on what size you'd like your macarons to be, draw circles 3-5cm in diameter, leaving a 2cm gap between each circle (I made my macarons 5cm in diameter). Making your size guide smaller than the paper lining the baking sheets means that you will be able to stick down the larger baking paper on each corner, so that the paper doesn't move when you pipe the macarons, before pulling the size guide out from underneath to place under the next piece of baking paper.
6. Make the Swiss meringue: Add the room temperature egg whites to the granulated sugar in the mixing bowl set on top of the saucepan. Turn the heat on and slowly heat the water in the saucepan until it is just simmering (the water should only just be reaching a simmer and not be vigorously boiling as this will scramble your egg whites). While the water is heating continuously whisk the egg whites and sugar together with a hand whisk until the sugar melts completely and the egg whites are hot and frothy. This should take around 3 minutes. You can test whether the sugar has melted by rubbing some of the mixture between your fingertips. If you can still feel sugar granules between your fingers then the mixture is not quite ready. If you want to be cautious and pasteurise the eggs, continue heating and whisking the mixture until it reaches 71°C.
7. Once ready, remove the egg white mixture from the heat and whisk on medium to start with and then high speed using a hand or stand mixer with whisk attachment. Whisk for 3-5 minutes until stiff peaks form (it may take a little longer if you're using a hand mixer) but make sure to stop whisking as soon as stiff peaks have been reached.
8. Time to macaronage: Shake 1/3 of the sifted ground almonds and icing sugar into the bowl, along with the peppermint extract and food colouring and use a spatula to carefully fold into the meringue. Once fully combined, add the remaining 2/3 of the almond mixture and carefully fold into the meringue. It's really important at this point to make sure that your macaron batter has the right consistency before piping. Both under-folding and over-folding can ruin the batter. I recommend watching THIS VIDEO to understand what your batter needs to look like. The batter needs to move slowly but flow off the spatula and pass the figure of eight test (the video demonstrates this).
9. Get piping: Once your batter is the correct consistency, scoop it into a large piping bag fitted with a round piping tip. Prepare your first baking sheet by placing your macaron guide underneath the baking paper lining the sheet. Use a little macaron batter to stick the baking paper down at each corner so that it doesn't move around as you pipe. Then, pipe circles of macaron batter onto the baking paper just a little smaller than your macaron guide circles. The batter will spread. Pull your macaron guide sheet out from underneath the baking paper and place under the next sheet. Continue piping until your trays are filled.
10. Bake: Firmly bang each baking sheet on the kitchen worktop two times to remove any air bubbles. Sprinkles the tops of the macarons with hundreds and thousands. Then, in theory, you shouldn't need to let the batter air dry before baking. But, macarons are fickle things so what I would suggest is baking one sheet of macarons at a time, whilst leaving the remaining sheets to air dry in a warm, dry place (e.g. a nice warm kitchen with the extractor fan turned on will do nicely). If you have three sheets of macarons piped this means you can test out which works best out of: (1) baking the macarons straight away, (2) baking after air drying for 15 minutes, (3) baking after air drying for 30 minutes.
11. Place the first sheet of macarons on the middle shelf of a pre-heated oven for 15 minutes. Open the oven to release steam and turn the baking sheet around halfway through to ensure an even bake. If your macarons begin to brown, turn down your oven a little or place a baking sheet on the shelf above to protect the macarons from the heat. When checking if the macarons are ready, put your finger on one of the macarons. It should have developed 'feet' and be firm to the touch with the slightest amount of give. If it wobbles, the macarons require another minute or two.
12. Once baked, remove from the oven and leave to cool on the baking tray on a cooling rack. Repeat the baking process with your remaining sheets of macarons. Once all of the macarons are baked and cooled, store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place until you are ready to fill them.
13. Make the filling: Heat the double cream in a small saucepan over a low-medium heat, stirring constantly until the cream just reaches boiling point. Remove the cream from the heat and set to one side to cool for a minute before pouring over the chopped white chocolate. Leave the cream to start melting the chocolate for a minute before stirring the mixture with a spatula. If the mixture is a little lumpy, heat the ganache in the microwave in 5 second bursts, stirring regularly until of all the chocolate has melted.
14. Scoop ganache into a piping bag fitted with a round piping tip, and place in the fridge to harden (about 20 minutes).
15. Fill the macarons: Once the ganache is hard enough, pipe the ganache onto one macaron and sandwich with another macaron. Repeat with all macarons.
Storage: Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.