How do you bake the perfect macaron?
Now you might think oh no, not another blogger writing about how to make macarons. But yes, I want to share my experiences of this scrumptious cake and how I bake it! To be honest, I have a love/hate relationship to the macaron. For me, striving to bake the perfect macaron has been a journey of success and failure. Still this is the ultimate cake both in texture and flavour.
"French macarons are delicate cookies with a crunchy exterior and weightless interior. They have a nougat-like, chewy texture in your mouth and can be filled with anything from frosting and caramel to curd and ganache".
First, blanch the almonds. Pour them in boiling water for a couple of minutes. Now practice your patience and rub the skin off the almonds. Then completely dry them before use. Some prefer making the almond flour with skin on for a more "wholegrain" feel and a higher fibre content. But this affects the evenness in tone and the colour of the final macaron, making it more brownish. But it´s all about personal preferences.
Some suggest using a food processor making the almond flour. Other's say that the speed in the processor makes the almonds too warm and causing the oil to separate from the almond (and can end up in almond butter). The last issue is my experience. So, to make the perfect almond flour, trial and error taught me to grind the almonds by hand, several times.
Then sift the almond flour. Grind the rest of the grains left in the sifter. Repeat the process until you have the perfect almond flour.
There are three base ingredients in macarons; powder sugar, room temperature egg whites and almond flour. (It is possible to replace the almond flour with rice flour or even crumbled biscuits if you are allergic to nuts.) A kitchen scale is required to make macarons, because the outcome is dependent on accurate measurements.
There are two ways how to bake macarons, with italian or french meringue. I prefer the italian way, since I find the french macaron batter to be more unstable, causing the macarons to crack more often and ruin my baking self-esteem. For a batch of around 45 macarons follow this recipe (depends on size of course):
Preheat oven to 140 °C (284° F)
150 g almond flour
150 g powder sugar
55 g egg white (room temperature)
55 g egg white
20 g sugar
150 g sugar
50 g water
1.In a bowl, mix the almond flour, powder sugar and egg white to a batter
2.In another bowl whisk the egg white and sugar to a fluffy meringue with stiff peaks.
3.In a saucepan boil the sugar and water to 113 ° C (235 ° F)
4.Carefully drizzle the sugar syrup into the meringue while constantly whisking on high speed for 10 minutes or until the bowl is lukewarm.
5.Fold the meringue into the almond batter and add food colouring and essens of your choise. The trick is to mix the batter just right, not too much, not too little. If the batter is overmixed the macaron will not get the characteristic "foot" and might crack in the oven. If it is undermixed it will cause the macaron to crack because of bubbles in the batter. And the top will not look flat and smooth.
The batter has the right consistency when it falls off the spoon in ribbons and blend with the rest of the batter in 10 seconds.
6. I usually make baking sheet templates for my macarons. Draw circles (I prefer around 2,5 cm in diameter) to get similar shape and size of the macarons. This becomes even more important if you start making macaron figures. It is a good idea to put the template sheet under the baking sheet when you pipe the batter so you can use it all over again.
As you can see the batter is just right when the macarons are shiny and float out. I usually slam the baking plate against the countertop a few times to make sure the bubbles rise to the surface. If you see any visible bubbles, just needle them. Now leave them to dry for 20 minutes so a skin is formed. This prevents the macarons to crack when baked. Gently touch a macaron with your fingertip to check if the skin is dry to touch.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 12 minutes, 140 °C (284° F)
Now you have macarons ready for decoration and filling. I chose to fill these with sweet liquorice and will give you the recipe in my next blog.
Tips & tricks
I usually wipe my whisker and the bowl with a tissue soaked in vinegar to make sure they are grease free when making meringue.
Every oven is slightly different. The best thing to do is to bake one single macaron the first time to find out if the baking time is right.
It is harder to bake macarons successfully if the weather is humid.
If the macarons get stuck on the baking paper just put it all in the freezer for a couple of minutes and then peel it of. You can also use silicon mat, that is by far the easiest way to remove a macaron from, but then it is much harder to make macarons with similar size (unless it´s a silicon mat made just for baking macarons).
The taste of the macarons are just as important as the appearance. For a plain almond macaron I really like to add the natural pistachio essence made by Stockholm essensfabrik. You can buy it here essencefabriken.se. I have tried pistachio essences from other manufactures but they all tasted awful!
I add 1 tablespoon pistachio essence to the batter and 8 drops of bitter almond essence (can be bought in any grocery store).
If you buy ready made almond flour sift it from bigger grains before use to get a nicer texture of the macarons.
The colours I am using are Progel (liquid base) and Squires kitchen (powder base) Both of them were bought at cacas.no I had to use both of them since it requires some colouring to make black macarons. I have good experience with progel generally, gives saturated colours. Squires kitchen seems to get more intense in colour the longer it is added, since the grains has to dissolve in the batter.
Feel free to comment and come up with suggestions how to improve my baking skills!