Strawberry macarons with white chocolate ganache
Do you like incredibly complex cooking? Baking to create a mess? Do you enjoy the feeling of failure? If so, then the following recipe is for you! Macarons are the most frustrating, finicky and difficult of all baked goods. They fail almost as often as they succeed, and sometimes for the most inexplicable reasons. One day the below method can produce beautiful macarons, crisp on the outside and soft and fluffy in the middle. The next day this recipe may well produce a flat, sickly smelling mess, or a fluffy goop that expands in your oven like The Blob. Macarons can fail due to factors like humidity, air temperature, how quickly you open your oven door, or how loudly you had Kanye West blaring when you turned the blender on. Friends and family wonder why I bother with the things at all.
So why bother? Well... essentially macarons are show-stoppers. They elevate you from "that girl in the office who made that nice fruit loaf that one time" to "that miracle worker over by the printer who we should promote." I will remember my first successful macarons as fondly as I remember my first kiss. When they fail, they fail hard, but when you get macarons right I guarantee you will feel like a wizard. They're beautiful to look at, and you can really experiment with flavour too. A chocolate cake is always going to taste like chocolate, but once you get the hang of macarons you can come up with all sorts of exotic and peculiar flavours. White chocolate with green tea ganache, lavendar and rosemary with dark chocolate ganache. Raspberry with lemon creamy filling. Macarons make for creative baking, and if you can face the inevitable failures they really are an awful lot of fun.
Lemon macarons with cream cheese filling
My lovely friend Natalia very obligingly shared the following macaron recipe with me, and even had me around to her place for a day long tutorial (and several glasses of her Dad's home made grappa. Grappa helps with macaronning, as it turns out!) It's definitely the most straightforward, low fuss recipe I've encountered. Plus I've benefited from Natalia's trial and error here, she tweaked this recipe herself. You can definitely expermient when it comes to flavouring macarons, although I am yet to succeed in flavouring my macarons with anything liquid. As such I'd suggest starting with dry flavouring. Dehydrated fruit works a treat, as do nuts, dried herbs,even chilli or pepper. This recipe makes 24 macarons. You may want to halve the recipe for your first few attempts. Less goes in the bin that way!
What you will need:
2/3 cup almond meal
1 1/3 cups powdered icing sugar
3 egg whites
6 tbsp granulated sugar
Gel food dye in whatever colour you choose
Granulated nuts, dehydrated fruit, green tea powder or whatever else you fancy for flavouring
Baking paper stencils for piping. Use a thick black pen to trace circles (roughly 3cm in diameter) onto baking paper. Lay a second blank sheet of baking paper over the top of the inked one before piping. 24 macarons, so that's 48 black circles. Ugh.
What you will need to do:
- Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celcius. You can heat the oven with the fan force on, however i'd suggest turning the fan force off once your macarons go in.
- Using an electric blender, pulse the almond meal and powdered icing sugar together for a few minutes. If you are flavouring your macarons blend in any nuts, dehydrated fruit or powdered flavouring etc. at this stage too. If I flavour my macarons with nuts I add them in place of some of the almond meal. If i'm flavouring with something like a green tea powder, lavender flowers (my favourite) or dehydrated strawberries I add these in place of a few tablespoons of the powdered sugar. Once your mixture is very fine, sieve it twice and set aside.
- In a stainless steel bowl beat the egg whites, slowly incorporating the granulated sugar, until the egg mixture stiffens. If you are using food dye, add a few drops of it at this stage too. Do not use oil or water based dyes as these will lead to macaron ruination. Good gel dyes are available at places like DJ's or specialty cake decorating stores.
- Using a rubber spatula, gently fold half of the almond meal mixture into the beaten egg whites until just combined. Add the remaining almond meal mixture and fold this in too.
- Once the almond meal mix and egg whites are more or less stuck together you need to “macaronnage” your mixture: Spread your macaron mixture along the side of a stainless steel bowl as if you are spreading butter on toast, take up your rubber spatula and run it along the underside of your mix, then fold the mixture over itself and spread it out again. Repeat this step once a minute for ten minutes, or until the mixture turns glossy and drips slowly from your spatula in a ribbon.
- Now its time to pipe your macarons! Transfer the mixture to a piping bag and carefully pipe your shells. Hold the tip of your piping bag as close to the baking paper as you can and allow your macaron mixture to sort of mushroom out as you pipe. Once all your macarons are piped, bang your baking trays firmly on your benchtop once or twice, this helps push out any air bubbles that are likely to ruin your macarons. Now set them aside somewhere and allow them to dry out. Natalia suggested drying my macarons for fifteen minutes on a hot day, half an hour on a cool day. Her recommendation seems to work so I'm stickin' by it!
Piped macaron mix. Your mix should look flat and glossy.
- Finally, bake your macarons for around ten to fifteen minutes, depending on the heat of your oven. They should rise and form "feet" - once my macarons have feet I often open the oven (very slowly) and cover them with foil, just to prevent them from browning or discolouring.
- Allow your shells to cool, then fill them with ganache, jelly, cream cheese or whatever else you care to try and gently sandwich them together. I've taken to spraying mine with an edible shimmer spray too, just for a little extra shine.
Different recipes tell you vastly different things about macarons, but Natalia's recipe works well for me (most of the time...) Practice makes perfect folks, and macaroning takes lots of practice! Oh and fun fact! Most people associate macarons with Marie Antoinette, however their origin is a source of much debate. Read an interesting history of macarons here. Happy Baking! Or not.