I have really struggles with macarons in the past, to the extent that the entire batch did not pass go and went straight into the bin. I don’t even know what happened. They sort of pooled/puddled and lost any sort of stiffness.
In that instance I thought I was using a reliable source, Pierre Hermé’s Macarons, the go-to bible. However, while some of the recipes seem delicious (strawberry/rhubarb/passion fruit, chestnut/rosehip, violet/blackcurrant, chestnut/rosehip, jasmin to name but a few), the initial base instruction as to how to create the macarons appears to be flawed: 180 degrees Celsius? Pretty crisp. Plus the Italian technique of pouring 115 degrees C sugar into egg whites, for me anyway, ends up with some pretty grainy batter.
This time I did my research. I cannot recommend enough Mrs Humble’s blog, where she takes an entirely scientific approach to to dispel the myths and rumours that surround the creation of macarons. She has tried the Italian technique, the French technique, the Ladurée recipe and everything in between. She uses scatter graphs to show the methodical approach to refining the best macaron recipe.
So I gave it a go.
I used her Not So Humble Macarons v3.0128. All credit to the original website which also comes with a fantastic troubleshooting guide for the frustrated macaron chef in all of us.
For 100 shells (50 macarons)
5g dehydrated egg white powder
28g granulated sugar
225g icing sugar
125g ground almonds (the finest you can find)
100g aged egg whites (preferably left in the fridge for 5-6 days)
- Prep are two baking trays with baking paper or macaron silicone baking mats. Draw circle templates on the wrong side of the baking paper as necessary to ensure consistency of size.
- Pre-heat your oven to between 140-150°C.
- Weighing out granulated sugar and egg white powder into a small bowl. Mix with a fork until uniform and set aside.
- Sift together your almonds and icing sugar powdered sugar after having given them a quick whizz in a belnder/magimix first to egt it all nicely airated.
- Weigh out your egg whites and begin beating them on low speed until foamy (in, preferably, a copper bowl). Begin slowly sprinkling in the powdered egg white/sugar mixture as you beat. Then increase the speed to medium and beat until a firm meringue forms.
- Hold back before getting stiff peaks.
- Beat in food coloring and then fold in 1/3rd of the almond mixture, followed by another third and so on.
- Add your batter to a piping bag with a round tip (any size bit under 1cm works fine) and pipe rows of macarons, preferably holding your nozzle dead centre and vertical to the template.
- Pick up the tray with both hands, and holding it level, tap it firmly onto the counter several times to disperse any air bubbles and to level the mixture. Pop any visible bubbles with a tooth pick.
- LEAVE THEM ALONE to rest for between half an hour to an hour. Don’t bake too soon. They need to settle and develop a nice thick miniscus (this is the key to feet apparently; the longer I left them the better the feet!)
- Bake the cookies for roughly 15 minutes. One sheet at a time in the centre of the oven.
- If in doubt, slightly over-cook and then allow the macarons to soften by osmosis over time (maturation) rather than undercooking to get the soft. this also makes them last longer.
For the centres, I mixed 250g of marscapone with 100g of melted white chocolate. To one half I added rose essenc and some pink colouring, to the other I added some delicious lemon curd and a hint of zest.
My main problem (apart from a general lack of patience with meringue techniques) is an inability to use a piping bag. I am squeezing away, unable to keep my arm position directly vertical, wondering why the batter isn’t coming out only to find it coming out the top and all over my hand. Sigh. I learned that lesson quickly and twisted the bag properly. I don’t think my teeny-tiny nozzle helped matters either.
Next problem. My super organic, no E-numbers red food colouring is in fact not even slightly red/pink and instead just comes out vaguely like a darker version of the yellow. A sort of taupe. Not really the rose colour I was hoping for. I made up for this eventually by painting the tops with edible pink shimmer.
And look, little feet! Some cracks (especially in the lemon) but overall I am very, very pleased. I will definitely be attempting bigger and better things in the future!
And, they were delicious! The best bit was finding out that H, despite a nut allergy, was not killed instantly on impact. It seems like almonds are a carve out which I can fully exploit in future! Woo hoo!