I’ve been wanting to make macarons since…well, forever. As I’m not supposed to eat gluten, the little morsels of almondy sugary goodness are my coffee shop treat of choice. And with the Bake Off in full swing, the need to get back in the kitchen has been building.
This weekend is 4 days long for me – well, if you count Thursday spent in a hospital room! – so whilst my poorly boy relaxed on the sofa (and called out for tea, chocolate and ice packs, I took a trip into the kitchen and decided to have a go.
It wasn’t so bad. It was easier than I thought, I just need to get the technique down. The ingredients themselves are simple. You just need icing sugar, caster sugar, ground almonds (which you can find in the baking section easily), an egg and some flavour – I used cocoa powder and coffee, to make them Tiramisu flavoured. For the middle, I skipped ganache and used a trick from my friend at Maison Cupcake with chocolate Philadelphia.
I had some set backs. 1) I added a little extra cocoa, so my mixture was a little on the dry, thick side. 2) I used the only piping nozzle I could find, which was fluted when really you need a round one. 3) I made them far too big, which meant some of them squished into each other and made funny shapes! 4) I had the oven a little too high, and needed to move the shelf down – my macaron shells cracked.
These are all trial-and-error mistakes. The good news is, even though they came out messy, they still tasted really, really good.
Here’s my recipe
50g Icing Sugar
30g Caster Sugar
30g Ground Almonds
1 egg white at room temperature
A teaspoon of cocoa and coffee mixed together
Chocolate Philadelphia for the centre
In a blender, blitz the almonds, icing sugar and cocoa/coffee mix until it is powdery.
In a bowl, whizz the egg white with a hand blender until it’s frothy. Make sure your bowl is free of all oil, or you WILL FAIL. Just a word of warning. To cheat, use a little lemon juice on some kitchen towel and swipe the inside of the bowl.
Slowly add your caster sugar to the egg white, mixing all the time. Keep mixing until it forms stiff peaks.
Stiff peaks means you can hold the bowl above your head, and the meringue mix won’t fall out. When you pull the mixer out, there should be little mountains which don’t collapse on themselves.
Now, the difficult part, and the bit that makes all the difference. The macaronage technique.
It’s basically folding the almond mix into the egg mix slowly and carefully. Use a silicone spatula, and swipe around the outside of the bowl and back through the middle. You should keep doing this slowly until it becomes ‘lava like’. This is vague. Basically, when you pull the spatula out, it should ribbon back on itself and be shiny, taking a few seconds for the ‘ribbon’ to sink back into the mixture.
My mixture was too thick, so it didn’t quite get there!
Then, pour your mixture into your piping bag. This is messy, and I am the messiest person when it comes to baking and cooking, so I put the bag in the cup from the hand blender and fold the ends over before I pour.
Once this is done, you need to pipe out the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. My piping was a mess, as my mixture was thick and I had the wrong nozzle. You should ideally push down and up to make a 2cm circle. They should also be 2cm apart! Mine spread A LOT and ended up a lot bigger than 2cm. More like 4cm.
Once they’re all piped, you need to rest them for a while. If your mixture has bubbles you might want to whack the tray on the work top to force some air out. My macarons took a good 45mins of resting, sometimes they take longer. They need to go shiny and have a skin on top, so that when you gently touch the top with your little finger, it doesn’t stick to your skin.
When they’re ready, your oven should be about 150 / Gas 2. You’ll need to experiment with where to put them. Some people say top is best, some say bottom, some say move them, some say don’t. Just see what happens.
They should take about 8 minutes, and should have ‘feet’, which is the fluffy bits at the bottom. They need to be squishy inside and hard on top.
Once they’re cooked, take the baking parchment off the tray and lay on to the worktop to help them cool. Then, blob some Philli in the middles and they’re ready to eat!