‘Tis the season of Red and Green! And I’m adding a magical touch to the season with…
These beautiful homemade macarons!
I had so much fun making these! I was lucky enough to have daughter, Nisha, by my side to make them with me.
The shells are made using the Italian meringue method & the filling is a raspberry Swiss style butter cream.
I have been making macarons off and on for a couple of years now. I’m totally addicted to this baking art form. There are a lot of bakers on social media making macarons and one thing I have learnt when following them is that there is a huge variety of ways to make macarons.
The final outcome will be affected by the variations of flavours, colours, fillings, decorations and quality of basic ingredients. Each of these variants creates a different result. In addition, the method that is adopted will also have a significant impact on the final little gem.
I have tried most of the methods: Swiss method, French method and Italian method. Suffice to say I have experimented with all the methods making small tweaks here and there, trying a stabaliser added to the egg white, using differing temperatures for the oven… then bought a new oven and re tested, used organic almonds, bulk almonds, you name it and I think I have done it.
They are finicky and touchy little critters… but I love them.
I find the Italian method to be the most stable and consistently reliable. I like the macaron to be crisp and crunchy, not too soft on the outside and to hold together well. I don’t mind a soft filling but not too mushy… there needs to be a little texture to get that perfect mouthful.
So the recipe here will be for the Italian method which seems to produce the best result in terms of structure. I prefer to make a basic shell with a pop of colour and then go crazy with the filling.
There are some core rules to adhere to and I will include some of these, plus there will be lots of tips to help you along the way.
We all love something special for Christmas and macarons are the perfect treat to serve after Christmas lunch with a coffee. They also make the perfect Christmas gift.
Things to Prepare Before You Start
Wipe down and clean all the kitchen benches and get all your equipment out and check that you have everything before you start.
Wipe out baking bowls with a little vinegar on a kitchen paper towel to ensure that all residue from previous bakes are removed… we don’t want any trace of butter on the equipment because we are making a serious meringue here and any leftover fat or grease will affect the mix. Also wipe whisk and Kitchen Aid bowl and Kitchen Aid attachment.
Check that you have all the correct ingredients.
Test oven temperature with your oven thermometer. My new oven is super hot so I have had to adjust my cooking temp to 130°C instead of the usual 150°C which is in most recipes.
Ingredients For Almond Paste:
- 70g Egg White
- 200g Ground Almonds
- 200g Icing Sugar
Ingredients For Italian Meringue:
- 70g Egg White
- 200g Caster Sugar
- 50ml Water
1. Making the Almond Paste:
Measure the icing sugar and ground almonds with the scales to the nth degree and place in the food processor. Pulse to mix and grind to a fine powder but do not over mix. I like to limit to 18 pulses.
Next sieve this mix with a fine metal sieve into a large clean metal mixing bowl. Then sieve it again into another clean bowl. You can also sieve for a third time but I usually find that twice is okay. Discard any large bits and mix with some left over bacon fat to feed to the birds or add to your lunchtime smoothy. Don’t try to force the large bits through the sieve.
Measure your egg whites to the last drop and add the measured whites to the ground almond and icing sugar mix. Mix well so that you create a marzipan type almond paste. This takes a bit of effort but keep going until it is all thoroughly combined. Cover with plastic glad wrap, push down on all sides and set aside.
2. Making the Sugar Syrup
Weigh the caster sugar and place into a small saucepan, preferably with a pouring spout. Make a little well in the centre and pour in the water.
Place this sugar syrup on a medium heat and do not stir. Let it gently come to 120°C.
3. Beat the Egg White to Soft Peaks
This is the part that requires some concentration. So the first thing is to weigh the egg whites and place them in the thoroughly clean and wiped (with vinegar) Kitchen Aid bowl. Pop this onto the machine ready to start beating.
While the syrup is heating start beating the egg whites on low speed.
Keep an eye on the sugar syrup because when it reaches, say 110°C turn the beater to medium.
Then when the syrup reaches say, 116°C turn the beater to high. The egg whites should reach soft peaks at the same time that the syrup reaches 120°C.
4. Add the Hot Syrup to the Beaten Egg Whites to Make the Meringue
When the syrup reaches 120°C take it off the heat and pour down the side of the bowl containing the egg whites… all while the beater is running on high. Keep the beater running while pouring because we don’t want to cook the eggs yet. Be careful to pour this slowly down the side of the bowl so that it doesn’t splash. This is hot.
Leave the beater running on high for 10 minutes so that the meringue cools down. I like to have the doors and windows open at this stage.
After 10 minutes the mixture will be shiny and glossy and this is now a beautiful Italian meringue. Now it is time to add the colour. I used several drops of green to get the colour I wanted. Stop the mixer to add the colour then mix again, repeat until you attain the correct shade you are after.
5. Combining the Almond Paste and the Meringue
So, now that the meringue is ready you can start mixing it into the almond paste. Take about 1/3 of the meringue and add to the almond paste. Use the spatula and stir it in well. This will be tough going at first because the almond paste is thick so don’t worry about being gentle at this stage, just continue mixing this in until well combined.
The next step is to fold in the rest of the meringue. This is called the macaronage. The actual goal here is to deflate the mixture a bit, while still mixing the ingredients to the perfect consistency. The action I use is to fold the mixture over itself and then cut or push down the middle and repeat until the batter is the right consistency. It should be like lava and it should hold its shape when you let it fall into the mixing bowl, then slowly start to sag and level.
To determine the exact consistency for the perfect macaron batter pick up the batter with your spatula and try to create a figure “8” pattern with a solid, streaming ribbon of batter. If you can make an “8” for 3 times over the top of itself and see the entire shape not disappear, you have mixed the batter to the correct consistency to pipe.
7. Piping onto Baking Sheets
Pop into a piping bag and pipe little circles onto baking sheets using the macaron template placed under the baking sheet as a guide. Hold the piping bag vertically to get the perfect circular shape. When you reach the required size stop piping, hold, then create a circular flick to release- this will prevent peaks from being formed. Don’t forget to remove the templates from under the baking sheets or parchment paper before you bake.
Tap the baking trays several times to release any air bubbles. Use a toothpick if any bubbles need to be broken.
8. Stand to Allow a Skin to Form
Wait for 20 minutes for a skin to form.
9. Baking the Macaron Shells
Bake at 150°C for 18 minutes. Fan bake usually requires a reduction in heat of 20°C so I bake on fan bake at 130°C for 20 minutes. My oven is hot so I check the timer and reduce to 120°C after the first 14 minutes ie when there is still 6 minutes left to go… this just seems to work for me. I don’t turn the trays but I usually bake one tray at a time. When the macarons are cooked I remove the tray and turn the oven back to 130°C and wait for 2 minutes before putting in the next tray.
Remove from the oven when cooked and leave to cool for a few minutes before placing the cute little macarons on a cooling rack.
8. Filling the Macaron Shells
When cool you can fill with your favourite filling. I used lovely red raspberry buttercream, see the recipe below.
9. Mature the Filled Macarons
Store in the fridge and allow to mature for 24 hours before you eat them all. Or store in the freezer and move them into the fridge to mature 24 hours before you want to serve them. Store them standing in little rows on edge in sealed containers.
Raspberry Buttercream Recipe
- 2 egg whites
- 150g caster sugar
- 200g chopped unsalted butter, at room temperature
- Flavour & colour
- Separate the eggs
- Heat the egg whites and the caster sugar in a bowl over boiling water (water bath method) and continuously whisk by hand until the temperature of the mix reaches 72°C . I use the Kitchen Aid bowl over a large sauce pan of boiling water.
- Next beat this using the stand mixer for 10 minutes to cool.
- Continue beating when the mix is cooled and slowly add the butter one block at a time until well mixed.
- Add 2 heaped teaspoons of Fresh As raspberry powder, add several drops of Chefmaster Liquid Gel Super Red, mix well. Taste as you go to check for the best flavour and adjust as required.
Bowls– use metal baking bowls, clean and wiped with vinegar.
Ground Almonds– gosh I have used a lot and thrown a lot out! Unfortunately I have made every mistake in the book… over processed and they became oily and the batch was ruined. The birds in the back yard got a nice treat that day. Now I try to limit my processing to 18 short pulses. I also used organic almonds, they seemed to be heavy and wet… not a good bake. More for the birds. Next I tried bulk almonds and they were okay. Finally I discarded my almonds that were stored in the cupboard and bought a small supply of Pams from a high turnover supermarket and they worked a treat. I needed 3 packs and I will use the leftovers in sauces and other bakes because I think freshly purchased almonds works best every time.
Egg Whites- I use fresh eggs that have been stored in the cupboard, not the fridge. You can look at aging the egg whites but I don’t find that this is necessary. I have tried to add cream of tartar to the egg whites but this didn’t work very well because the powder didn’t mix in evenly… lumps, eww. Just stick to the Italian method.
I normally use 3 size 7 eggs for the almond paste, 3 for the meringue and 2 for the buttercream, that’s a total of 8… sometimes if the yolk happens to break I use more. Don’t waste the yolks. They can be used in cookies, lemon honey or you might like to try my Burnt Butter Cake, see recipe here.
Colouring– You can use many types of colouring to create the effect you are after but I usually use Chefmaster because it only takes a few drops and won’t affect the meringue consistency. I have also used coffee, cocoa or just left the shells natural. This is one of the areas you can experiment with.
Flavouring– I use flavouring in the buttercream or ganache filling not in the shells. I have used many different types such as lemon oil, Raspberry powder, Whittaker’s chocolate, bubble gum flavour. This is another area where your creative flare can shine. Don’t forget to taste as you go because some of the oils are very strongly concentrated.
- Kitchen Aid or similar stand mixer (this recipe is not suitable for hand held mixer)
- Large metal mixing bowl
- One or two other mixing bowls
- Small saucepan with pouring spout
- Candy thermometer– you can pay a lot for these but I use a cheapie from KMart and it does the job
- Macaron template
- Oven thermometer
- Kitchen scales
- Food processor
- Rubber spatula
- Piping tip- it should be 1cm circumference which is the Wiltons 10. I haven’t managed to get my hands on this size yet although I do have an order in with a local cake supplies shop. I bought Wiltons 2A but it is too large so I use Wiltons 12.
- Large piping bags
- Fine mesh sieve
- Cooling rack
- Parchment paper or silicon baking sheets
The helpful folk at Pixie Party Supplies are a great resource and will point you in the right direction for all decorating equipment as well as colouring and flavouring needs. Just look at their stunning sprinkles…
Gosh, the possibilities are endless!
Thanks for coming along with me and I hope you will try to make these cute little treats. I would love to hear all about it so please leave a comment below… or a question. Also please tag me @Life.With.Janet so I don’t miss seeing your creations.
Ka kite anō