I always knew that making macarons was going to be a bit of a challenge but I hadn’t expected it to be this difficult. Let me elaborate. There are two ways of making this French classic and it’s all about the meringue.
The first method uses an Italian meringue which involves adding hot sugar syrup to egg whites as they are being whisked. The second method is a French meringue where the egg whites and sugar are whisked together until stiff, then folded into the dry ingredients. This gives a nice light macaron but fails in the looks department. The Italian ones look amazing but are slightly heavier.
After some considerable research I opted for the good looking Italian (who wouldn’t!), after all I’ve seen them made on tv programmes such as Bake Off and Masterchef Australia enough times, what could go wrong? What could go wrong indeed!
My egg whites were sitting patiently in the mixing bowl and the sugar syrup was being heated on the hob. Maybe I shouldn’t have used golden caster sugar as the resulting mix already had a caramel colour. Never mind, I would be adding food colouring later. I was also using a digital meat thermometer which switched itself off after about a minute.
Once the temperature of the syrup had reached 110°C I started whisking the egg whites and these soon had nice soft peaks. Checking the syrup again the temperature was still at 110°C. Now that can’t be right, then it occurred to me that I may have reached the maximum temperature that the thermometer would read. I rummaged in a draw and found an ancient sugar thermometer and this showed a temperature of 112. To cut a long story short I cranked up the heat but couldn’t seem to increase the temperature of the syrup. I tried the meat probe once more and this gave a temperature reading of 124! I’d made caramel! Time to start again.
The fresh syrup reached 112°C and I turned my attention back to the egg whites. They still looked alright but as I put the whisk onto slow I noticed that they had become a bit watery. A bit of extra whisking appeared to rectify this.
I successfully got the syrup up to 117°, one degree below the optimum temp., and decided that was close enough and poured the syrup slowly into the whisking egg whites. I was so relieved to see a thick glossy meringue appearing. Once they had cooled a little it was time to add the food colouring and here I made yet another mistake. A gel colouring was needed, not the bog standard watery type I had in the cupboard. I tried not to add too much and I was left with a muddy pink colour (they were supposed to be red!). It also impacted on the stiffness of the meringue.
undeterred the meringue was folded into the almond paste and transferred to an icing bag. Once I’d snipped off the end of the bag the mixture started pouring out and it was obvious that it was far too loose. I did manage to get some circles on the baking sheet and into the oven.
The resulting macarons had very little rise on them and if I’d produced these on Bake Off I would definitely be going home. I didn’t bother making a ganache for them but used the macarons as ‘wafers’ served with fruit and icecream. The taste was good even if the texture was off.
I wasn’t going to let these little beggars defeat me, it’s time to try the French meringue method instead.
My egg whites whipped up nicely and after adding the sugar I had nice stiff meringues which stayed in the bowl as I raised it upside down above my head. These were then folded into the dry ingredients. This was so much easier and less stressful than the previous method. I didn’t use food colouring this time round as cocoa powder had provided the colour.
I was fairly pleased with the final result. They didn’t look pretty but tasted good. I will give Italian meringues another go but I’ll invest in a digital sugar thermometer and a very small saucepan first. Now what shall I do with all these egg yolks!
- 65g ground almonds
- 85g icing sugar
- 25g cocoa powder
- 75g egg white
- pinch of salt
- 60g caster sugar
For the ganache
- 100g whipping cream
- 100g dark chocolate, chopped
- 20g butter, cut into small pieces
- pinch of sea salt
Line two baking trays with baking parchment and, using a glass or pastry cutter about 3.5 cm in diameter, cover with circles leaving about 2cm between each one. Turn the parchment over so you can see the circles underneath. Prepare a piping bag with a 1 cm nozzle or cut the end off a disposable one so you have a hole 1 cm in diameter.
Blitz the almonds in a food processor for a couple of minutes, then sift these along with the icing sugar and cocoa powder, into a bowl. Make sure they are well mixed.
Put the egg whites and a pinch of sugar into the mixer and begin whisk until you have stiff peaks. Add the caster sugar and continue whisking until you have a stiff meringue.
Fold in the dry ingredients and mix until you have a consistency which just falls off a spatula. Spoon into the piping bag and carefully pipe onto the circles. Pick the baking tray up and drop it onto the surface a couple of times, then leave to rest for about 30 minutes until the macarons feel dry to the touch.
Meanwhile Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas 4
Bake the macarons for about 14 minutes. Remove from the oven and slide off the paper onto a cooling rack. Cool completely on the paper then carefully peel off.
Make the ganache. Heat the cream in a small pan until it’s just beginning to boil, then remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Leave to stand for a couple of minutes then stir furiously until smooth. Gradually beat in the butter and finish with a pinch of salt. Set aside to cool.
When cool, match up equally sized macarons and then pipe or spoon the ganache over half the macarons and sandwich them together. If you can resist, these are best eaten the next day.