I remember the first time I tasted macarons. I was in Paris with my husband (then boyfriend) and we were having the kind of carefree long weekend you can only have when you are young and in love and, crucially, child-free. Needless to say, this was a looong time ago. Anyway, the macarons were almost too pretty to eat, with their jewel-like colours and over-the-top adorable packaging. One bite, and I was smitten.
I don't think I ever had a macaron after that... not until I decided to make some. I just looked up a recipe on Google, had the ingredients and boom – macarons, here I come! My first effort, a plain vanilla macaron, which I approached without much forethought, did not actually turn out too badly. It had the little 'feet', it tasted wonderful but had (to quote Paul Hollywood) 'issues'.
Next time I made them, I read extensively beforehand, used the Ladurée chocolate macaron recipe, aged my egg whites and... complete disaster. The macarons spread, did not have 'feet', cracked horribly, did not come off the baking paper in one piece. They still tasted incredible and the children gobbled them up (ok... I had most of them).
Third time, armed with a different recipe and with even MORE preparation I decided to make orange flavoured macarons. I bought a silpat mat for the occasion, I drew up a piping 'template' on a piece of paper to use with it, and followed the recipe to the letter. The macarons rose beautifully in the oven, their little feet appeared... and then expanded sideways. The recipe specified 10 minutes baking time – not even close! Even though I baked them longer, they were slightly underbaked and stuck stubbornly to the the silpat. Few lifted off cleanly and they had odd oily splodges on top. But I was undeterred. And slightly obsessed. I went on a Pinterest/Twitter/Google spree and came across this wonderful blog. This is the recipe I used the fourth time (lucky) but I firmly believe my previous efforts helped me along the way. Here are my macaron commandments.
1. Do not show fear. Macarons, like dogs, can sense fear.
2. If you can, age your egg whites by leaving them, uncovered, outside the fridge overnight.
3. Put your quantity of ground almonds plus a few tablespoons on a tray and heat in a low oven for a few minutes to dry them out. This eliminates the oily splodges.
3. Put your almonds through a fine sieve and discard any bits that wont go through.
4. Measure your ground almonds after you have sifted them, then mix with the icing sugar and sift again.
5. Batter consistency is key to success. Batter needs to be able to drop off a spoon but not be over mixed/ too liquid.
6. Use a template to pipe your macarons. Go to this link for an awesome template.
7. Pipe smaller than you think – they will spread while cooking.
8. Give the tray a couple of hard knocks against the counter top. This gets rid of air bubbles.
8. Rest the macarons for at least an hour before baking, They need to be 'touch' dry before baking otherwise the feet won't make an appearance.
9. Best oven temp was 150 C and baking times can vary 12-17 minutes. Do a test batch to see what baking time works best for you and your oven.
10. Cool the macarons completely before lifting off baking paper.
I hope I haven't put you off making them forever! The great thing about macarons is they taste amazing even when they don't look picture perfect.