Sunday, 27 January 2013

The Macaron commandments


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.



  • Chocolate orange macarons with orange curd filling
  • 115g ground almonds (sifted then weighed)
  • 230g icing sugar, 15g cocoa powder (note this results in very light coloured macaron would increase quantity by two tablespoon for more chocolatey colour)
  • 144g egg whites,  separated,  left at room temp overnight
  • 72g caster sugar
  • zest of an orange
  • few drops orange extract

  • Measure out 115g ground almonds in a small tray and dry out in low oven for 5 minutes. Put them through a sieve and throw away any bits too big to go through then weigh again. Add 230g icing sugar and cocoa powder,  mix together then sift again., Put the eggs whites and caster sugar in a large,  spotlessly clean,  metal bowl and whisk at high speed till you have stiff glossy meringue. At the very end add your extract and orange zest and mix in.

  • Tip the ground almond mix in the bowl then use a large spoon to firmly mix the two together making sure you scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. After about 20 strokes the mix will start coming together. Aim for around 50 strokes (yes, I counted) and do not overmix,  or the batter will become runny. Put the batter in a piping bag and prepare your trays with the template and baking paper (which I found worked better than the silpat). Snip the end of the bag to create a small hole and pipe circles slightly smaller than your template. Secure baking paper to tray with a bit of batter then knock tray hard against the counter top once or twice. Leave the trays,  uncovered,  in a not-to-humid room to 'rest' for at least an hour. Test to check if they are 'touch' dry before baking.

  • When they are ready,  preheat your oven to 150 C. Bake for a minimum of 12 minutes and up to 17 minutes - the surface needs to be dry and not too squidgy. Take out and cool completely before lifting off paper. Store in airtight container or fill with filing of choice. I used orange curd (store-bought as I was running out of time) but Nutella or chocolate ganache are equally wonderful. The macarons mellow in taste and soften as they age and they will keep in an airtight container for a couple of days.

  • Am submitting this entry to the wonderful Tea time treats over at Lavender and lovage and What kate baked.

  • PS: I cannot believe that these can cost almost £2(!!) each if you buy them. This has got to be up there with coffee in terms of mark-up.
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8 comments:

  1. Thanks for this lovely 2nd entry, just gorgeous! And I LOVE number one of the Macaron Commandments!Karen

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  2. Your obsession paid off - they look perfect. I agree, price is a rip off.

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  3. Hey Lucy!

    Thanks for the tips and recipe!

    Love,
    Ellie

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  4. I love commandment number one! The macarons look great, I'm pleased you finally found success.

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  5. Making another batch now - they are looking pretty perfect. I made them with a bit of hazelnut praline in the mix this time.

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  6. what a fab post. I have to say I keep putting off making them again (having had a bit of a thing for them last year) as it involves so much prep but you have inspired me and will try again!

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  7. I'm sure the myth behind French macaron is French meringue. Ever since I've used Italian meringue evrything worked just fine. No egg whites aging- you can use the freshest eggs- no resting time before baking, always developing feet.
    Very nice blog!

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  8. It just so happens that I am testing an Italian meringue recipe this weekend. I will post my findings! I have to say I love macaron so much it's worth the extra prep time.

    The recipe I am testing involves no ageing of egg whites and no resting time either. Am dubious as to whether it will work

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