18th April 2013

Macaron-header

How to Make the Perfect Macaron

Macarons are light, bright and extremely stylish. They also make the perfect treat no matter what the occasion! However, they are notoriously difficult to make. That’s we we’ve asked International Award Winning Chef and Owner of On Cafe - Loretta Liu for help. Loretta showed Kirstie how to make her delicious kumquat Eclairs on Kirstie’s Handmade Britain, so there’s no doubt she can help you perfect the jewel of french pastries!

This article was written by Loretta Liu, Owner of On Cafe

It’s important to be aware that making macaron shells can be temperamental.  If you’re not in a good frame of mind, angry or upset, then do not expect your macarons to turn out as you would like them to. Each batch will be different from the next.

There are different methods to make macarons – French, Swiss and Italian but I recommend learning to perfect the techniques using the French method before attempting the other methods.

Macaron shells are made with basic ingredients including Ground Almond, Egg White, Caster Sugar and Icing Sugar.

There are 3 processes of making macaron shells which I’ll explain below:

  • Meringue
  • Macaronage (Folding)
  • Piping

Ensure that you have everything you need before you are due to start baking. Be patient and have time. It’s important to plan in advance when you are going to make macarons as it is essential that the egg whites are left at room temperature for 3 days before being used. The longer the egg whites are at room temperature, the better the protein will stretch when making the meringue. 

Whisk the egg whites and caster sugar until you acquire a stiff peak meringue.

Image: Ali_Haikugirl

To colour the shells, use food colouring paste as opposed to food colouring liquid as it gives a much better consistency. Only use a pea-size worth of colouring paste.

Start folding the meringue with the ground almonds, icing sugar and your chosen colour.

Yin and the Yang – women tend to be the Yin and men the Yang. The Yin are more tied into their emotions whereas the Yang are much calmer. To achieve great macarons, you must be gentle yet fast at the same time when folding your mixture.

I always recommend using a good quality silicone mat instead of parchment paper. These can be used for any type of baking. 

Try and use a template under the mat/parchment paper as this will be a helpful guideline. Hold the nozzle 0.5cm from the mat to ensure an even spread. Just squeeze your piping bag and stop once the mixture touches the outline of the circle. Do not whirl the nozzle around, after all we are not icing cupcakes here.

Once the piping is complete, leave the macarons to rest for approxiamtely 10-20 minutes in order for a skin to form. If you put them straight into a pre-heated oven, they will crack.

As a guideline, I’d recommend starting off baking the macaron shells at 160C for about 10 mintues. This is only a guide as each oven is very different. I’d advise experiments need to made on each oven in regards to timing and temperature. Experiment, experiment, experiment!

You don’t need to bang the try to let the air out when using the French Meringue method.

Always ensure that the shells have fully cooled down after baking before adding the filling.

One of the easiest (and tastiest) fillings to pack in between 2 shells is Chocolate Ganache – chocolate, whipping cream & butter (optional). To make - simply heat the whipping cream until it’s boiling and then pour over the chocolate pieces in stages, stirring continuously until it’s all blended. It’s down to preference as to how much Chocolate Ganache you wish to make. Some people find it too much while others just can’t get enough. Start by making 100g worth of Chocolate Ganache, then if there’s any left over, it can be used for other things (or just eat with a spoon!!) I’d suggest filling around 8g of Chocolate Ganache between 2 macaron shells.

Never let equipment be the reason for your product not to be of good quality.

Your relationship with your equipment is like your relationship with your partner. You shouldn’t go into a relationship thinking you can change them (no matter if you desperately want to). This also applies to your equipment. Learn their strengths and weaknesses. Improve on their strengths and work around their weaknesses.

I’ve been privileged to have worked under some amazing Michelin-starred chefs. They taught me that to be able to bake/cook, you must be able to see with your eyes and not rely on timers. Timings given in recipe books can only give you an estimated idea of what is needed, you have to watch each stage of the process to ensure the end result is one you’ll be proud of.

That’s part of the reason I love to teach in my Cookery School. To be able to show students what to look for at each stage so they can go home with some confidence in what they have learnt, is very rewarding.

Just remember that no matter how badly your shells turn out, a chocolate filling will make everything delicious!

My advice is to have fun baking and keep experimenting! Never be in a rush.

For handmade inspiration please follow Kirstie's Handmade Britain Facebook Page

Carrie hunter

Author

Carrie Hunter