I feel as though I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with macarons. I love to eat them (homemade or not) but hate the effort required to make them. Seriously, have you ever sieved ground almonds for anything else? It’s a nightmare. In addition to that, I feel really guilty if I think about buying them because I know that I could make them for far less than they cost in the shops especially the good ones, I mean come on, £18.00 for eight macarons… are you having a laugh @Ladurée?
Last time I talked about macarons on thatcookingthing, I was rather vague and only gave a little detail about all of the different parts of the macaron which make it what it is. This time, I want to focus on one specific element – the meringue. There are two methods of making macarons – one using French meringue and the other using Italian. I assume that you could also use Swiss meringue but having never seen a Swiss meringue based recipe, I feel like they are either not very successful or not very nice (because Swiss meringue is super easy to make so would be brilliant for this kind of thing). French meringue is the “classic meringue” you think of. Caster sugar is beaten into whipped egg whites to create a glossy, sugary mix which is thick and voluminous. Italian meringue is slightly more tricky as a sugar thermometer is needed. Sugar syrup at 118°C is poured into whipped egg whites to make a super thick meringue which is incredibly stable.
French meringue is very delicate – this is the method I used for my last macaron recipe; however it is easy to over mix the batter when you are folding in the dry ingredients. The final result is a bit denser than the macarons made using the Italian method and is also less sweet as the ratio of sugar to almonds is smaller. The feet formed on French macarons tend to be more irregular and bulging outwards than on their Italian counterparts. As it uses a far more stable meringue, the Italian method tends to be used more often in professional bakeries as it is easier to get the same results consistently. These macarons tend to rise more vertically than the French ones and the feet formed are more regular and taller with small bubbles in them. I have found that Italian macarons always require resting to form a skin before baking whereas French ones can often get away with being piped and baked immediately.
Personally, I prefer the French method. I think the end result is more to my taste, it’s less sweet than the Italian method and it is also far simpler. As a result of the stability of Italian meringue, the folding section of the recipe takes far longer as you have to beat the air out of the mixture until it reaches the right consistency – this is not easy when the meringue is famous for not deflating. Despite what I said about them earlier, Ladurée, one of the most famous macaron patisseries, use the French method over the Italian one so I can’t hate them too much. Pierre Hermé (the other famous macaron makers) on the other hand use the Italian method – and are also slightly more expensive so it’s a double fault for them!
Have a go at the recipe below and let me know what you think. It would be fascinating to find out whether people prefer the Italian or the French method.
Italian Meringue Macarons
Work time: 1 hour
Rest time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
260g ground almonds
260g icing sugar
200ml egg whites (split into two 100ml measures)
¼ tsp cream of tartar
200g caster sugar
1/3 cup water
Optional: 2 tbsp instant coffee or 2 tbsp cocoa
300ml double cream
300g dark chocolate
25g brown sugar
Tip the almonds and icing sugar into the bowl of a food processor and blend for 30 seconds to help grind them to a finer powder.
Sieve the ground almond and icing sugar mix into a bowl. If there are a couple of tablespoons of ground almond bits left in the sieve, discard them.
If you wish to add the coffee or cocoa, sieve it in now.
Tip in 100ml egg white and mix together thoroughly. Cover and set to one side.
To make the meringue: tip the caster sugar and water into a heavy based saucepan.
Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar.
Use a sugar thermometer and keep cooking until the sugar reaches the soft ball stage (116-118°C).
When the sugar has reached 110°C start to whisk the remaining 100ml egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the cream of tartar once the mix is foamy. You want the egg whites to reach soft peaks by the time the sugar is up to temperature.
Once the sugar reaches 118°C, remove it from the heat. With the beaters running on high, gently stream the sugar syrup down the side the of bowl (trying to avoid pouring it directly onto the whisk).
Leave the beaters running until the outside the bowl feels cool again and the meringue is super thick and glossy.
Take one third of the meringue and stir it into the ground almond mixture until completely combined. This will slacken up the mixture making the next step easier.
Fold the rest of the meringue through the almond mixture.
Continue to fold and beat the mixture until it flows in thick ribbons off the spatula. You should be able to draw a figure of eight with the mixture as it flows off the spatula. This figure of eight will slowly sink into the rest of the batter over fifteen seconds or so.
Line five or six baking trays.
Load the mixture into a piping bag and pipe small circles about 3cm in diameter leaving a couple of centimetres between them.
Lift the tray and smack it down on the surface a couple of times. Rotate the tray by 180° and repeat. This will pop any air bubbles stuck in the mixture. I also use a small pin to pop any remaining large bubbles that I can see as these will cause your macarons to crack if you are not careful.
Set the macarons to one side for twenty minutes to allow the top to form a slight skin.
While the macarons are resting, preheat the oven to gas mark 2 (150°C).
Bake the macarons for twenty minutes. Test for doneness by gently nudging the top of the macaron, if it sticks a little bit – this is good!
Remove the macarons from the oven and leave on the tray to cool for five minutes – this will help finish cooking the base.
Gently remove the macarons from the tray and place them, shell side down, on a wire rack to cool.
To make the filling:
Chop the chocolate and put it into a large bowl.
Heat the cream, butter and sugar until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is about to boil.
Pour the hot cream over the chocolate.
Leave for two minutes for the chocolate to melt and then whisk together.
Leave to cool, stirring regularly until it reaches a thick, piping consistency.
Pair up the shells by size.
Pipe a large dollop of ganache into the centre of one of each pair and then gently press the other macaron on top. I find that lightly twisting the macaron helps prevent breakages.
Place the macarons in an airtight box in the fridge overnight.
Eat the next day – or even the day after that! They get better with age for the first few days.
I hope you enjoyed the recipe. These are delicious with a cup of coffee, tea, hot chocolate, by themselves etc. (you can eat them any time really, you don’t need an excuse).
Have a good one and I will be back next week with a lovely warming soup recipe (because it is that time of the year again)!