Macarons can be a tricky confection to master. A good Macaron has a perfect round shiny dome with “feet” around the base. The shell is crisp and delicate on the outside, and gives way to a light moist meringue that dissolves in your mouth. Achieving this is easier said than done. Tips and tricks for making the perfect Macaron can seem endless and confusing. Who better to seek advice from than Australia’s legendary Macaron Master, pastry chef Adriano Zumbo. I paid to attend a hands-on workshop with Zumbo, who has worked for internationally acclaimed pastry chef Pierre Herme in Paris before setting up his own extraordinary patisserie in Balmain, Sydney. Below is what I learned …
Makes: 20 sandwiched Macarons Difficulty: Intermediate
· Fine sieve
· Small saucepan
· Candy thermometer, digital if possible for accuracy
· Stand mixer
· Large bowl
· Large baking tray
· Baking paper or silpat mat
· Piping bag with round nozzle
· Oven thermometer
· Kitchen timer
· Kitchen scales
BASIC MACARON SHELL INGREDIENTS:
· 300g Almond Meal
· 300g Pure Icing Sugar
· 110g Egg whites, aged
· 300g Caster Sugar
· 75ml Water
· 105g Egg whites, fresh, not beaten
· 2g Egg white powder
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (180 fan-forced; 390 F).
- Sift together the almond meal and pure icing sugar. Discard any “chunks”.
- Make the sugar syrup: Add the caster sugar and water to a small saucepan. Boil together to 118-121 degrees Celsius (250 F).
- Make the Italian meringue: Add the aged egg whites to the bowl of a stand mixer. Start the whisk on low speed and slowly pour the hot sugar syrup down the side of the bowl. When all of the sugar syrup is added slowly increase the speed of the whisk. Beat to a glossy meringue with soft peaks, that is still warm.
- Add the sifted almond meal, pure icing sugar, and egg white powder to a large bowl. Pour in the fresh egg whites. Scoop on top the warm Italian meringue. Gently fold all the ingredients together with a spatula.
- Cover a large baking tray with baking paper or use a “silpat mat”.
- Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle. Pipe 3cm rounds of mixture onto the tray. Should make 40 macaron shells.
- Dry the shells in the oven: place the baking tray of piped shells into the hot oven and turn the oven off immediately. Let the tops of the shells form a skin. You should be able to gently touch the top).
- Set the oven temperature to 105 degrees Celsius (85 fan-forced; 220F). Bake the dried shells for a further 5 minutes. They are done when you can easily remove a macaron from the tray.
- Let the macaron shells cool. Pair the shells according to size. Pipe the filling of your choice on one of the pairs and sandwich them together.
TIPS FOR MAKING THE SUGAR SYRUP (FOR THE ITALIAN MERINGUE)
- Exact temperature is critical. Use a quality candy thermometer, digital if possible, to test the temperature of the boiling sugar and water.
- Stop stirring the sugar syrup once the sugar has lifted from the bottom of the saucepan. This minimises the formation of hard sugar crystals.
- Use extra water to help control the temperature of the boiling sugar if it’s getting too hot.
TIPS FOR ADDING COLOUR TO THE MACARON SHELL
- Use a gel or powdered food colouring to add colour to the shells.
- Do not use liquid food colouring. Excess liquid can affect the stability of the shell.
- Add the colour into water of the sugar syrup. The heat will evaporate extra liquid.
TIPS FOR AGEING THE EGG WHITES
- Aged egg whites are just fresh egg whites left at room temperature in a bowl for 2 days. Doing so reduces the moisture content, thins the egg white, and allows maximum volume to be achieved when they are whisked for the meringue.
TIPS FOR BEATING EGG WHITE FOR ITALIAN MERINGUE
- Start whisking the egg whites on low speed when the sugar syrup reaches 100 degrees Celsius (212F). Increase the speed slowly until soft glossy peaks form. If you beat straight at full-speed it will whip faster but will lose volume faster too. Aim to reach soft peaks at the same time as when the sugar syrup reaches the right temperature.
- Pour the hot sugar syrup slowly down the side of the bowl. Alternate sides of the bowl so sugar doesn’t build up in one place. Avoid hitting the whisk as you’ll create spun sugar.
- When the Italian meringue is done, the mixer bowl should still be warm to the touch. If not, that’s a sign there is too much air beaten into the meringue.
TIPS FOR ADDING FLAVOUR TO MACARON SHELLS
- Mix dry flavour in with the almond meal and icing sugar.
- Only use dry ingredients and powders. Any liquids or purees can be destructive to the structure of the shell.
- If you want a different flavour, try substituting part of the almond meal for other nut meals like pistachio.
TIPS FOR MIXING THE MERINGUE AND DRY INGREDIENTS TOGETHER
- Always sift the almond meal and pure icing sugar first to minimise imperfections in the shell.
- Add the Italian meringue on top of the dry ingredients. Fold them together with a spatula until all are combined. The mixture should appear like molten lava.
- “slap” the air of the mix using the spatula and a few sharp blows. If you lift the batter with your spatula and it holds its shape you need to keep mixing.
TIPS FOR PIPING THE MACARON SHELLS
- Fill a piping bag two-thirds full only. Twist at the top to maintain tension.
- Pipe the shells with the nozzle perpendicular to the table. Keep the nozzle in the mixture and allow the mixture to expand around it.
- Once all the shells are piped, tap the baking tray sharply a few times with your hand to even the domes and remove ripples.
TIPS FOR DRYING MACARON SHELLS
- Drying the shells before baking them is an important step to create “feet” and smooth shells. The shell is dry when you can gently touch the top and the mixture does not stick to your finger.
- There are two ways to dry the shells: in a hot oven or at room temperature. I described the hot oven method in the recipe. If you air dry the macarons, you bake them in a cooler oven and for longer (135 degrees Celsius, for around 15 minutes).
TIPS FOR BAKING MACARON SHELLS
- Where possible, stack two baking trays together and bake them on top. This “double-tray” helps avoid excess heat reaching the base of the shells and burning them.
- The shells are ready when they can easily be removed from the tray and they appear set if you “jiggle” the shell.
TIPS FOR FILLING AND STORING MACARONS SHELLS
- Unfilled macaron shells will keep wrapped in the freezer for 3-6 months.