“Why have my macarons failed?! Why are there no feet?! Why have the macaron shells cracked? WHHHHHHYYYYY?????!!!!!”
Such is the cry of many frustrated home bakers. The fickle Macaron, two almond meringue domes sandwiched with buttercream or ganache, is known to incite wrath and despair in those that attempt to create this sweet treat.
A good Macaron has a perfect round shiny dome with “feet” around the base. The shell is crisp and delicate on the outside, giving way to light moist meringue that dissolves in your mouth. Achieving this, however, proves easier said than done!
When researching tips and tricks for making the perfect Macaron, the advice can seem endless and confusing. Who better to seek advice from than Australia’s legendary Macaron Master: Adriano Zumbo. I was lucky enough 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. With his guidance, patience and good-humour our class successfully made macarons! (and yes, he is just as affable as his appearances on Masterchef).
So, what tips did I learn about making the perfect Macaron?
How To: Make Macarons – The Macaron Recipe
For the recipe by Adriano Zumbo please see the Macaron Shell Recipe posted on the Masterchef website from the Macaron Tower Episode Week 12, Monday 5th July (because republishing without permission is tres uncool). This recipe uses Italian Meringue, which is prepared by beating a hot sugar syrup into egg whites until firm peaks form.
How To: Make Sugar Syrup (for Italian Meringue)
- Exact temperature is important. Purchase a quality thermometer, digital if possible, as the sugar syrup needs to be at 118-121 degrees Celsius.
- Stir the mixture a little, but once the sugar has lifted from the bottom of the saucepan stop stirring. This minimises sugar crystal formation.
- Add water to the saucepan if the mixture gets too hot.
How To: Add colour to the shell
- It’s best to add colour during the sugar syrup process: the heat will evaporate any extra liquid, which can jeopardise the stability of your macaron shell.
- You can use either gel or powdered food colouring.
How To: Age Egg Whites
- The egg whites whipped in with the sugar syrup must be ‘aged’. Simply leave the bowl on a bench for two days. This reduces the moisture content and thins the egg white for maximum volume when they are whipped.
- There is no need to strain the whites to remove the membrane.
How To: Beat Egg Whites for Italian Meringue
- Start with aged egg whites at room temperature.
- When the sugar syrup reaches 100 degrees Celsius, begin beating the egg whites on slow speed (level 2 on a KitchenAid) to allow maximum volume to develop. If you start at full-speed it will whip faster, but on the downside it will quickly lose volume. The egg whites should be at soft peaks by the time the sugar syrup reaches 118-121 degrees.
- When adding the hot sugar syrup to the egg whites, pour it slowly down the side of the mixing bowl while beating.
- Pour from two sides of the bowl to prevent sugar building up in one place.
- Avoid hitting the whisk if possible to prevent spun-sugar from happening. Once added, you can start turning up the speed of the mixer (level 6-8 on a KitchenAid).
- Whip to a glossy firm meringue.
- The mixing bowl should still be warm to the touch. If cold, it’s a sign that there’s too much air in your meringue.
How To: Add flavour to the shells
- Preferably, use only dry ingredients and powders. Liquids such as fruit purees can be destructive.
- You could try substituting some of the almond meal for other types of nuts like pistachio for a different flavour and texture.
- Mix in the dry flavour along with the almond meal and icing sugar.
How To: Fold the meringue and dry ingredients
For a video tutorial on Macarons, watch this French YouTube video featuring Sebastien Richard. It’s a slightly different method, but demonstrates the vigorous mixing required
- Always sift the almond meal and pure icing sugar to minimise imperfections in the shell.
- Pour the meringue on top of the dry ingredients and fold together with a spatula until all combined and the mixture is molten like lava.
- Then ‘slap’ the air out of the mix with a few sharp ‘blows’ to the mix. Don’t be shy! If you lift the batter with your spatula and it holds its shape, you need to keep mixing. It should run down the bowl.
How To: Bake Macarons
- Where possible, use two baking trays under your baking paper or silpat mat. By using a ‘double-tray’ you help avoid excess heat burning the base of your macaron shells.
How To: Pipe Macaron Shells
Watch this masterful piping demonstration
- Fill a piping bag two thirds full and twist the top to maintain tension.
- Pipe perpendicular to the table, keeping the nozzle in the mixture and allowing the mix to expand around the nozzle until at the desired size (25mm, ~a 20c piece).
- Once piped, tap the baking tray sharply a few times with your hand to even the domes and remove ripples.
How To: Dry Macaron Shells
This is an important step in forming feet and smooth shells.
- When the shell is gently touched the mixtures should not stick to your finger. You can dry the shells in a warm oven or at room temperature:
- In the oven: heat to 200 degrees Celsius, put in the piped macaron shells and turn off the heat. Once dried, bake for 5 minutes at 105 degrees.
- Room temp: leave shells uncovered to dry. Then bake at 135 degrees for around 15 minutes, or until the shell has set.
- When baking is complete, the shell should not stick to the tray.
How To: Fill and Store Macarons
- Pipe generous domes of cream onto one macaron shell, and sandwich with another half.
- Refrigerate, covered, for 24 hours to fully allow flavours to develop.
- Macarons can be kept frozen for 3-6 months.
Technique, technique, technique! (practice, practice, practice)
We made macarons!
With a few tricks and tips up our sleeve, we made shiny smooth macaron shells with feet and the right texture. Glasses of champagne in hand, we sat back and toasted our success.
The days flavours included:
* Chestnut cream with passionfruit ganache,
* Raspberry shortbread with raspberry gel,
* Choc aero, mint caramel, mint creameaux and aero bubbles,
* Salted butter caramel, and
* Chocolate macaron with fig ganache and foie gras
Big big thank you to Adriano Zumbo for coming to Melbourne for the workshop and Essential Ingredient, for hosting the class.
I know how to christen my sparkly new KitchenAid now