(If you aren’t interested in baking macarons from scratch, there’s a list of places to buy them at the end of this post.)
There’s a reason why Laduree and Pierre Herme are legends for this confection – they need to be perfect to be appreciated. Otherwise they are at best, an over priced filled meringue. Therefore if, or when in Paris, it is recommended to scoff as many as possible. They really are worth every euro, every bite. Alas, Perth is not Paris and for some reason (insanity?), I find baking macarons to be a pleasure.
The only thing is, macarons can be temperamental little buggers. The traditional French meringue batter is infamously unstable, worse in humidity, with frustratingly sticky feet and hollow shells. They can be impossible.
To heighten the frustration, I find tipping hot hot hot sugar syrup from a hot hot hot saucepan into a spinning whisk (a la the Italian meringue method) a rather disturbing, unsteady experience. But I found the solution. The sugar goes in a Pyrex jug and into the microwave. This way I don’t have to clean a saucepan and there’s a handle for my lack of hand to eye coordination.
Made with petals reluctantly dragged back from Paris (thanks Mum), this is the first batch of macarons I’ve been happy with (to put on the blog too). They aren’t perfect. But they are close – no cracks or bubbles and easy to get off the baking tray. They are flat topped, slightly chewy macarons with a soft, almost marshmallow-y inside. I’m not going to be the next Pierre Herme, but I so wish I had done this sooner. The recipe seems long but it’s mostly descriptions of what to look out for.
Note: I changed this recipe to be more concise on the 28/02/2012
There are a few myths surrounding macarons… (After all this is a filled cookie – it shouldn’t be hard!) It’s always wise to under mix the meringue, rather than over mix and work the batter until dropping consistency, where peaks sink back after 15 seconds (like ‘lava flow’). Resting the piped batter is basically insurance, for nice feet at the expense of the crust. I don’t rest my macarons – when the batter is correct, the macarons will rise, have a beautifully cracked foot and a thin, almost crisp shell. In the photographed batch, I found resting made the shells undesirably thick. The macarons will inevitably get their ‘insurance rest’ waiting for the oven anyway. For more macaron myth busting, see Syrup & Tang.
Crystallised violet petals can be bought at The Grocer. The ratio for this recipe is 1.35:1, dry ingredients to egg white.
135 gm icing sugar
135 gm almond meal
135 gm caster sugar
32 gm water
100 gm egg whites, split into two 50 gm portions
Few drops of violet liquid, gel or powder colouring
Preheat the oven to 160°C. Prepare two baking trays with greaseproof paper.
(If you have a bottom element in the oven, double up on the baking trays.)
In a separate large bowl, sift the icing sugar and almond meal together (this is called tant pour tant).
Pour 50 grams of the egg whites on to this mixture, do not combine.
In the bowl of a mixer with the whisk attachment, place the remaining 50 grams of egg whites.
In a small saucepan, weigh the water and add the caster sugar. Adding the sugar to the water means the sugar will not burn on contact with the heat.
Boil the sugar and water over medium heat and get a thermometer ready. If using liquid colouring, add it to the syrup.
When the syrup is 110°C, start whisking the egg whites in the mixer on medium speed.
Check the temperature of the sugar syrup. When it is 118°C, turn off the heat.
The egg whites in the mixer should be a loose, very softly peaked meringue. Reduce the mixer speed to medium.
Holding the saucepan with an oven glove, steadily pour a continuous, thin stream of sugar syrup into the whisking egg whites avoiding the whisk. Don’t worry about wastage as the some sugar syrup will inevitably harden in the saucepan and the mixer bowl.
Increase the mixer to high speed. The meringue will become fluffy, then thick and satiny. Keep beating until bottom of the bowl is barely warm to touch or when the meringue is 50°C.
If using gel or powder colouring, add to the meringue.
Empty the meringue into the tant pour tant and egg whites.
Fold by scooping the bottom of the bowl over the top of the meringue. The meringue can withstand vigorous mixing. You can even scrape the almond meal into the meringue if that helps.
Stop when the batter becomes a thick ribbon or ‘lava like’ consistency. Drops of the batter will sink back in 15 seconds and the batter will be shiny.
Remember, it’s better to under mix because there’s no going back with over mixing.
Spoon the batter into a piping bag fitted with a 10mm round tip.
Pipe rounds 2.5cm in diameter on the lined trays.
Pick up the first tray and rap it on the table twice. Turn 90 degrees and rap twice again. This eliminates bubbles and remaining peaks.
Slide into the oven. At the 10 minute mark, turn the tray/s around and bake for another 4 – 6 minutes (time will wildly vary from oven to oven).
To check if it’s ready, select a macaron in the middle of the pan and push it. If it moves reluctantly it is ready (see tips above).
Immediately remove off the baking sheet onto a cooling rack or flat surface.
Leave to cool and sandwich with your favourite vanilla (violet) buttercream. My recipe is below.
Swiss Meringue Violet Buttercream
I like to fill macarons with Swiss meringue buttercream and after pilfering a couple, leave them to cure overnight in the fridge. Swiss meringue buttercream has a silky, thick consistency which is heavenly on the palate. This recipe will always make too much but it is worth making the extra and freezing it.
320 gm caster sugar
105 gm egg whites
130 gm butter, in 2cm pieces and at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla paste or essence
1 tsp crystallised violet petals, ground (optional)
Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a simmer.
Combine the sugar and egg whites in the bowl of a mixer and set over the simmering water. Ensure the water does not boil.
Whisk the egg whites constantly, until the sugar is dissolved and hot to the touch (65°C).
Remove the bowl from the heat, immediately place on the mixer stand with the whisk attachment. Whisk on high speed until the whites are stiff peaks and the bowl cool to the touch, approximately 12 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment. Beating on medium speed, add 2 or 3 pieces of butter at a time, being sure to incorporate each batch. If the buttercream separates, stop adding butter and increase the beating speed to bring it back together.
If the buttercream is too thin, beat it for a few more minutes to thicken.
Turn the speed to low and add the vanilla and if using, the violet petals.
If you want to buy macarons instead of making them, here are the places I know of in Perth.
Details correct at 30/11/2011. Please let me know if I’ve missed any.
89A Wanneroo Road Tuart Hill WA 6060
(08) 9345 0612
93 Shenton Road Swanbourne WA 6010
(08) 9385 4227
La Galette De France
See website – various locations: Subiaco, South Perth, Nedlands and Kalamunda.
See website – various farmers’ markets.
Jean Pierre Sancho
See website – various locations: CBD and Northbridge.
Byron Bay Cookies
David Jones Perth Food Hall Basement, CBD
Unfilled macaron shells by Sophisticakes can be bought at The Good Grocer (39 Ardross Street, Applecross), Liquorice Gourmet (Shop 130 in Claremont Quarter) and if I remember correctly, Mondo’s Butchers (824 Beaufort Street, Inglewood).
Though reportedly mildly successful at the best of times, Donna Hay produces a macaron kit (good IGAs stock them). Wheel & Barrow sell macaron kits but they are so expensive you are probably better off buying ready made ones. (It is interesting to note that these kits probably contain egg white powder, an ingredient patissiers use to stabilise and reduce the water content in the batter, increasing the chances of success.)
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