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Macarons for beginners: all we need to know + recipe

Right off

Well. . .macaron is after all: a cookie. Fancy and everything but, a sandwich cookie. There are many kinds:  sweet, savory and festive ones. Macaron, the French cookie we’re talking here has nothing to do with the American macaroon (a coconut base different kind of cookie)

Macarons developed with time and they were not always a sandwich, in some parts of France, like Nancy, macarons were flat and took whole almonds, this makes a macaron heavier, darker and flatter

The macarons we know today were actually assembled later in Paris by Ladurée, a famous family of pâtissiers. They became a light sandwich cookie using blanched almonds, not whole almonds in a fine powder

perfect texture, this image was taken from Pierre Hermé’ book Macarons

*The perfect Macaron should be shiny on top, crunchy on the outside, has a dome and is chewy in the inside

French Macaron
American Macaroon, a different fella

Skills 

Macaronner

From all technical skills needed to make macarons, the only one that might be key is the process of “macaronner” which is just folding the meringue many times to incorporate all the elements in an homogeneous way

Meringue

Don’t freak out, even the best pastry chefs could have a “bad” macaron day, given macaron is mainly made out of meringue, and meringue could be a tricky thing that fails to you sometimes based on weather, mood, a slight miscalculation, etc.

There are 3 main types of Meringue: Swiss, French and Italian, you can read more about meringue here

*The most stable of meringues is the Italian meringue, made using a syrup

Main Ingredients

Almond Flour, very fine and also as dry as possible, from blanched almonds (without the skin) for texture of the macaron

Powdered Sugar also known as Confectioner’s Sugar (needed for texture)

Granulated Sugar (to give structure to the meringue)

Fresh Egg whites (Base of the meringue)

Flavor Compounds (add color and flavor without adding liquid)

Tools

macaron mat

A powerful hand mixer or better a Stand Mixer to make meringue
A rubber spatula to fold meringue
A baking mat or parchment paper
A piping bag with a plain tip, in a nice small size

Tricks and Tips

-Let the egg whites off the fridge for couple hours before making the macarons

-Don’t beat the meringue using the highest speed of your machine, a more stable medium speed is recommended until the very end, the last minute

-If you do macarons in a humid weather, using powdered egg whites could help, you could add them in small amounts per fresh egg whites used, in a ratio of a dash or a pinch per egg white

-To stabilize meringue you can add in the beginning any of these 3:
a pinch of sea salt
a pinch of granulated sugar
a pinch of cream of tartar

-Silicone mats are easier to use than parchment paper, when it comes to baking. Because they are more stable in the oven and provide commonly a round shape to guide you before piping

-Don’t try to bake different sizes of macarons at once, they will have different baking times according to size

-Try to bake couple of macarons at first and see how it goes, you might be able to improve the batter and keep going

-You can prepare the egg whites in advance with a trick that makes them less elastic: pour them in a crystal bowl, cover with plastic film and poke the film, make several holes, refrigerate for couple days

Folding Process: NOW You’re MAKING a MACARON

-Folding the dry ingredients in the meringue is the most complex part of the process, is what is actually called “macaronage” aka making the macaron

-If you don’t fold enough, the macaron won’t create a “foot” or base. If you overmix you might liquify the mix too much. To strike a balance, fold between 15-20 times, make sure that the mix moves softly, is shiny and creates a “V” from the spatula

Recipe with Italian Meringue

for 12 sandwich macarons aka 24 sides medium size

For the Meringue

1 1/8 C sugar plus 1 teaspoon
2/3 C Water
1/3 C egg whites from 2 large eggs

For the Almond Paste

2 1/4 C almond flour
1 3/4 C Powdered sugar
1/3 C egg whites
Food coloring

Procedure:
Make the meringue (you won’t need a thermometer)
-Preheat oven at 350F/170C
-Start making your Italian meringue by beating the egg whites with a teaspoon of sugar until it forms soft peaks using a stand mixer
-In the meanwhile have Granulated Sugar and water in the stove making a syrup, it will be ready when all sugar is liquified and a well-defined thread forms between your fingers
-Add the syrup to the egg whites pouring from above and beat until the meringue is at room temp

Make the almond paste
Combine all ingredients for the almond paste until it looks homogeneous

Macarons:
-Add little by little amounts of room temp meringue to the almond paste until the desired consistency is achieved, the mix should move like a lava, slowly. Not too stiff and not too runny
-Add the coloring

-Use a piping bag with a plain tip of a small size so is easier to pipe, fill up half the bag and pipe them using guidelines (draw round circles in parchment paper or use a baking macaron mat)

*Don’t pipe big amounts, start by the center and cut up with the hand your movement, this way it will be all perfectly sized

-Baking time is around 10-12 minutes but it depends on your oven, the top should be shiny and a “neck” or foot should appear at the base of each macaron

-Let come at room temp and fill them with any flavor, buttercream, or ingredient that you like

The best of lucks!

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