Bake these and be prepared to become a man of the Night's Watch. Those who watch 'Game of Thrones' know what I'm talking about. Friends, family, friends of family and family of friends quickly begin to resemble white walkers as they close in on you and your box of lovingly made macarons.
- 200g ground almonds
- 200g icing sugar
- 75ml water
- 200g caster sugar
- 160g (2x80) egg whites (from 4 large eggs, or 5 smaller eggs)
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- Bring your egg whites to room temperature.
- Line your baking trays with two sheets of baking paper.
- Prepare a piping bag fitted with a piping tip. I use a Wilton 1A tip. (Any large round tip - see here for reference).
- Weigh all ingredients.
- Re-grind the already ground almonds.
- Add the icing sugar to the processor and pulse a few times until completely incorporated. (This will ensure a smooth macaron, and the ratio of ingredients is referred to as tant pour tant).
- Sift the tant pour tant (equal amounts of ground almond and icing sugar) twice and discard anything that doesn't pass through the sieve.
- Combine the tant pour tant with half of the egg whites (80g) in order to make a smooth almond paste. Scrape the insides of half the vanilla bean and incorporate it into the paste.
- Begin to whip the remaining half of the egg whites (80g) gently until soft peaks form.
- Place the water and caster sugar in a small saucepan, clip on your thermometer and turn on the heat. Do not stir.
- As the syrup reaches 105 °C, increase the speed of the mixer.
- When the syrup reaches 115 °C, remove the saucepan from the heat and pour the syrup slowly and steadily into the beaten egg whites. Ensure not to let the syrup fall onto the (moving) the balloon whisk as the syrup may splash out and burn you.
- Continue to whip the meringue until it cools off. This should take around 8 minutes.
- Incorporate about a third of the meringue into the almond paste in order to loosen the mixture a little.
- Fold the rest of the meringue into the almond paste mixture. This will incorporate all of the dry ingredients as well as knock out some of the air that was incorporated into the meringue. Be careful not to over-fold as the macarons will lose their shape when piped.
- The correct consistency can be tested for by dropping a teaspoon full of the mixture onto a side-plate. Wait for 10 seconds. If the mixture spreads out slightly it's ready to be piped. (Alternatively, if it remains exactly as it was when dropped, give the mixture three folds and test again).
- Fill your piping bag and pipe small, similar sized macaron shells. The mixture should spread out a little after piping, so ensure that your shells are well spaced out.
- Lift your baking trays off the table (around 4/5 cms) and then let them fall down onto the table. Repeat. (This will get rid of any trapped air bubbles.) Don't make macarons at two o'clock in the morning. It's difficult to explain the exact purpose of what you're doing to groggy-eyed parents who rushed into the kitchen thinking that you were being attacked.
- Leave your baking trays in a cool environment. This will encourage the piped shells to form a skin. (The time will vary depending upon humidity levels - anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour). Gently tap a shell. The skin has formed if macarons are 'dry' to the touch (that is, if the mixture doesn't transfer onto your finger).
- Preheat your oven to 150 °C.
- Bake for around 14/16 minutes, or until the shells feel firm to the touch. (Do not open your oven door before at least 12 minutes have passed or your macaron shells may sink).
- Let the shells sit on the baking trays for around 3 minutes before carefully transferring them onto a cooling rack.
* As in José Maréchal's "Vanilla" in 'Secrets of Macarons' (click here for a book review). The ingredients used and basic method described is that of Maréchal. However I have elaborated upon his method to include a number of tips that I have accumulated from lots of reading and practice. I hope this helps avoid macaron failure. It should!
Ingredients for the filling:
- 250g mascarpone
- 60g icing sugar
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- 200g cream (well chilled)
- Combine the mascarpone, icing sugar and vanilla seeds into a smooth cream.
- Begin to whip the well chilled cream. Stop around halfway through the process and add the mascarpone mixture.
- Continue to beat until a thick chantilly is obtained.
* Something magical happens around 24 hours after filling and sandwiching two shells together. As a result, macarons are at their best a day after making/filling. Wait! It's worth it.
** Macarons may be stored in an airtight container in the fridge, or frozen (filled) for up to three months.