The topic of French macaron making is subject of many controversies and confusion. Like most other recipes out there, there are countless interpretations to making this unique pastry. Unfortunately, many home bakers and even aspiring pastry chefs mistakenly believe that there is some mystical skill needed to making macarons. Granted, making macarons is not something a beginner should tackle in their early stages of training without proper supervision but anyone with enough practice can successfully make a macaron with a flat smooth top with its associated ‘foot’ (a risen outer edge of the macaron).
At its most basic level, a macaron is essentially a delicate baked biscuit comprised of whipped egg whites mixed with sugar, almond powder, and some form of flavoring, coloring, or stabilising agent. That’s it. The list of components is simple but the execution of making macarons is where the confusion starts.
There are two methods to whipping egg whites for macarons; the uncooked meringue method and the Italian meringue method.
Uncooked Meringue Method
The uncooked meringue method typically involves whipping raw egg whites until stiff in form. Some recipes call for mixing egg whites with castor sugar while others omit sugar altogether. Recipes that call for whipping egg whites with sugar will achieve a more stable meringue (i.e. batter not deflating as quickly) than those without. Whipping egg whites with sugar does increase the sweetness factor in the overall batter so proper judgment will have to be made to decide how much sugar to add.
Italian Meringue Method
An Italian Meringue provides the most stability within the meringue family and is essentially whipped egg whites combined with a cooked sugar mixture. This method involves cooking a sugar mixture to a specific temperature and then pouring this hot mixture into the whipped egg whites. The meringue is then cooled to a workable temperature.
The whipped egg whites are then folding into the dry ingredients. For the uncooked meringue method, the dry ingredients are folded directly into the meringue. For the Italian meringue method, the dry ingredients are mixed with a small portion of raw egg whites to form a paste and then folded with the Italian meringue, Be careful not to over-mix the batter at this stage. After folding, the batter should resemble thick flowing magma and if you lift this “magma” with your mixing spoon, the batter should lift and slowly fall back into place resulting in a shiny smooth surface.
Piping macaron batter requires some practice and for those people not familiar with using a piping bag, this activity may pose quite a challenge. Of course, practice does makes perfect so it may take a bit of time before you can achieve perfectly round and consistently shaped macarons piped across the baking sheet. The key to success is to hold the piping tip directly (perpendicular) over the parchment paper or silpat to pipe the batter and then flicking the tip upwards with a twist of your wrist to finish piping
Which whipped egg white method is best? In my experience, the Italian meringue method will provide the most stable and consistent results in macaron making. You will have a much smaller probability of over-mixing your batter and you can produce larger volumes of batter without worry of immediate deflation. In my opinion, the benefits of stability associated with Italian meringue far outweigh the extra precision needed to mix the cooked sugar mixture with the whipped egg whites.
Here’s my recipe for Chocolate Macarons:
Chocolate Macarons (Yield = ~100 shells or 50 sandwiched macarons)
150g Almond Powder (finely ground)
150g Confectioner’s Sugar
60g Egg Whites
50g Unsweetened Chocolate (Valrhona’s 100% Cocoa Pate. If you don’t have Cocoa Pate, you can substitute this with the most bitter chocolate you have. The more bitter, the better)
6g Cocoa Powder (Dutch Processed)
60g Egg Whites
150g Granulated Sugar
3g Carmine Red Food Coloring (Optional but this will give your macarons a nice reddish brown color. Without this food coloring, your macaron will have a light brown color more resembling light coffee as shown in my picture above)
1. Preheat convection oven to 160 degrees Celsius or 170 degrees Celsius in a conventional oven
Almond Powder/Confectioner’s Sugar Paste.
2. In a large mixing bowl, mix the almond powder, confectioner’s sugar and 60g egg whites together until you form a wet paste. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, melt chocolate in a bain marie or microwave and mix cocoa powder into the warm melted chocolate. Set aside.
4. In a small pot, add water and granulated sugar. Put pot on stove over a medium fire and cook the sugar mixture. With a digital thermometer, measure the temperature of the mixture. When the temperature reaches 115 degrees Celsius, immediately start mixing the egg whites with the mixer at medium speed. Continue to cook and monitor the sugar mixture and when it reaches a temperature of 121 degrees Celsius, turn off the fire, immediately pull the pot from the stove and pour the sugar syrup down the side of the mixing bowl. Ensure you do not pour the mixture onto the whisk in the mixture. The sugar syrup should slide down the side of the mixing bowl into the whipped egg whites.
5. You will see the volume of the whipped egg whites visibly increase. Continue to mix at medium speed until the mixing bowl is slight warm or cool to the touch. The Italian meringue will thicken as it cools down.
6. While the Italian meringue has cooled, add the chocolate mixture to the Italian meringue. Ensure the chocolate is fully mixed with the Italian meringue. Add red food coloring (optional) and mix thoroughly.
7. Stop the mixer and fold in the Italian meringue/chocolate mixture into the Almond powder/confectioner’s sugar paste. Once folded, you should obtain a thick flowing batter similar to “magma”. The batter is now ready for piping.
8. Put two baking sheets together (both baking sheets should touch without a gap in between and should be one top of one another). Lay a piece of parchment or silpat on the doubled baking sheet.
9. Put batter into a piping bag with a 1cm round piping tip.
10. Pipe batter into 2.5cm rounds across the silpat or parchment paper. The rounds will spread somewhat. That’s normal.
11. When completed piping, bang the baking sheets twice against the table to remove any residual air bubbles in the piped rounds. Let the piped batter rest for 15-30 minutes.
12. Bake macarons for approximately 14min – 17min depending on oven type (Convection oven = less time / Conventional oven = more time). Every oven is different so it’s important to keep watch of the baking progress during the tail end of the prescribed time. Adjust timing where necessary.
13. Once done, pull tray from oven and leave macarons to cool down before peeling off.
14. Fill macaron with filling of your choice. Typical choices include dark chocolate ganache or salted caramel ganache.