Mastering The French Macaroon (Macaron) – Trials & Tribulations

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When I began baking again (I took a really long break from doing so) I decided to throw myself in at the deep end and make some macarons. I am a huge macaron fan of both the taste and appearance and as they didn’t involve too many ingredients, I thought I would give them a whirl well, epic failure on my part. I really didn’t realise the complexities of them and the result was a disaster.

A few video tutorials later (in addition to recipe research) I felt more than ready to take them on again.

During the process I have stumbled upon many difficulties which appear to be common so I hope to share these as all I seem to see online is the success stories and the more common mistakes so I am going to list all of my findings below.

To begin with try ignoring the “finicky” and “temperamental” comments. Although they are challenging to make, these comments ultimately make you scared about the process, you end up thinking about it too much, being too delicate with the ingredients, just generally over thinking. My best advice is to use your instinct and just enjoy making them.

Ingredients

100g Ground Almonds

100g Icing Sugar (I like to use Tate & Lyle and have just discovered that you can buy this in Lidl for only 79p)

2 Large Free Range Egg Whites at room temperature

55g Caster Sugar

A Small Pinch of Salt

Nutella

1. Separate the egg whites into a large, clean glass bowl. Make sure they are room temperature and they do not have to be old

2. Add the food colouring gel at this point. The first time I made these I added food colouring liquid to the batter. This completely messed up the consistency of my batter and I was nervous about adding too much to get my desired colour. Most recipes suggest 2/3 drops – I add more like 5. Whisk until they are so stiff you can hold the bowl upside down without them moving

In my Nutella I didn’t add food colouring as I was experimenting with mastering consistency when I made these

3. Add a pinch of salt. I find that this gives a better result to the whisked whites

4. Add the caster sugar – you can throw this all in at once and whisk again until the egg whites are glossy

5. Sift the icing sugar and almonds into a large bowl. A lot of the almonds will get stuck and you will have to force some of them through but throw away the rest (you will be surprised how many)

6. Add this all in one go to the egg whites and fold with a spatula until well combined. This is often referred to as a mixture resembling “molten lava” to me this is not helpful, who would know what molten lava is like? You just want to make sure it’s not lumpy and not too runny so somewhere in-between. If in doubt only use half of the mixture and if they don’t work out you can always fold the second half of the mixture a few more times for the second batch

7. Transfer into a piping bag with a round tip nozzle and start piping. I use a macaron mat from Lakeland (£8.99) and lay it out on a baking tray which works a treat

8. Slam the tray on the surface a couple of times and pop out any air bubbles with a tooth pick

9. Leave the macarons to stand for around 30 minutes

10. Preheat the oven to 140 degrees (I have a fan oven) and bake for 15 minutes. Halfway through you should open and close the oven a couple of times to circulate some air

11. Remove fron the oven and allow the shells to cool. They should peel of the mat easily

12. Match up the shells of similar size, add a dollop of Nutella to one shell and squeeze another shell on top and voila!!

Troubleshooting – My Issues

* At first I used liquid food colouring – use gel instead

* Use a colour stronger than what you want. If I want to make pink macarons I use red food colouring

* Add the food colouring to the egg whites before you mix them to avoid messing up the consistency

* Use your instinct when it comes to mixing the batter and don’t be tempted to do a couple more folds

* Don’t leave them to stand for too long. This resulted in me having the perfect macaron but there were no feet

* Be sure to slam the tray on the counter a couple of times

* All ovens are different. It took me a while to find the correct temperature of my oven so I had to experiment a few times. They burn easily and at first all of my macarons ended up a light brown despite using many different colours. There is a fine line because if they are undercooked they will not peel off the mat easily and they will leave a residue

* If you use a food colouring you will find that you have to bake them for a little bit longer, usually around 3 minutes

* Start simple (like I did with these by using no food colouring) once you have made them successfully you will feel much more confident about experimenting with different colours and flavours

Hopefully this will have eliminated a lot of obstacles you are likely to come across however, don’t forget that you will probably find your own little methods and ways of doing things so be open minded and enjoy experimenting. They are totally worth it and you will be delighted when you get them right (hopefully this will be first time….or second or third)

Any questions/comments/tips/interesting flavour combo’s just fire them across, i’m still learning too 🙂

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