Sunday, 31 August 2014

Master the Italian Meringue Method to Make Amazing Macarons

French macarons are gorgeous filled biscuits that are totally irresistible. 

They do, however, have a reputation for being rather tricky to make. Have no fear, once you the learn the techniques and follow a few simple rules (as laid out below) you cant really go wrong. Other flavours I will include will be lemon, chocolate and my favourite, pistachio.

Start with the basics

There are a few basic ingredients needed when making your own macarons; finely ground almonds, sugar and egg whites. Blanched ground almonds or almond flour are best to use so as not to create a 'speckled' macaron from the almond skin but don't stress, it's only for aesthetic purposes.

Italian Meringue Method

The most stable macaron batter is made using the Italian meringue method. For this you will need a sugar thermometer which reaches at least 150oC. The finished macaron will have the same taste, however, they tend to be more brittle and can lack the nice chewy texture on the inside.

The combination of more or less equal parts ground almonds and icing sugar is the "tant pour tant", meaning so much for so much. For the smoothest macaron shells this mixture should be processed together in a food processor then sifted. If only mixed together by hand the batter may be a bit lumpy and the resulting shell may not be completely smooth and shiny.

When making macarons using the Italian meringue method you will need to add the colouring to the almond paste. If making the uncooked meringue version you will need to add the colouring to the meringue as it's being whisked. To many numerous flavours of macarons it is easier to keep the shells plain and sandwich them together with different flavoured fillings but they won't look as pretty!

Allow the piped mixture to rest

Before baking the macarons it's important to allow the piped mixture to form a 'skin' before popping them in the oven. This usually takes 20-40mins. You should be able to run your finger over the piped mixture without it sticking to you. By drying the top of the shell it forms a protective film on the surface which then becomes crisp when baked and prevents the shell from cracking and also prevents ridged 'feet' around the base. 

What temperature should my oven be when making macarons?

Make sure your oven temperature isn't too or you will find that the shells will go brown and will loose their pretty colour. For macarons between 4-6 cms in diameter, your oven temperature needs to be 150oC and the biscuits baked for 14-15 mins.

When the macarons are cooked...

As soon as the macarons are out of the oven immediately slide them off the hot baking tray onto a cool counter top preferably marble or metal. This will help insure an easy release from the baking paper. If the shells stick to the baking paper it is the most likely is caused by the macarons being underbaked.

What fillings can I fill my macarons with?

Filling flavours can be anything from a simple vanilla buttercream to an exotically flavoured creme mousseline with fresh fruit. Remember not to overfill your shells so it doesn't overpower the crispy shells.

The Best Macarons

Should I decorate my macarons?

Decorations can be added before baking, after baking or both. The shells look lovely on their own but can be made to look extra special. Small sugar pearls or flowers can be added before baking. After baking when cooled the shells can be dusted with lustre or pearl dusts, drizzled with melted chocolate or even better...dipped in chocolate! 

How do I store macarons?

After filling and decorating, place the macarons in the refrigerator for 30 mins to an hour to firm up. Filled macarons will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Unfilled macarons can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days or frozen for 6 months. If frozen thaw in refrigerator before filling.

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