Team Shambles went to pastry school again!!! As a Christmas activity while we were both in Edmonton (because Alana is the bestest friend ever), we went to a Macaron course at the Duchess teaching kitchen! Making a good macaron involves a lot of technique, so it was nice to get some actual instruction. Our macarons turned out really well, and now we both have a better sense of what makes a good macaron!
The recipes we’ve included are from the course, and are based on the macaron recipe used by Duchess. If you ever get a chance, definitely go there! The pastries are delicious, and the owners are just awesome people.
FRENCH MERINGUE MACARON SHELLS (60 shells)
- 135 g almond flour
- 195 g icing sugar
- 38 g granulated sugar
- 7 g egg albumen (egg white powder)
- ¼ tsp. powder colour
- 100 g egg whites (room temperature)
- If the almond flour is sticky, just leave it out overnight to dry out
- Do not use a silicone mat or a black enamel pan.
- It’s better to overmix the meringue than to undermix it; many problems arise from a meringue that is insufficiently stiff. (Feel free to giggle). Contrary to the meringue, undermixing the batter is better than overmixing the batter.
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper, and place your macaron template underneath.
- Sift the almond flour and icing sugar into a bowl. Set aside.
- Put egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Sift in granulated sugar, egg albumen, and powder colour. Whip the egg white mixture on high until a very stiff meringue forms. Your whisk should be full of meringue.
- Fold the almond mixture into the meringue then transfer the batter to a large bowl. Spread the batter on the sides of the bowl and scrape back into the center (macaronage). Continue until the batter is shiny, and flows like slow moving lava. When it takes about 15 seconds for the ridges in the batter to disappear the macaronage is complete.
- Place a large, round piping tip (ex. Ateco #803) in an 18″ piping bag, and fill with the macaron batter. Hold the piping bag completely vertically ~1 cm above the tray. Without moving the piping bag, fill each circle on the template, and finish by making a C pattern with the tip. Remove the template.
- Bang the tray or drop it repeatedly on the table to get rid of air bubbles, and add any spices/garnish (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.) Let the macarons rest until you can touch the shell without batter sticking to your finger (15-20 minutes). They should look very shiny and smooth.
- Bake for ~8 minutes, rotate, and bake another 4 minutes. When baking is finished the shell should not pull away from the foot.
- Leave the macarons to cool for 20 minutes before peeling them off the the parchment paper.
- Line up the macarons in pairs, and use your thumb to poke a hole in one of each pair (to make room for more filling). Pipe your filling onto the indented macaron shells, and gently press the matching shell onto the first.
Each team made a different holiday flavour! Candy cane, gingerbread, and egg nog!
There are several important talking points for this recipe. The first is the ingredients; a precise balance of ingredients is essential for making macarons. This means weighing your ingredients is absolutely necessary. Almond flour, in particular, cannot be measured accurately by volume. The balance is so important that even the extra humidity from a rainy day can wreck your macarons (thus why Roopa is intending on buying a dehumidifier)! Another “before you begin” point to address is oven temperature. It is highly likely that it will take a few batches before you find the right temperature for your oven and identify hot spots. To ensure your macarons bake evenly, rotate the pan halfway through, and remove them from the oven immediately if you notice them browning! You also should never use convection while baking macarons because the air flow will blow the shells off of their feet, and all the macarons will be crooked!
Nicely measured albumen and colour powders 🙂
The next discussion topic is egg whites. When you whip egg whites a couple of things happen: 1) the proteins (various forms of albumin) unfold and make chains with each other, and 2) air bubbles are incorporated. There is a pretty good science-y explanation here. You want your egg whites to be at room temperature rather than cold, because it takes less energy to loosen the proteins. If you need less energy your meringue will whip up much more quickly. Speed is a bonus, as you need an extremely stiff meringue for macarons. This is where it might be pertinent to mention the egg albumen, or egg white powder. This ingredient essentially adds more protein to your meringue. More protein means more chains and more stability for your meringue. Not all macaron recipe include egg albumen, so this is a bit of a secret ingredient! Another ingredient that adds stability is the powder colour, unlike gel colours which decrease the stability of the meringue. Double win! Also, you absolutely cannot use carton egg whites to make macarons. Just don’t even try.
The macaronage is the final important talking point for today. It is essentially the process that turns an almond meringue into macaron batter. By spreading out the batter along the sides of the bowl repeatedly the meringue deflates and the batter becomes shiny. Over mixed batter will be runny, difficult to pipe, and will not rise well in the oven. With that in mind, it makes sense that it is preferable to under mix your batter rather than over mix it. If you find that your batter is becoming thin but you still have a lot of bubbles, work it against the side of the bowl without gathering the batter back in the middle. Apparently the batter only thins after it is brought back into the middle. Who knew?!
Piping like a boss
We didn’t actually make the filling for the macarons in class; there wasn’t a lot of time, so we focused on the macaron shells. We had a demo for the frosting (buttercream, so nothing too novel) and also made jars of salted caramel. The filling of a macaron is what gives the flavour, as the shells don’t have much flavour. As far as fillings go, the possibilities are endless. We used a buttercream frosting, but you can also use caramel, ganache, jam, fruit compote, or a combination of flavours.
Just a little “behind the scenes” action