More Macaron Madness!
We always have to eventually come back to this subject again and again. For those of you who have never made macarons, it’s an obsession for those of us who are in the game. Even if you don’t particularly love to eat French macarons, there is an indescribable satisfaction to see these guys come out of the oven perfect and then sandwiched with some delectable filling… but mostly we do love to eat macarons. There is also a determination we all have to regain our macaron mojo if we haven’t made them in a while. It’s a disease. The simple (and yet horribly troublesome) recipe allows for virtually an endless number of combination of flavors… so here we are again with macarons on the brain. Also, I get orders.
Over the past couple of years making these guys, I have mostly stuck to parchment paper as my lining of choice. And while I prefer it to silicone baking mats or Silpats, it is not without its problems. Silpat is excellent if you get a good batch and bake it to perfection, but the buggers really won’t come off if you don’t. Plus for those of us who like to have circle templates, this is a not a great option. Baking parchment wrinkles very easily from any moisture. I like to reuse my paper at least once, and when parchment gets wrinkled, it warps the shape of the macarons. Furthmore, there is a the problem of the darn paper wanting to curl at the edges, which will also warp the shape of the shells. Some people try to remedy this with dabbing a little bit of batter at the corner or buying already cut sheets. I’d just rather not deal.
I have been alternately using a different type of parchment by the company “If You Care”. You may recognize this newer brand in the supermarket as the only environmentally-friendly alternative to things like aluminum foil, baking cups, twine, cheesecloth, etc. I have compared side by side with the traditional parchment and their “parchment”, which is unbleached recycled paper, coated with silicone. It’s a combination of parchment and the silpat. I have to say, I am impressed by its performance. While it does wrinkle a bit, it doesn’t wrinkle so badly as to warp the shape of the shells even after multiple uses. In addition, the edges flatten quite easily, so you don’t face the same issues as with the parchment. “If You Care” does offer their parchment in pre-cut sheets as well. I think I will be making a complete switch to this brand and I know I’m doing a little something for the environment.
Now onto the recipe!
I wanted to share the recipe that I have ultimately settled on as my reliable. You can try this one, but you might prefer other methods. I have tried the French meringue and the Italian meringue methods, and I have always come back to this one, because I can’t fail with it. This is a macaron recipe using the Swiss meringue. I’m sure why it’s not ever cited or put down in books as a method of making them, but I think it should be an accepted method. After all, all a macaron recipe consists of is a meringue with almond flour and powdered sugar folded in. I did use this recipe with the Mojito Macaron recipe, but I wanted to discuss it more in depth. The texture comes out well with the recipe, but I find it a tad sweeter than the two others. I think I will try experimenting more with different proportions, such perhaps leaving out an egg white in the meringue and adding it later as with the Italian method.
*You can use gel paste or powdered color to dye your macaron shells. Gel paste will affect the meringue texture a bit, but it’s easier to control the color with the paste. Using powdered color will not affect the texture, but it’s best to sift it together with the powdered sugar/almond flour mixture so that when you mix it with the meringue the color mixes evenly. You will end up with splotchy uneven color otherwise. It’s much harder to predict the outcome of your color as well.
Macaron Recipe (Swiss method)
- Parchment paper or silpats
- heavy duty aluminum baking sheets
- circle templates (I like to use a 2-inch round cookie cutter)
- piping bag and piping tip
- food processor
- sieve or sifter
- stand mixer
- rubber spatula
- 1 C almond flour, plus 1 Tablespoon
- 1-1/4 C powdered sugar
- 3/4 C granulated sugar
- 3 egg whites, aged for 24 hours
Cut parchment to fit your baking sheets (double up your heavy duty baking sheets). Make circle templates if using them. Prepare a piping bag with a round tip. Place it draped into a glass. I like to take some plastic wrap and cover the tip, as to not lose any precious batter.
In a food processor, pulverize powdered sugar and almond flour together, until very fine. Sift into a bowl.
Preheat oven to about 300- 325 degrees. Again since each oven is different, it’s very hard to determine the correct temp. My macarons like this range in my oven, and I find that my macarons do better in a 325 oven for the first half, and then about 310 for the latter half. However, it’s important to find how your own oven works with the macarons.
In a stand mixer bowl, put in the egg whites and granulated sugar. Put over a pot of simmering water. Make sure the bowl is not touching the water, and keep the pot on very low heat. Take your whisk or stand mixer whisk, and stir egg whites constantly so they do not cook. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved. Take off heat and attach your bowl and whisk to the stand mixer. Beat on low to cool off. When mixture is foamy and white, you can add any coloring now. Turn up the mixer to medium or high speed until a meringue with soft peaks is formed. Gently dump the almond mixture into the meringue and quickly but gently fold until well incorporated but not overmixed.
The mixture should still hold it’s shape for a few second when a spoon is lifted, but should start relaxing back gradually. If your mixture does not hold any shape, you have overmixed. If it holds frozen, you have either overbeaten the meringue or undermixed your batter.
Fill your piping bag with the batter, and begin to pipe rounds onto your parchment. If you using templates, pipe a round about a 3/8-1/4 inch from the edge. Your batter will relax and become larger. Tap your sheet on the counter to loosen and air bubbles. Let it rest for about 10-15 mins. Pop in the oven. Bake for approximately 13-15 minutes. As with the oven temperature, you need to find out what the correct baking time is for your oven. When done, the macarons should have feet neatly situated below the top. If you think your shells have risen too much, they tend to shrink a bit when cooled.
Makes about 45 2-inch shells.
Your macarons shouldn’t be browned at the bottom. Only the faintest bit of browning on the bottom is fine. You shouldn’t be able to pick a macaron neatly off the baking sheet straight out of the oven. Let it cool completely before removing. Perfectly done macaron shells come off relatively easily, but they are delicate so do take care when removing. Only little traces of macaron should remain on the parchment as they should remove cleanly when made and baked properly.
Discussion of French, Italian and Swiss methods
The French method, using french meringue that is, probably lends the best texture in my opinion with the macaron. The shell’s exterior is a bit thinner and so lends a much more delicate crunchiness, while the inside remains a subtle chewy, but not too sweet. The problems with the French method are many as it’s a much more delicate meringue and ends up being a much tougher method to master. The French meringue is so temperamental and fickle. It really needs to be done just right. It’s just hard to measure that just right. And it’s hard to keep this meringue continually stable when mixed with the almond mixture. It’s much easier to over mix with this method. And the shells would do better with more resting. However, you’re problems don’t end there. It doesn’t like the oven either. This batter is extremely sensitive to heat. I recommend leaving the oven door a little ajar during most of the baking. Any accumulation of real heat and the feet begin to explode. Furthermore, any errors like the slightest over-mixing become completely apparent during the baking process. It’s not a happy camper and like a very difficult person. However, when it’s perfect, it’s perfect!
Known to many as the “reliable method”, I still have not completely mastered this bugger. And it is not without it’s faults. Number 1, there is a lot more to do than with any other. The Italian merginue is just pure annoyance to make. You’ve got to make a french meringue, while adding a sugar syrup brought to the soft ball stage of heat. It takes longer and there’s a lot more brain power to be used. You have to also make more calculations with quantities and proportions with separating the egg white portion in half. This can be tricky with 3 egg whites, so an even number needs to be used at all times. It does withstand heat better in the oven and it is hard to over mix the batter, but I would say the appearance of the batter is so much different from the French or Swiss methods. You really have to adjust what is acceptable in your mind for this method. Furthermore, I think the feet are not as nice using this method. They tend to more often than not take a slightly rounded appearance even if they are tucked neatly underneath the shell. For some inexplicable reason, it took forever to bake these guys, and I ended up with rather crunchy macarons with no slight chew in the middle.
The Swiss is like a compromise between the fickle French and the hardy Italian meringues. It also includes just one extra step from the French, making it on the more convenient side. I love it because you end up with a stable meringue that is not too bound together like the Italian meringue. The one drawback of the swiss is that I, personally find it a little sweet. However, that can probably be helped with a little bit more experimentation and research. The texture is not quite as delicate as the French, but very satisfactory and certainly not nearly as brittle and meringue-like as the Italian. Also, it’s important to note that you do need to watch the stiffness the meringue is whipped to. It is significantly more difficult to overwhip this meringue as opposed to the French one, but you do need to watch for the perfect stage of doneness. Your meringue should hold a soft peak, but when flattened on itself, it should only hold it’s shape for a second or so. If it does hold it’s shape, it’s a bit overbeaten, but this is the not the end of your macarons. Just fold it as best as you can. If the mixture is still a little stiff and your piped shells hold their peaks, just moisten your finger with a wet paper towel and coax the peaks down gently. Also just give the pan a couple of firm taps on the counter.
VViolet macaron shells with crystallized violet petals baked on.