This is going to be the first post in my “Macaron Madness” series. Over the past three years, I have been making macarons for various family gatherings, special events, or simply when I’m bored and want a good challenge. After making macarons time and time again, I firmly believe that A) macarons are not as difficult as people make them out to be, and B) that anyone can succeed with enough preparation beforehand and attention to detail.
This post consists of my basic macaron shell recipe, which I have found never fails and is quite malleable, along with my added tips. I tend not to deviate from the shell recipe, and instead customize the macarons through the fillings, colorings, and garnishes. The rest of the series will be mainly picture-based, and will describe the macaron filling, flavor, and rambles about how they came to be.
The Italian Macaron
The majority of macaron recipes on the interweb use a French meringue, where you whip up egg whites and granulated sugar until stiff peaks form, then fold this aerated mixture into the sifted almond flour and powdered sugar. While I have done this method many times and created decent macarons, my macarons often came out hollow, even if they looked presentable, and since measurements for this method vary greatly online, they were never consistent.
Enter the Italian meringue…
The Italian method uses an Italian meringue, where you add a stream of hot sugar syrup to the egg whites while whipping them. Another key difference, is that before whipping the egg whites, you divide half of the whites and mix them into the dry ingredients to form a paste (below), which the Italian meringue then gets folded into. The Italian meringue is much more glossy than its French counterpart, and in my experience is almost impossible to over-whip, due to the stability the hot sugar syrup adds to the protein structure of the egg whites. The resulting macaron batter is glossy, smooth, and ultimately much more malleable than the French method.. so don’t be scared of that sugar syrup!!
I also love the consistency between Italian macaron recipes. Most consist of the same basic structure: Equal parts ground almonds, powdered sugar, and granulated sugar. 75% (3/4) of the almond/sugar mass in egg whites, divided between the meringue and dry ingredients.
LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES (Tips):
- Measure and cut your parchment paper out beforehand to the exact size of your baking sheet. Place the baking sheet under another tray or book to flatten out the rolled parchment while preparing the macarons. An uneven piping surface could turn a perfect batter into a lopsided mess!
- To aid your perfectly round macarons, print out a macaron stencil. These are easily googled. Here is my personal favorite: 1.5 in
- Don’t bother aging egg whites.
- BUY A KITCHEN SCALE. I purposely don’t include cup measurements because I think everyone should get a kitchen scale. Mine was $9 from amazon. Plan a few days ahead and get yourself one. They create fool proof macarons. I have made them without a scale 3-4 times, but it is so much more time consuming, stressful, and prone to failure.
- You don’t need a stand mixer/Kitchen Aid. Hand held works just fine.
- The Italian meringue is malleable. While I suggest using a candy thermometer, you can be ~5 degrees (Farenheight) off the target temperature and still yield a satisfactory meringue.
- Use a round piping tip. You won’t get perfect circles without one. If perfect circles aren’t huge priority, your macarons will still taste great and should be circular with a regular piping bag, sans the tip.
- Use GEL food coloring. You don’t want to add excess water to the base.
- Always err on the side of under-folding the batter. Transferring the batter into the piping bag can have the same effect as 1-2 folds.
- Learn from your mistakes! Often you will have to make macarons in batches, and often the first batch will be under or over done depending on your oven. Test the first batch~10 minutes after they come out of the oven, if they stick to the parchment, cook the next batch for 1-2 mins longer. If they are over browned, cook for max 1 minute less.
- Play around! I once blended 2 Speculoos cookies from Trader Joes into the almond mixture, removing some almond/powdered sugar to make sure the final mass remained the same, and the macarons turned out perfectly. Again, these things are more malleable than you would think!
Italian Meringue Macaron Recipe:
- 100g ground almonds
- 100g powdered sugar
- 100g granulated/cane sugar
- 25 mL water
- 75 g egg whites, divided in two (37.5 g each)
Prepare baking trays lined with parchment paper/Silpat, the macaron stencils, and a piping bag fitted with a #12 tip (tip optional).
Grind powdered sugar and ground almonds together in a powerful food processor/grinder to break down almond flour into finer particles. If you have a powerful grinder, there is no need to sift. Alternately, you can skip the grinding step and sift the almonds and sugar to ensure a fine mixture, but the grinding method is much more efficient and therefore recommended.
Add 37.5 g of egg whites to the almond mixture. Mix with a spatula until a paste forms and no dry lumps remain.
Add granulated sugar and water to a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until the syrup reaches 240 F, or soft ball stage. Do not mix the sugar and water mixture and swirl the pan as little as possible. The sugar should dissolve on its own without burning over a medium flame. If you don’t have a thermometer, 240 F will occur roughly 4 mins after the sugar is completely dissolved.
Once you notice the sugar in the sauce pan is completely dissolved, start beating the remaining 37.5 g egg whites on low speed. Once the mixture is frothy, increase the speed to medium. If you don’t have a stand mixture, stop periodically and check on the sugar syrup. You want to time the two processes so that the syrup reaches temperature when the eggs are around a soft peak/sufficiently frothy. The sugar syrup temperature is most important, the eggs can be a little under or over soft peak for the meringue to form. If you have a stand mixer, simply turn the speed to low if soft peaks are reached before the sugar syrup is ready.
Once the syrup reaches 240 F and the egg whites are at soft peaks, carefully drizzle the sugar syrup into the egg whites in a constant stream while beating on a medium speed. Once all the syrup is added, beat the mixture on a medium-high speed until the bowl is body temperature and the peaks are stiff and glossy. If adding any coloring, add the gel color to the meringue at this stage.
Fold 1/3 of the meringue mixture into the almond paste to loosen the mixture. Then gently fold the remaining 2/3 meringue into the batter. The desired consistency is often described as “flowing lava”. The batter should drip off the spatula in thick ribbons and settle on top of the rest of the mixture for a couple of seconds before slowly blending back into the batter. Again, err on the side of under mixing, because transferring the batter to a piping bag will loosen the mixture /simulate a couple of folds.
Pipe the batter onto the prepared baking sheets, with the stencils placed under the parchment paper. Tap on the counter to release air bubbles. Let batter rest for ~30 minutes at room temperature to allow a skin to form, which will prevent cracking and aid the production of “feet”. 10 minutes into the resting process, special garnishes can be added such as finely ground nuts, sprinkles, sea salt, etc.
Preheat the oven to 300F and cook for 10-12 minutes. Check the first batch 10 minutes after they come out of the oven. If they stick to the parchment, then cook the next batch for an extra 1-2 minutes.
Fill macaron shells as desired, and enjoy! (PS macarons are best 1-2 days after they are filled, so the hardened shells have time to absorb the flavors of the filling!)