What is there left to say about macarons that surely hasn’t been said already, especially since the British public became addicted to the Great British Bake Off? A French patisserie classic, the fussy little beggars have left home bakers bereft and weeping tears of frustration over a lack of the frilly little “foot” which gives them their characteristic chic appearance. I dread to think of the amount of egg whites and ground almonds which have been sacrificed in search of the perfect little nutty meringue shell, which is essentially all that they are.
Having had the curse of beginner’s luck with my first batch of macarons a fair few years ago, I had a run of iffy attempts and didn’t share a recipe on here for fear of floods of emailed tales of woe over how my recipe didn’t rise to expectations. I’ve tried many a technique and read blog, after blog, after blog claiming to hold the secret and you know what? It hit me last week – all of them are right. And none of them are.
How very zen eh?
My research has uncovered so much contradictory advice it really made me think how on earth could all their beautiful photographs show pristine little meringue shells sandwiched with ganache when the methods were so different. My conclusion is macarons are contrary little buggers and they will work, when they want to work.
Ready to face the challenge again, I asked myself which of the thousands of recipes I should try after dismissing any recipe I’d come up with myself in the past as superior to those already published and I only one name came to mind. Holly Bell, finalist of GBBO in 2011. When the contestants were challenged to produce three flavours of macaron for their Signature Bake, it was Holly’s which have stuck in my memory ever since.
Her attention to detail and level of precision in execution of everything she made was never more evident than in her macron. Luckily, she has since shared her method on her own blog and of all the ones I’ve tried, this has been the one I feel most achievable and reproducible (and utterly delicious to eat). I’ve rewritten Holly’s method as the original is encyclopaedic in the level of detail included and I can’t help myself but simplify when writing recipes myself, but the recipe is truly Holly’s. There’s no call to reinvent the wheel here.
You do need a reliable sugar thermometer (I use a thermapen and will never go back), a stand mixer and at least 4 baking trays plus I personally recommend reusable silicone liners as I’ve never found a baking parchment which doesn’t glue my macaron to the tray!
May your meringue be as glossy as patent leather and your macaron feet stand tall and proud! And if all else fails, eat your attempts covered in still warm ganache. Oh what hardship ;)
- 180 g ground almonds
- 180 g icing sugar
- 144 g egg whites
- 6 g cocoa powder
- 180 g caster sugar
- 45 g cold water
- 200 g double cream
- 200 g dark chocolate
- Digital scales
- Stand mixer
- Candy thermometer
- Flexible spatula
- Very large bowl
- Piping bags
Take the egg whites out of the fridge to take the chill off before using.
Line the trays - I only ever use reusable silicone sheets, I’ve never found a reliably nonstick baking paper.
Blitz the icing sugar, ground almonds, cocoa in the food processor for about 90 seconds, give them a good mix to make sure there aren’t any clumps forming then give another 60 second blast.
Weigh 72g egg whites into a large bowl. Weigh the other 72g into the bowl of a stand mixer.
Sift your cocoa-nuts over the egg whites in the big bowl discarding any lumps. Mix with a spatula until it is well combined - it will take a while. It will be very thick and sticky.
Weigh your water and sugar into a small, heavy based saucepan and get the thermometer ready. Turn the heat onto medium-high and swirl to combine the sugar and water.
Start whisking the egg whites in your stand mixer on medium high and let it run until stiff peaks form. You may need to start the whisking off by hand or tip the stand mixer up to get the eggs to catch as there is such a small amount - obviously the second option could be a tad risky so beware!
Bring the sugar syrup to the boil, with the thermometer immersed in the sugar until you reach a temp of 118˚C. Turn the stand mixer back on and steadily pour the syrup onto the egg whites in a thin stream avoiding the whisk and the side of the bowl or it will solidify and form little shards of sugar. The egg whites will really increase in volume at this stage. Once all of the syrup has been poured onto the egg whites, leave the mixer running until the outside of the bowl has cooled. It will take several minutes.
Mix the Italian meringue into the bowl of cocoa-nuts-egg whites and use a firm motion with your flexible spatula. Stop as soon as there are no streaks left. Then use your spatula to draw a line through the mixture and start counting to 30 - the line should have disappeared in that time. If not, give it 3 more firm turns and try again. Go slow, over mixing will make them too runny.
Fill a large piping bag with the macaron mixture, cut an opening 5mm across and pipe out onto your prepared trays. Holding the bag vertically and keeping it still works very well - aim for about 2.5-3cm across and space at least an inch apart, if not two. A properly mixed mac mixture will smooth down and lose any nipple effect after standing for 30 seconds. If it doesn’t, it need a few more turns to mix it. (Might be worth trialling piping a little bit of the mixture before filling the bag with the full amount).
Tap the trays of macarons onto the counter top to knock any excess air out - just don’t be too heavy handed!
Leave for at least 30 minutes before baking somewhere cool until a skin forms on the outside. Preheat the oven to 160˚C WITH THE FAN ON. A fan oven makes better macs, Holly tells us.
Cook one tray full at a time for 12 minutes exactly - open the door and test by pushing the macaron a little (very gently) on the top - it should not move. If it wobbles, cook another 2 minutes and test again.
Now to be certain they are cooked, leave each tray to cool for 5 minutes then try to lift one of the central macs straight off the tray - if it doesn’t come off cleanly, pop t back in the oven for a few more minutes.
Cook the remaining trayfuls in the same manner.
Make the ganache by heating the cream in a pan until just starts to boil then pour over your chocolate drops/chopped chocolate. Leave for 5 minutes then stir until smooth and leave until thickens enough to be pipeable.
Try to leave for 2 days in the fridge before eating.
You may need to cook for slightly more or less if you pipe larger macarons than mine. Adjust cooking time accordingly.
Adapted from Holly Bell