These tricky little suckers again – macarons!
Whenever I post that I’m making a new batch of these, the likes and comments rocket. It seems your enthusiasm for these almond meringues sandwiched with ganache is not extinguishing any time soon. I do get it – they can be made in pretty much any flavour combination and colour you like, and the fiddly nature of the bake means they lend themselves to special occasions like birthday parties or to be packaged up beautifully as wedding favours. Hungry Hubby’s colleague who we call Doogs was the guy I should really thank for sparking off the macaron thing I have going on as if it hadn’t been for him asking me to make some for his wife, I’d never have been spurred on to perfect my recipes for them and get invited to Iced Jems to teach how to make them last year. Which will go down as one of the best days baking I’ve ever had! When Doogs asked for another batch to accommodate the tastes of his family, children and adults alike, it was these Neapolitan Macarons that I came up with.
My basic method remains the same for this new recipe and I can’t recommend reading this post about my Chocolate Macarons enough so you have an overview of how to make them before you start. In general, macarons are fussy little buggers but and now here comes a bit claim, I’ve only had one duff batch made with this recipe and the blame there lies in using fresh egg whites which was the only thing I did differently. (P.s. I find if you use eggs which are at the expiration date, especially supermarket ones, you can get away without ageing them in the fridge or freezer first – they are likely to be a few weeks old by then in any case). What I am doing is gradually upping the cocoa content of the chocolate shells to see how chocolatey I can make them before it starts to affect the texture. Note how the chocolate shells have a larger frill than the plain ones; it definitely alters the chemistry of the mac but you will be totally safe with the amounts stated. The winning combination of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry is hard to beat and if you can’t get enough Neapolitan in your life, try my Neapolitan Biccies too.
Further macaron making tips:
- Make sure you process your ground almonds with the sugar and cocoa for a full minute and if need be after sieving, process any bits too large to got through the sieve without forcing them.
- I’ve now trialled Lakeland’s magic liners for my baking trays (which are many years old now and are the best option in my opinion), flexible silicone macaron mats from Iced Jems and baking parchment from both Home Bargains and Sainsbury’s and can report they all work with little or no stickage.
- Make your ganache first and leave it in the fridge until it is as thick as toothpaste so you can pipe it without too much mess! And don’t be tempted to add extra cream – you want it thicker than a traditional ganache.
- 144 g aged egg whites
- 14 g cocoa powder
- 180 g ground almonds
- 180 g icing sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla powder* optional
- 180 g caster sugar
- 45 g cold water
- 175 g white chocolate
- 60 ml double cream
- 2 large strawberries
- About 3 tbsp strawberry jam
- 4-5 large metal baking trays
- Digital scales
- Food processor
- Fine sieve
- Stand mixer
- Candy thermometer
- Flexible spatulas
- Two large bowls
- Piping bags
Make your ganache first. Place your white chocolate into a bowl. Chop it if not using chips/callets.
Hull your strawberries and chop by hand or blitz in a mini food processor then push through a sieve into a small saucepan, extracting as much juice as you can. This is for colour as much as flavour. Add the double cream, stir well to combine then bring up to the boil.
Immediately take off the heat, pour the cream over the white chocolate. Leave to stand for a few minutes then beat until throughly combined and all the chocolate melted. Place in a piping bag, clip the top to keep it closed and pop in the fridge until needed.
Bring the egg whites to room temp first.
Line the trays with magic liners, macaron mats or baking parchment.
Weigh 72g egg whites into a large bowl and into another large bowl, weigh the cocoa powder. Weigh the other 72g into the bowl of a stand mixer and set aside.
Blitz the ground almonds, icing sugar and vanilla powder in a food processor for 90 seconds then stop the machine, stir it well to break down any clumps and give it another 60 second blitz.
Sift the mix from the food processor over the bowl with half the egg whites in. Use a spatula to mix it until it is a thick, well mixed sticky paste. Take half of it out and add to the bowl with the cocoa and mix again until there are no streaks of cocoa left. Set aside whilst you make the Italian meringue.
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.
Now, take half of this Italian meringue mixture and add to the bowl of cocoa almond paste and the other half to the vanilla one. Use a firm motion with your flexible spatula to mix the meringue into the paste and stop as soon as there are no streaks left for each bowl cleaning the spatula between the two mixtures.
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 3-5 more firm turns and try again. Be cautious but as long as you're not beating away for a minute or more at a time, you won't over mix it.
Fill two large piping bags with the macaron mixtures, cut an opening 5mm across of one of them 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 1-2 inches apart (if using a silicone macaron mat, stop 1-2 mm short of the rim to allow for spreading; note that these make quite small macs so you may get closer to 50 out of this mixture). 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. (You can pipe a little bit of the mixture before filling the bag with the full amount to be sure but once you've made them a few times, you'll get a *feel* for the proper texture and won't need to bother).
Tap the trays of macarons onto the counter top to knock any excess air out up to 3 times - 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. It just works better than an ordinary oven. And I can't recommend using an in-oven thermometer highly enough, do not rely on the dial on your oven!
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 and leave on the trays until completely cold before removing them and filling.
Take the ganache out of the fridge when it as thick as toothpaste - you may need to leave it at room temp a short while or massage the bag in your hands to warm it up a little. Snip off 5mm from the bag and sandwich together by piping a ring of the ganache around the outer edge of a vanilla macaron shell leaving a central void into which, you place a dot of strawberry jam. Offer up a cocoa shell and secure by giving it a little twist.
Try to leave for 2 days in the fridge before eating.
*= don't use vanilla extract! If you haven't got vanilla powder, omit it all together - the extract can split the meringue and result in tears!
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