Cakes & Bakes
Macaronage By Fleur
Macaronage…sounds made up but believe it or not this is in fact an actual word. It is the art of making macaron batter and specifically the folding action when mixing the ingredients. A random but very interesting fact and one of the many new things I Iearnt last Saturday when I went on a macaron making class in London.
My macaron baking history is a patchy one. Some good, some awful, some OK. And all of the above found on the same baking tray. Very frustrating especially as it’s actually quite expensive to make macarons both in ingredients and time. I needed to be inspired again by someone who knew their macaronage inside out.
It was great to be shown step by step how to make these dainty treats. It looks so easy when you are watching, but after the demo we all got our aprons on and started to put what we had seen and learnt into practice with the help of our teacher. Amazingly I managed to create a batch of 60 macaron shells that were consistently good and all with great feet and no skirts! More macaron language there, sorry. Hopefully the picture below will show you what I mean by feet, and a skirt is a macaron shell that has spread out at the bottom whilst baking to look like a little skirt.
I wrote copious notes and asked lots of questions. I was a self confessed teacher’s pet! But as a result, I hope you will find the recipe and my top tips helpful for when you next try yourself.
Before I start, it is worth mentioning that there are quite a few different ways to make macarons. For example you can use Swiss, Italian or French meringue all of which require a different method. So this recipe and these tips are by no means the only way to do it. French meringue is probably the easiest one to start with though, so it’s a good one to try. Here is a good French macaron recipe to get the ingredients and the amounts, and below is my method.
Method With Fleur’s Tips
1. Ideally you should separate the egg whites 3 days before you want to make the macarons. This is to loosen the protein structure within the whites, and this I am told will help to make better macarons
2. You will need to make a macaron template which will fit you baking sheet. This need to be rows of circles that are approx 4.5 diameter and 4-5 cm apart. Best to do this on a bit of card or laminate a sheet of paper so that it can be used again and again
3. Weigh out all your ingredients. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, it’s very important to spend enough time measuring out correctly. The best way to do this is with digital scales. Secondly, it’s extremely helpful to have all your ingredients ready so you can concentrate on getting the method right
4. Sift the icing sugar into the same bowl as your ground almonds. This needs to be a large bowl as you will be adding your meringue to it later. DO NOT mix as the oil in the almonds will cause the sugar to stick to it. If you want to add some colour, use a paste or gel colour and add a little bit to the icing sugar and almonds but again, resist the temptation to mix. Put to one side
5. Whisk the egg whites in a bowl, (if you have a stand mixer use the balloon whisk attachment) making sure that there is no grease or traces of grease in the bowl and no egg yolk in the whites. Both have the potential to upset your meringue and stop it from whipping up how you want it. After 1 min (rough timing but go by sight first) your egg whites should be nice and frothy. At this point slowly add your caster sugar. If you add this sugar too quickly you will add too much air into the meringue
6. Whisk the whites until you see the following signs:
- the meringue is pure white (no yellow hue)
- you can see little sharp peaks forming at the side of the bowl as the whisk moves round. As soon as you see these, stop the whisk
- You can turn the bowl of meringue upside down and nothing falls out
7. Add the meringue to the bowl of almonds and icing sugar, and using a firm spatula start folding together. The folding is very important. Here’s what I learnt:
- firstly you need to fold under and over twisting the bowl as you go. When I did this my ingredients did not look like they were incorporating each other very well, then I was told to work a bit quicker and this did the trick
- be careful when you fold that you are not too heavy handed so as the squash the meringue, but also not too gentle so that the mixture does not come together in time. A fine balance is needed but having done this once I am a firm believer that practice makes perfect on this one
- once incorporated you will need to change your folding motion so now you are doing a full loop round the edge of the bowl and as you get halfway round the second loop, cut through the middle of the bowl. Continue this until your batter has a gradual dropping consistency that falls from the spatula in a smooth manor. You can check this more than once and if you are almost there it’s probably best to check after every 2 loops
8. Transfer your batter into a icing bag with a plain nozzle. I like to use disposable icing bags and a measuring jug to hold the bag whilst I fill it with batter. You will need to fold the edges over a few times to fit into the measuring jug but that is fine
9. Have your baking sheet ready with the template and then either a silicone mat on top or non stick parchment paper (I get mine from Lakeland). Hold your nozzle and icing bag vertically above the baking tray about 0.5cm high and start piping into the middle of each circle. You should find that the batter flows out to the edges without you having to move the tip. Finish by giving the tip a little flick to cut the flow and pull the bag quickly away.
10. Give your tray a couple of good bashes on the work surface to get rid of any air bubbles and help any tips to be absorbed
11. Leave for 10-15 mins for a skin to form on top before baking
12. The first oven temperature to try is 160c and the baking time is recommended to be 10 mins. Oven temperatures are all so variable though so see how your first batch go and adjust accordingly. It can be as low as 155c or as high as 165c. Also, if your macarons are too dry try cooking next time fro 8 mins and if they are too wet, try cooking them for 12 mins. This will be a bit of trial and error but hopefully it wont take you too long to work it out. I have actually got an oven thermometer now as the dial on my cooker has a gap between 150c and 180c leaving me to guess in between. Also, I know that for many ovens the dial might say one thing and the actual thermometer reading in the oven says something completely different, so again an oven thermometer will help with accuracy
13. Leave the macarons on the baking tray until completely cool. They will still be cooking whilst the tray is hot even when they are out of the oven
14. Fill with a chocolate gananche, butter cream, whipped cream or anything else that takes your fancy. It’s best to flavour your filling if that is what you want to do rather than flavour the shells as this can affect the batter and as the consequence the end result also
Presenting Your Hard Work
The final thing to think about is how you might present your macarons. They make such impressive gifts and if you wrap them up nicely you can recreate something from a posh Parisian patisserie with just a little extra thought. I’ve put together a few ideas that I have seen by creating a Macaron Pinterest board. I also had a bit of a play with the macarons I made, and here is what I came up with.
In a cellophane bag tied with a ribbon:
See title picture. Very easy but extremely effective.
In little boxes:
I had a few mini loaf baking boxes and these were perfect for fitting in 3 of my macarons and wrapping up with cellophane and raffia. It does not have to be a box like mine. It can be any little box that you might have sitting in your cupboard or ready to go out to the recycling bin. A bit of tissue paper at the bottom of a larger box looks very nice.
This may look a little crazy at first glance but the more I played around with this idea the more I liked it. It puts together 2 of my favorite things (flowers and homebaked treats) and if someone gave me this I would be truly touched.
What makes this even more special is that the flowers are from my own garden too. It’s the first time I have grown sweet peas and I have blogger and author Vanessa Kimbell to thank for this. Vanessa sent out seeds to willing bloggers as part of her campaign to encourage people to buy British flowers or to ‘grow our own’. She highlights how workers in the flower industry are being exploited and that eco systems are being ruined as a result of the intensive farming of flowers in other countries. Not something I was aware of before.
So this is my posy to show Vanessa what her seeds have turned into, and it smells, (and tastes) divine.
Tagged British bloggers in support of British flowers, British flowers, French meringue, macaron feet, macaron recipe, macaron tips, macaronage, macarons, pink macarons, presenting macarons, sweet pea posy, sweet peas, Vansessa Kimbell