Patisserie

Macaron masterclass

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These little meringue-like cookies give even the most experienced bakers a hard time. The sheer skill and technical ability needed to make these correctly scare off many from trying, and rightly so. The Macaron is widely associated with French patisserie worldwide. You could hardly go to France and not see a huge range of colourful Macarons displayed in the patisseries for all to see. But did you know the Macaron has it’s origins traced back to Italy. The name is derived from Italian word maccarone, which means paste. They were first made in the Italian Monasteries circa 9th century. It wasn’t until the mid 1500’s that they were introduced to the French mainstream when the Italian Monks traveled there along with the pastry chefs of Catherine de Medici. Eventually the recipe was adopted in the mid 1700’s by the Jewish community as the macaron contains no flour and therefore could be enjoyed during the 8-day Passover.

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I have attempted these in the past many times before and haven’t ever got a batch that I have been 100% happy with. Saying that each time I was happier with my results compared to the batch previous to it. Recently I have used one of my contacts in a certain 5* Hotel in Dublin to undertake some voluntary work/training in their pastry department. It was here that I got my Macaron masterclass, and now I can share it with you!

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Due to the hotel making such large quantities of their foods I had to scale this recipe down. Even still this scaled down version yielded 90 macaron shells (45 complete macarons). Out of those 90 only 5 had any sort of blemish. Now that I can be proud of! Follow these steps exactly and you too can produce professional grade macarons at home.

You will need:

225g egg whites
300g ground almonds
300g Icing sugar (make sure it is 10x which is the finest ground type of icing sugar)
300g caster sugar
75g water

For 1 quantity of fruit flavoured ganache:
200g white chocolate (or 1/2 and 1/2 milk and dark)
70g fruit puree
30g double cream
50g butter, softened

Food colouring

How to do it like a pro:

1. The night or even a few days before you want to make your macarons separate your egg whites into a large bowl or container. Cover and leave overnight (or for at least 8 hours) in the fridge. What this does is start to break down the proteins and make them runnier, meaning that when whipped they can froth up a lot more, therefore holding more air. Since the egg whites leavin the macaron this helps to give a better rise.
2. On baking day measure your egg whites into 2; 100g whites in a large bowl and the other 125g whites in the bowl of a freestanding mixer. Measure your other ingredients so you are ready to go.

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At this point line about 4 of your biggest baking/oven trays with baking parchment, set out some piping bags and your thermometer.
3. Blitz the icing sugar and ground almonds in a food processor a few times or for just under a minute. Add this to the bowl with 100g whites.

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 Mix together until your form a very thick paste and there are no dry spots of sugar or almonds left at the bottom.
4. Place the caster sugar and water into a medium pan over a high heat and stir briefly. Have a cup of water and pastry brush ready at the side to brush down the sides of the pan if sugar crystals start to form.

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<-You can see the crystals forming around the edges in the photo here.

You also should skim off the top of the syrup when it starts to boil as this will remove any impurities that would affect the final biscuit.

Bring the syrup up to 118°C/244°F at which point start the mixer with the 125g whites on high speed until they reach just under a soft peak. Keep your eye on the sugar syrup though!
5. When the syrup reaches 120°C/248°F remove it from the heat, place the mixer to medium speed and slowly drizzle the syrup into the egg whites. Once it’s all in you can return the mixer to medium/high speed and keep it mixing for about 7-10 minutes or until the meringue is very thick and holds it’s shape.
6. This next tip is something the recipe books don’t tell you. You shouldn’t mix the meringue with the paste until the meringue has cooled to below 35°C/95°F. If mixed above this temperature the heat will cause the oils in the almonds to run and make the meringue very runny or cause it to split when baking.

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It took mine 30 minutes to cool to the desired temperature. Perfect time to do those dishes!

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7. Use your hand (yes your hand) to mix 1/3 of the meringue into the paste to loosen it. Add the other 2/3 in 2 separate batches and mix until it is evenly mixed and still just holds it’s shape.

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When I originally witnessed this I was skeptical and admittedly I was going to only use my hand for the first 1/3 and switch to a spoon for the rest but I went through with it and I’m glad I did.

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Using your hands lets you really get involved with the mixing and have a real feel for when the mixture is ready. It’s like in bread baking-using your hands may be messier and a bit slower but you accurately judge when it mixed perfectly, whereas in a machine you only have your sight to go by.
CIMG40218. Use your food colouring to dye the mixture to the desired colour. If you want to make a few separate coloured macarons then simply separate the mix into different bowls, add your food colouring and mix until evenly distributed. Here I made some yellow and purple. Try to match the colours with what flavours you want. I am making blackberry and apple, lemon and banana.

9. Put the mix(es) into a piping bag(s). Use the back of a spatula or your hand to push all the mix to the bottom of the piping bag then twist it a few times at the top. When ready store them as shown to avoid spilling:

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Cut the top of the bag and then start to pipe onto your prepared trays. The best way to pipe them is to hold the bag straight and press with one hand on top (direct the bag with the other hand). Once you have a small circle about the size you want the shell to be stop squeezing the top of the bag and spiral the tip of the bag to ‘sign off’ the paste.

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10. Once everything’s piped leave them to dry out for at least 2 hours. What this does is creates a nice shield on top so that they do not split in the oven. You will know they are ready when they original shine has faded and they look a little dull.

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11. If your oven has a dry heat setting set it to 170°C/338°F. Dry heat is best but if you don’t have that setting just use the fan setting. Bake for 6.5 minutes rotate the trays then bake for a further 6.5 minutes. Cool on a wire rack until cold. You can start the ganache(s) at this point (see below).
12. Slide a palette knife under the cooled shells to remove them from the parchment.

CIMG4045Match up all the similar sized shells in pairs and set aside until your ganache is ready.

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13. For the ganache(s) measure out your ingredients so you are ready to go.I used a double quantity for this recipe.

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Melt the chocolate in a microwave in 15 second blasts. Meanwhile place the puree and cream in a pan and bring to a boil. Mix together the cream and puree, chocolate and the butter until smooth and silky. If you want to make chocolate macarons uses 1/2 milk and 1/2 dark chocolate, 100g cream and 50g butter. Chill until just set.

14. Place the ganache(s) into piping bag(s) and pipe into one half of a pair of shells:

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Rather than press down, use a twisting motion to evenly spread the ganache to the edges.

We’re done! Sorry if there was a lot to take in there I tried to cut it down to as few steps as I could whilst getting through all the information you need. Reading this in detail once and giving it a go should be enough for future references but it is best to know exactly what you are doing and why.

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Toy about with the colours and the flavours because the possibilities are endless. Just now I’m thinking of making sprinkling on some chilli powder before baking to make chilli-chocolate macarons!

Thanks again for reading (and sorry there was so much).

Steve

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3 thoughts on “Macaron masterclass

  1. I used a deep purple gel and an egg yellow liquid colouring in this case. I would suggest using the gel as I found it doesn’t affect the liquid content of the macaroon as much and you actually use less.

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