Recipes

Tips to Make the Best French Macarons

07/03/2013

I have never been much of a macarons lover: they are small and expensive luxury treats. They never satisfy my sugar-cravings! But it is undeniable that they make the prettiest desserts: smooth, colourful, sophisticated and French! How can we not love them?

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French Macarons are often the Achille’s heel of bakers. They require patience, practice and precision, so for me attending a macaron-making workshop seemed like the best idea.

One of the most vexing tasks some bakers come across is making the perfect Parisian macaron, those ethereal little domes of almond meringue seen all over Paris, often filled with buttercream, ganache, or a fruity filling of jam. [David Lebovitz]

With my friend Charlotte, I purchased a Groupon deal to Loretta Liu’s class at On Cookery School in Clapham. The workshop was very well organized and taught and I am happy to have attended it!

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Why is it important to attend a workshop before making French macarons for the first time? As I said, they require a lot of attention, so it is helpful to watch someone else making them in front of you (twice!). Practicing with a teacher by your side, ready to correct your mistakes, also makes all the difference.

Here you will find step-by-step photos of my preparation of the macarons. To write this post, I have integrated a few tips learnt during the On Cookery School workshop, as well as a few others found on Serious Eats, The Guardian and David Lebovitz blog.

First of all, an obvious but important tip: always use good quality equipment and ingredients.

Start by sifting your dry ingredients (ground almond and icing sugar), repeat multiple times if necessary. The objective is to have no lumps!

Sift the icing sugar on top of the ground almond; don’t mix them.

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Separate the egg whites from the yolks three days ahead. When you prepare the meringue, the egg whites should be at room temperature. Using fresh egg whites is more likely to result in macarons that are too fragile and flat.

Pay close attention when you whisk the sugar and egg whites together, as the meringue should not be too liquid, nor too stiff.

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Carefully fold the meringue with the dry ingredients, scraping the bowl from the sides first, then from the bottom up.

Use a colouring paste to add colours to your macarons and a jug to fill out the piping bag (it makes it so much easier!).

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It is important to stay focused during the preparation of macarons, as everything has to happen in time and without distractions.

I waited a few minutes before piping the mixture onto the baking sheet and by that time it had started to fill with air, which in turn made the macarons less stiff.

When you pipe the macarons onto the baking sheet, a good way to check if the meringue is of the right consistency is to form peaks on top of the cookies. If the peak stays up, it means the meringue is well prepared.

Of course, you won’t get a flat, smooth macarons on the first round, but it is more important to get the method right first, then practice the looks, with time.

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At the workshop, we didn’t have to worry about the cooking side (which was taken care of by Loretta’s assistant), but – fyi – it is important to leave the macarons to set for some time before baking them.

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Loretta explained us the importance of knowing your own oven. Every oven is different and the temperature shown on the display never really matches the real temperature inside (which is why it is useful to own an oven thermometer!). When making French macarons, the oven temperature must be exactly 160 °C.

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For the filling of our French macarons, we used a Valrhona chocolate ganache, that Loretta had prepared the day before.

We were given the chocolate ganache to take home, as the macarons should not be filled when they are still warm from the oven.

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And now the hard part: macarons are supposed to rest for a day before you eat them, as they taste better with a bit of rest (you need to store them in the fridge).

I am very proud of my first attempt at making macarons. It was “easy” to make them at school, using the best baking equipment and good quality ingredients, but most of all having the attentive Loretta available at every step to guide me.

I know it won’t be easy to make them again, on my own, but I have learnt the most important lesson: don’t be afraid to get it wrong the first (many) times. Only with practice and patience you will get the perfect results!

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Tina
Tina
05/03/2014 08:04

You have to tap the sheet of piped macarons on the bench… that’s why the have that unappealing pointy tops

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