These French confectioneries were popular during the time of Marie Antoinette, but actually hark from medieval days. I’ve developed a fondness for these delicate treats since I accidentally stumbled upon them in Paris many years ago. However, I’ve never attempted to bake them; there are more than enough stories of how devilishly tricky these are to recreate.
The macaron craze hit New Zealand a few years back, and there are now at least two well-known macaron brands; Ma Cherie (Auckland) and J’aime les macaron (Christchurch). To help me get over my macaron-baking phobia, I booked into a demonstration (at Nosh Food Market Mt Eden) by Guillaume Nicoli of Ma Cherie macaron fame, and yes, of the Macaron Tower Frenzy which caused Jax’s demise at the final of Masterchef NZ Series 2.
During the demonstration, Guillaume was incredibly generous with hints and tips on how he makes his macarons. We were also offered three flavours of macarons to sample during the evening, – a lemon macaron, a scarlet strawberry and a mocha. The mocha was my favourite; the aromatic coffee shells held together with a rich dark chocolate ganache. Pure decadence.
220g icing sugar
140g blanched almond meal
100g egg white
few drops of food colouring
120g white chocolate
5g flavour/essence or 4g paste
· Ensure that the almond meal is completely dry. If not, spread on a baking sheet on a tray and dry in a warm oven for 1 hour.
· 100g is approximately egg whites from 3 x Size 6 eggs.
· Use ‘old’ eggs. You can either, –
1. Separate then freeze the egg whites overnight, defrost before using
2. Rest the egg whites in fridge for 5 days
3. Rest the egg whites at room temperature for 1-2 days
· Make sure the piped batter is dry to the touch before baking
· Make sure the oven temperature is correct (use a thermometer to check if possible)
· Use ‘normal’ bake, fan bake will cause uneven baking, as the fan in domestic ovens is too strong
· Bake one tray at a time for even baking, – *very important
Whisk the white eggs until very stiff peaks, add the food colouring at the last possible moment.
Fold the meringue into the almond mixture with a spatula, – you want to create a ‘lava’ like texture. This will take a few minutes of constant folding.
Pipe the batter into approx. 3.5cm diameter circles on baking paper
Bang the tray on the counter several times to slightly flatten the batter. Let the batter dry at room temperature for 1 hour until surface is dry to touch. (or dry for 15 minutes in heated oven, with door open)
Bake the macaron for 20 minutes. Cool before removing from baking paper. If the shells stick to the paper, put them in the freezer to ‘loosen’ them. Unfortunately, the oven did not cooperate (inaccurate temperature), and the shells did not cook properly. Guillaume was horrified when I snapped a photo of the ‘failed’ macarons shells, but I guess it shows that this is a technically difficult recipe. He kept his sense of humour though, and insisted that he truly is a trained pastry chef and has actually successfully baked macarons. (I had one later, and it still tasted great).
Method for ganache:
Chop the chocolates into small pieces. Melt partially in the microwave. Add the flavourings. Heat the cream in a small saucepan until boiling. Add the boiling cream to the chocolate mixture and whisk together.
Put in fridge until the ganache is set (around 30 minutes), but still moist enough to pipe. Pipe onto one macaron shell, assemble and rest in fridge for 24 hours before eating.
Apparently most people have half a dozen attempts before they make successful macarons everytime. I’ve got my ingredients, and fingers crossed….