Thursday, October 29, 2009

Macarons: Tips, Tricks and How to Macaronnage

A work in Progress

There are fabulous macaron sites out on the blogosphere. You only have to do a search on 'macaron' to find a multitude of information.
Some of my favourite sites are: Audax Artifex; Mercotte; Mélanger; Mowielicious; Syrup and Tang; Tartlette; Trissalicious; For fantastic information, visit Bravetart1 & Bravetart2 (added 16-08-11). Great tips and info on problems including hollow macarons (macawrongs).
Granted, they're not the easiest thing to master, but if you are prepared to experiment a little, use a little trial and error, a little patience and persistence, you will eventually make the most delightful little macarons. In the process, even if they don't turn out picture perfect, they will still taste fantastic.
Some useful information:
(from information I have compiled off the web in the last 2 years and from my notes that I made from a class that I did at Savour Chocolate & Patisserie School in Melbourne Australia)
Almond meal (ground almond)
The almond meal we buy in Australia is too wet and has a coarse texture. To achieve the smooth flat tops typically associated with macarons, first dry the almond meal. Leave it out on your bench, covered, for a few days. Alternatively, you can spread it out on a baking tray and place it in the oven at 150˚C (350˚F) for 5 minutes and then cool it down completely. This also helps release the flavour from the nuts. Make sure you keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. Other nuts also work perfectly well for macarons, but taste different to almonds. You can substitute any nut flour/meal such as cashews or hazelnuts. You can even add in sesame seeds or poppy seeds.
Tant pour tant (French for half and half)
Tant pour tant is a mixture of equal amounts of almond meal (ground almond) and superfine (castor) or confectioner’s (icing) sugar. It is ground in a food processor into fine granules or powder. The fine sugar helps to grind the nuts and also absorbs the oil from the nuts. Most recipes state, that to get a delicate smooth macaron, sift the almond powder through a fine sieve at least twice. I haven’t found this necessary, as my food processor is quite powerful.
Egg Whites
Egg whites are usually aged out on the bench for 2 to 3 days. Place them in a glass container covered with plastic wrap and cut a small slit in the top of the wrap. This helps them to dehydrate. Alternatively, they can be microwaved for 10 - 20 seconds on medium high, which will give the same results. Egg whites must be at room temperature as they whip and hold better at room temperature. Dried egg white can also be added (2% of the egg white volume) to tighten and stabilize the meringue to give it slightly more holding time but this is optional. This is added at the soft peak stage. Three large egg whites will weigh approximately 100 grams.
Whipping egg white increases the volume and incorporates air. Because of its low surface tension and the stability of the surface, the egg white forms a foam. Start beating slowly, gradually increasing speed.
The stiffness of the meringue can be determined by it’s appearance, the height of peaks and the extent to which the point bends over when the egg beater is lifted out of the meringue, and also how it flows when the bowl is partially inverted.
Soft peak: When slightly whipped, air bubbles are large and the egg white appears foamy, transparent, and very runny. With more beating the bubbles become smaller, the egg white less transparent, whiter and still flows if the bowl is partially inverted.
Slip and streak stage: The egg white has soft peaks and it will hold the shape of a bird’s beak.
Stiff peak: The egg white becomes stiffer as it is beaten and as the air bubbles divide and become smaller. The amount of egg white utilized in forming films is greater. The small air bubbles with fine cell walls are stronger and more rigid than a few large cells. The eggwhite becomes very white, begins to lose a little of the moist, shiny appearance, and is stiff and rigid. When the bowl is inverted, the egg white does not flow and remains in the bowl and the end of peaks stand up straight.
Dry: If the egg is left to stand, the watery fluid collects at the bottom of the bowl more slowly. With longer beating the eggwhite becomes dry, loses its shine and becomes curdled and patchy.
Sugar increases the stability of whisked egg white. Either superfine (castor) sugar or confectioner’s (pure icing) sugar is used as the smaller particles assist with aeration. The best amount of sugar is approximately 4 (to 5) tablespoons per egg white.
Stabilising agent
Cream of tartar (an acid salt) is generally used to condition the protein of the egg white and also helps the structure providing tenderness and stability of the foam - 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar per egg white is used for this purpose. Lemon juice can also be used (1-1/2 teaspoons).
This must not be oil based, as oil will destabilize the egg white. The Intensity will depend on the food coloring used. Concentrated food colouring has more intensity than powdered food colouring. The cooked macarons will be lighter than the uncooked macronage, so don't be shy adding a little more than you think is necessary.
Some recipes say to add salt. Salt decreases the ability of the egg white to whisk, increases beating time and also decreases stability. It is better to add salt to the dry ingredients if you are adding it.
Humidity is the macarons enemy. Don’t make macarons on wet and muggy days.
Types of meringue used in Macarons
There are three methods for whipping egg whites for macarons; the uncooked meringue methods - French and Spanish, and the Italian meringue method using hot sugar syrup. All methods should produce similar macarons. The most important things are learning how to macronner and getting to know your oven.
For small batches, French and Spanish methods are faster and easier.
The French Method
The French method deflates quickly and is too unstable for large batches. This method involves whipping raw egg whites to a simple medium stiff foam (soft peak) then gradually adding castor sugar (1/3 at a time) to tighten and stabilize the meringue (stiff peak stage). You should end up with a glossy meringue that can be turned upside down without falling out of the bowl. The meringue is then mixed with the tant pour tant for the macronage stage as documented below. The texture of the finished macarons is very tender. French macarons are baked at approximately 150˚C.
The Spanish Method
The Spanish method is very similar to the French method except that the macarons are baked at a higher degree (160 to 165˚C) for a shorter time (approx 9 – 10 minutes) and extra confectioner’s (icing) sugar is added and sifted into the almond/sugar mixture (tant pour tant). The extra sugar gives the meringue better structure. The down side is that there is a tendency to get air bubbles in the finished batter.
Italian Method
The Italian meringue method is better for large batches. The egg whites are whisked until the volume is approximately 8 to 10 times the original. It is then combined with a hot sugar syrup. The meringue is more stable and gives more consistent results than the French or Spanish methods. There is more scope for playing with the batter. You can divide the batter and add different colours and flavours. The batter is softer and shinier and you don't have to dry the piped macarons as long. It may seem a little difficult at first, as the meringue and the sugar syrup must be ready at the same time, but it really is very easy once you have tried it and well worth the effort. Italian macarons are baked at approximately 150˚C.

Italian Method
(I prefer this method and have not had a failure yet)
Preparing the Hot Syrup for the Italian method
Get the hot syrup organized first. You will need to use a candy thermometer. The sugar and water are combined in a small pan then stirred continuously with a wooden spoon over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. It is then brought to the boil. It isn’t stirred once it has come to the boil. The heat is reduced to medium and the sides of pan brushed down with a clean, wet pastry brush. This is to remove sugar crystals and prevent grain forming. When the syrup reaches 115˚C (soft ball stage), start mixing the egg whites using a medium speed.
The meringue
The egg whites are whisked until they appear foamy, then cream of tartar is added. Then it is whisked further until they reach the slip and streak stage and the volume is approximately 8 to ten 10 the original. It is important not to overbeat at this stage. Use a medium to medium-high speed to get a stable foam with uniformed sized air bubbles (speed 6 on Kitchen Aide). A small pinch of dried egg white can be added at this stage to tighten and stabilize the meringue.
Adding the Hot Syrup
When the sugar syrup reaches 118˚C, it is removed from the stove and immediately poured down the side of the mixing bowl into the whipping egg whites. Recipes I have read vary from 118 to 121˚C, so don’t worry to much if it goes over a little. Be careful not to get it on the whisk, causing splattering and possible burns.
The volume of the whipped egg whites visibly increases. Colour is now also mixed in. Mixing is continued at medium speed until the mixing bowl is cool to the touch and the meringue has thickened and reached a workable temperature of around 35˚C.
Adding the tant pour tant
Before folding with the meringue, the dry ingredients (tant pour tant) are first mixed with a small portion of raw egg whites in a separate bowl to form a relatively firm paste. This is continuously mixed with a whisk so it doesn’t ball.
How to ‘Macaronner’
(or mixing the tant pour tant and the meringue) - this technique is used for the Italian, Spanish and French methods.
The meringue is transferred to a large flat mixing bowl for the Macaronage stage. This is the most critical stage in mixing. The batter has to be mixed to just the right consistency where it is supple and shiny. If the batter is over mixed, too many air bubbles will be deflated. You'll end up with flat, cracked, tough and chewy macarons. Air bubbles are needed to expand with the heat in the oven. This pushes the top of the macaron up to expose the wet part of the batter. If stirred to little, the macarons won't have feet and they will have a peak on their tops.
You will need to do between 40 and 50 turns all up (sliding the spatula under the batter, then lifting and dropping the batter back on itself, always working in one direction and turning the bowl by 1/4 turns at the same time).
Use a spatula to first fold and deflate the batter, mixing the tant pour tant, one-third at a time, into the whipped egg whites. For the first few turns, work fast and be a little robust as you want to knock out some of the air as you mix the meringue and the tant pour tant together (it's different to making meringue for cakes where you have to be delicate). When you have the tant pour tant nearly mixed in (you don't want to knock too much air out either) slow down a little.
Change to a plastic baker’s scrapper and then fold more slowly.
As you work the oils from the almonds batter will become looser.

Within a few turns it will change from a dull gritty surface with ridges and lines to a smooth, shiny surface and to what is described as thick flowing magma. In reality, who has seen magma before? This basically means that when you lift and drop the batter back on itself, after waiting for about 30 seconds, the ridges slowly ooze back into the batter.

Your batter is now ready to pipe.
If you see peaks after you have piped one whole row, it's not ready. Put it back into the mixing bowl and give it a few more turns. When piped, rap the tray a few times on the bench top to get rid of air bubbles. You can also use a wet finger to flatten out the peaks, but you will have under mixed macarons with possible rough areas on your macarons.
As the saying goes, practice makes perfect.
Spoon the mixture into the piping bag with a #11 - 1cm (1/2 inch round piping tip). The piping bag can be stood upright in a large jug. Silpat mats are preferable to parchment paper as the macarons are easier to remove. When using parchment paper, you may have to steam them off using a spray mist. If using parchment paper, you can draw 2.5cm rounds with a pencil on one side then use the reverse side.
The tip of the piping bag is held perpendicularly over the sheet to pipe the batter (which should be dropped rather than piped). Pipe batter into 2.5cm rounds across the tray stepping alternate rows diagonally 2.5cm apart. Pipe from the middle with the tip about 1cm (½ inch) above. The rounds will spread somewhat. To finish each macaron, the piping tip is flicked upwards with a twist of the wrist to finish or a reverse C can be used to cut off the batter then moved to the next position. If this is done correctly, there should shouldn’t be a nipple on the top, which will should flatten out relatively quickly.
After piping the first row of macarons, look back at the first one and see if the top has flattened out nicely. If not, scrape the batter up and mix to correct it (if under mixed), or add further tant pour tant (if over mixed) or start again. Even if the macarons are not perfect, they will still taste fabulous. When piping is completed, bang the baking sheets a few times against the bench to remove any air bubbles and even out the piped rounds. For the French and Spanish method, the piped macarons are then left to rest until they form a skin and are dry to the touch - about 20 to 30 minutes or more. Touch to see if they are dry and not sticking to your finger. The heat from the oven causes air bubbles to expand inside the piped batter, which pushes up the top dry skin of the macaron. This in turn reveals the inner wet part of the batter at the base and the formation of the “foot” of the macaron. If they are not dried out sufficiently, the batter will expand outwards and it will crack as it bakes. With the Italian method, the batter dries more quickly and they can be baked straight away (if you are game).
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Preheat convection oven to 150 - 160˚C or conventional to 160 - 170˚C. This is dependent on the recipe and method used and your oven. Note: But first, get to know your oven. Be prepared to experiment a little, use a little trial and error, a have a little patience and persistence as every oven is different. It will pay off in the long run. Convection ovens take less time and conventional oven take longer. Test your oven for hot spots. I use bottom heat only in my oven as the top heat browns the macarons too quickly. It is a good idea to do a practice run with only a few macarons and experiment with your oven to get it right.
Use an insulated baking tray (special double baking sheets that are ideal for macarons – I found mine in the supermarket and they were relatively cheap $14.95 AUD) or alternatively use two baking sheets (one on top of the other without a gap in between) and lay a piece of parchment or silpat on the doubled baking sheet.
Baking time may vary also. Generally, bake macarons for approximately 12 minutes but timing can be up to 17 minutes depending on your oven type and the size of the macarons. It is very important to keep an eye on the baking progress at the tail end of baking time to adjust as necessary. Open the oven and put your finger on one of the macarons. It should be firm with the slightest amount of give. If it wobbles, they require another minute or so.
Once baked, remove the tray from oven and leave the macarons to cool down on a rack before removing from the mat or paper. Don’t pull them from the paper. They should slide easily off the paper once cooled. If they don't place them in the freezer for a few seconds and they will come off more easily. You can also use a spatula, but be careful as the feet can tear. You can also Spritz with a spray water bottle between the parchment paper and tray. This causes steam and helps to loosen the macarons, but they must not be left for too long or they become too moist.
Finishing off
Pair up similar sized macarons, with one macaron turned face up. Pipe approximately a teaspoon of filling on to the turned up macaron, twist the pair together until filling comes just to the edges of the macarons. Place in a small paper cup cake patty to set.
Keep the unfilled shells in a container in the fridge and they will be more tender. Macarons can also be frozen either with filling or without. Freezing has a tenderizing effect but at the same time, the shells will be weaker than before being frozen. To defrost, remove the macarons from the freezer and place them in the refrigerator overnight. This minimizes condensation on the shells but also gives them a bit of shininess.
large flat mixing bowl
rubber spatula
bowl scrapper
electric mixer or Kitchen Aide
sugar saucepan (cheap nonstick supermaket type works well)
Candy/sugar thermometer
insulated baking sheets - so bottoms of macarons don't burn and you get nice little foot.

For a brilliant book on making macarons 'Les Petits Macarons' - go to this site. and watch their video on

Edited 01-08-2010
If you are looking for the violet flavouring , it comes from a French company:
Sevarome- Z.A La Guide 1 43200, Yssingeaux Z.I. La Guide, France
Tél : +33 4 71 59 04 78
Fax : +33 4 71 65 54 24

There is a distributor in Melbourne, Australia:
Unit 6/38 Thorton Crescent,
Mitcham VIC 3132
Phone: (+61 3) 98723945
Fax: (+61 3) 98740199

Or you can find it in smaller bottles

Cake Deco
Shop 5-7 Port Phillip Arcade
232 Flinders St, Melbourne

Melbourne VIC 3000

Tel.: (+ 61 3) 9654 5335

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Edible Bread Bowls - Fresh From the Oven - October Challenge

Thanks Ria for September’s "Fresh From the Oven" challenge and your lovely recipe for Stuffed Buns. They were delicious – and well done everyone on the challenge!

I am hosting the October challenge for "Fresh From the Oven". I have chosen to do the recipe - ‘Soup Bowls’, from Richard Bertinet’s fabulous book ‘Dough – Simple Contemporary Bread’. I bought the book in 2005 and have been meaning to make the soup bowls ever since but haven’t gotten around to it until now. To make it interesting, for this challenge, you can make any soup, stew or dip that you would like to go with the bread bowls. I have made Hungarian Goulash (gulyás) in the bowls.

The bread bowl recipe is quick and easy, It’s a great recipe to have in your repertoire and a lot of fun, There are no dishes to clean up afterwards and you get to lick the bowl as well as eat it. If you are organized, you can have it ready in time to serve up for dinner. They also freeze well for a few weeks.

This dough has a small amount of semolina added to give it a nice texture, and some fruity olive oil to make it soft, resilient and give it a good flavour. You can also add a little chilli or spice to the dough for extra flavour.

I found that the recipe makes 6 bowls using 16 x 10cm diameter pyrex bowls or 8 if you use 12cm bowls . Preparation takes 30 minutes, with 60 minutes resting time and 20 to 25 minutes to bake.

500 gm strong bread flour
20 gm course semolina
15 gm fresh yeast (or 1 sachet dried)
10 gm salt
50 gm good-quality fruity olive oil
320 gm water
chilli or spice (optional for added flavour)

Preheat the oven to 250˚C (500˚F). Mix together the flour and semolina and rub in the yeast as if you were making a crumble (Richard Bertinet’s method – see below for video link). If using a mixer, switch it on to the slowest speed, add salt, olive oil and water and mix for 2 minutes, then turn the speed up to the next lowest speed and mix for 6 to 7 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.

If you are kneading by hand, knead for approximately 10 to 12 minutes or until you have a nice smooth elastic ball of dough. Richard Bertinet has a unique kneading technique referred to as the French fold that can take approximately 5 to 10 minutes depending on practice. You can view his method in a online video at the Gourmet Webpage. In this video, he is actually doing sweet dough but the same technique can be used for most bread dough.

Place the dough into a bowl that has been floured, cover with a tea towel and leave in a draught free place for approximately 1 hour or until doubled in volume.

Lightly oil or spray with non-stick spray, the outside of 6 ovenproof bows (I used pyrex bowls). Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into 6 to 8 pieces (depending on the size of your baking bowls). Taking one piece of dough at a time and using a rolling pin, roll each piece into a circle (similar to making pizza). Shake off excess flour and shape each piece over an upturned bowl, patting into shape and pressing gently to remove air bubbles from between the dough and the bowl. Rest the dough for 10 minutes. Place the upturned bowls, two at a time, on a baking tray lined with parchment paper, then into the preheated oven. Turn the oven down to 200˚C (400˚F) and bake for 20 - 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes. Using a fine-bladed knife, gently loosen the bread from the bowls and ease off. Cool on a wire rack.

It is probably safer to serve the bowls on a plate, as they do become soggy after a while and the soup may leak through.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Daring Cook's October 2009 Challenge: Violet Macarons

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

Visit Ami S - LAmonkeygirl at

I have made some lovely little violet macarons complete with dried violets sprinkles for everyone to enjoy. I normally use the Italian Meringue technique, but as this was a challenge, I have used the recipe given by Ami S.

2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz) confectioners’ (icing) sugar
2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz) almond flour (meal)
2 tablespoons (25 g, .88 oz.) granulated sugar
5 egg whites (approximately 165 grams. 5.8 ounces) (at room temperature)
a few drops each of red and blue food colouring
whole crystalised violets (found in a speciality kitchen shops)


1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.

2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Add a few drops each of red and blue colouring until a pretty violet colour is obtained, making it brighter than the required finished colour as it fades during cooking.

3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.

4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.

5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper) and sprinkle whole crystalised violets on top of half of the shells.

6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.

7. Cool on a rack before filling.
Yield: This recipe is supposed to yield 10 dozen. Ami's note: My yield was much smaller than this. I produced about two dozen filled macaroons. (As was mine)

For the violet ganache:

50g unsalted butter
50g almond meal
100g confectioners (icing) sugar
1 teaspoon violet flavouring
a few drops each of red and blue colouring

Process almond meal and icing together same as for the macarons. Cream the butter and gradually add almond mixture. Add 1 teaspoon violet flavouring and a few drops each of red and blue colouring to make a pretty violet colour.

Finishing off: Pair up similar sized macarons, with one macaron turned face up. Pipe approximately a teaspoon of filling on to the turned up macaron, twist the pair together until filling comes just to the edges of the macarons. Place in a small paper cup cake patty to set.

Storing: Keep the unfilled shells in a container in the fridge and they will be more tender. Macarons can also be frozen. Freezing has a tenderizing effect but at the same time, the shells will be weaker than before being frozen. To defrost, remove the macarons from the freezer and place them in the refrigerator overnight. This minimizes condensation on the shells but also gives them a bit of shininess.

Note: The violet flavouring is from a French company: - Sevarome- Z.A La Guide 1 43200, Yssingeaux Z.I. La Guide, France
Tél : +33 4 71 59 04 78
Fax : +33 4 71 65 54 24

Don't forget to visit the other Daring Bakers and for some fabulous tips visit Audax Artifex at