Ahhh, the macaron. The oh-so-fancy queen of cookies. Crisp and smooth on the outside with a soft and chewy centre sandwiched together by a creamy filling – what’s not to love? These multi-coloured naturally gluten-free almond cookies have been around for centuries, yet most of us still become petrified at the thought of attempting them at home. They’re a little tricky at first, but once you know all the tips and tricks, you’re bound to claim the title of Macaron Master.
Traditionally macarons are filled with buttercream, ganache or jam, but these days fun savoury variations and macaron ice-cream sandwiches are all the rage. Serve these dainty cookies at special events, high teas or simply as a glamorous afternoon treat.
The trick is to bake cookie shells that are crisp and smooth on the outside with a soft and pillowy centre, while also creating those all-important macaron feet at the base of each one.
There are a few secrets to creating perfect macarons each time. Always grind up your almond flour and icing sugar together in a food processor before sifting. This ensures the finest and most lump-free texture possible.
It’s important that the eggs used are at room temperature. Cold eggs won’t give you the same texture and volume as slightly warmer eggs would.
Avoid using regular liquid food colouring, as this thins out the macaron batter due to the extra liquid. It’s best to use gel food colouring, as it’s thicker and more intense in colour.
Raw piped macarons always need to rest before going into the oven. This is the trick to creating the perfect macaron foot at the base of each one. The resting process also ensures an even upward rise.
There’s much debate about using baking paper or baking mats to bake macarons. Both work, but plain baking paper results in macarons baking slightly quicker and allows for a more even and crisp bake.
Always cool your macarons on the baking sheets and only remove them once they can easily be peeled off.
TRY IT: Strawberries-and-cream macarons
Difficulty: A little effort
Preparation time: 1 hour + 1.5 hours resting time
Cooking time: 16 minutes
Combine 120g almond flour and 180g icing sugar in a food processor and blend for a few minutes until fine. Sieve the mixture and discard any coarse bits. Set the mixture aside. Also line 2 large baking trays with baking paper.
Place 3 large egg whites, which are at room temperature, in a clean mixing bowl. Add 1.25ml cream of tartar and whisk until soft peaks form.
Gradually add 45ml castor sugar and whisk until stiff and glossy, 2-3 minutes. The shiny mixture should be stiff enough that you can hold the bowl upside down without it spilling.
Gently fold in the almond mixture, a third at a time. The mixture should be shiny and pourable but not too thin. Test the batter thickness by lifting the spatula and dripping the batter back down into the bowl while forming a figure 8. The texture should resemble a flowy ribbon.
Gently fold in 2 or 3 drops of pink liquid gel food colouring.
Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a plain round nozzle. Pipe 40 rounds of batter with a 4cm diameter each on the lined trays. Gently push down on the piping bag to squeeze out a bit of batter, pull up gently and allow the tops to flatten naturally. Leave some space between each piped macaron.
Lightly tap the baking trays down on a surface a few times. This removes any additional air bubbles.
Set the piped macarons aside at room temperature for 30 minutes. The shells should be slightly dry to the touch. Preheat the oven to 150°C.
Bake the macarons for 14-16 minutes until the tops are crisp. Remove the trays from the oven and set aside to cool, 1 hour. Gently peel off the macarons from the baking paper.
Whip 250ml cream, 15ml sugar and 2.5ml vanilla extract together. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle. Finely chop 6 (120g) strawberries.
To assemble the macarons, pipe a dollop of the whipped cream onto the base of a macaron round. Sprinkle some finely chopped strawberries on top and finish it off with another macaron shell. Repeat with the rest. Because these macarons contain fresh fruit, they are best assembled right before serving.