Challenges when making macarons
Macaron Making Process
An excellent French macaron has three essential parts: properly made shells, an excellent filling, and sufficient rest time. If you nail all three, you will have a perfect macaron that will rival those sold in top patisseries; there is no doubt in my mind.
Making macaron shells
This macaron shell recipe uses the Italian meringue method. I found that this method works the best for me. While I struggled with the French meringue method to get perfect results, the Italian method was a cakewalk from the start. If you are a novice baker, this method is for you.
This method works better because the Italian meringue is the most stable type of meringue, so it is sometimes favored over the French meringue. This explains why Pierre Herme chose it for his macaron recipe. I often see novice bakers shy away from the Italian meringue because it involves heating sugar and pouring it over whipped egg whites. It sounds a lot scarier than it actually is.
In reality, it's very, very simple. All you need is a good candy thermometer. Pierre Herme recommends heating sugar to 239F and then starting to whip egg whites while the sugar temperature rises to 244F. He wants the sugar to be ready simultaneously with the eggs. I found it to be difficult when working with a small amount of sugar in small batches at home. The sugar temperature rises way too quickly from 239F to 244F for me to do that.
So, instead, I recommend whipping the eggs first, then quickly heating up the sugar to 244F. It will take about a couple of minutes over medium to medium-high heat. What I found works best for me is to start at medium-high heat and lower it to medium or medium-low as the sugar approaches 230F. It's less stressful, and I've never had a problem doing it this way.
Another great thing about the Italian meringue method, I find, is that you don't need to be extremely careful folding the meringue into the almond flour mixture. I tried to be careful and not so careful and always had excellent results.
Pierre Herme recommends that once piped, the unbaked shells need to rest for at least 30 minutes to develop skins. I've tested rest times from 30 minutes to over an hour and found no appreciable difference, so I stick to 30 minutes.
Making macaron filling
There are thousands of really good French macaron filling recipes covering a multitude of flavors. But if you ask me, the best filling is a white chocolate cream ganache with a little bit of berry liqueur. My favorite one to use in this recipe is the French Chambord Royale black raspberry liquor. A little bit of alcohol enhances and amplifies the flavor of chocolate, making ganache taste ten times better.
In case you wonder, I am not a big fan of butter ganache, as butter tends to coat taste buds and dull the flavors.
Another thing that I love to add to my macarons is jam with good acidity, like raspberry or apricot jam. It balances the sweetness of cream ganache and creates a more robust and exciting flavor profile.
I had a family member who vehemently opposed any jam in macarons, saying that it wasn't authentic, but once they tried my macarons with jam, they didn't want to have them any other way.
Macarons, unlike canele, aren't best the day they are made. They need 24 hours in the refrigerator to reach optimal taste. However, make sure to remove them from the fridge 2 hours prior to serving to allow the filling to soften up. This doesn't sound like a big deal, but it makes a huge difference. Don't skip this step.
Are macarons gluten-free?
Yes, macarons are completely gluten-free as they are made of almond flour and contain no gluten normally found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale.
Do macarons need to be refrigerated?
Yes, macarons taste better after a 24-hour refrigeration. It's best to make them a day before serving.
How to store macarons?
The best way to store macarons is to refrigerate them. Take macarons out of the refrigerator 2 hours before serving.
French Macarons with White Chocolate Ganache and Jam
For the filling
- 65 g heavy cream
- 20 g glucose syrup use honey if you don't have glucose syrup
- 170 g white chocolate chopped into pieces; use good quality chocolate.
- 20 g raspberry liqueur or any other berry liqueur
- 3 Tbsp raspberry jam or apricot jam; you may also use other types of jam that you like or have on hand
For the macaron shells
- 150 g almond flour
- 150 g icing sugar powdered sugar
- 110 g egg whites from about 3-4 eggs; divided into two halves
- 2.5 g red food coloring use orange food coloring if filling with apricot jam
- 150 g caster sugar
- 38 g drinking water
To make the ganache
- Combine the cream and the glucose syrup in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Pour the hot cream mixture over chopped white chocolate and let sit for 1 minute. Next, using a spoon or a spatula, mix the mixture vigorously until it emulsifies.
- Stream in the raspberry liqueur, stirring the mixture until it's homogeneous. Transfer the mixture into a large baking dish, cover it with Saran wrap, and let cool at room temperature.
To make macaron shells
- Sift the icing sugar and almond powder. Mix the food coloring into the first half of the egg whites.
- Next, mix the egg white and food coloring mixture into the almond powder mixture and set aside.
- Whip the second half of the egg whites to stiff peaks. Immediately begin to boil the water and sugar and bring them up to 244F (118C) without stirring. Next, slowly stream the hot sugar into the whipped egg whites while carefully whisking the mixture. You can use a hand or a stand mixer. Let the mixture cool to 122F (50C).
- Next, fold the meringue into the almond flour mixture until homogeneous. Transfer the batter into a piping bag fitted with a #11 plain piping tip.
- Pipe the batter into circles approximately 1.3" (3.5 cm) in diameter, spacing them 1" (2.5 cm) on a baking tray lined with parchment paper or a Silpat macaron mat. Tap the baking sheet a couple of times on a flat working surface covered with a kitchen towel to remove air bubbles. Let the shells sit at room temperature for at least 30 min to develop a skin.
- Preheat the oven to 355F (180C). Transfer the tray to the oven, opening and closing the oven door swiftly, and let the shells bake for 12 minutes. Next, remove the shells from the oven, slide them off from the baking tray onto a working surface, and let cool completely at room temperature.
- Transfer the ganache into a piping bag fitted with a #11 plain piping tip. Place 1/4 teaspoon of jam in the center of a shell. Next, generously pipe raspberry ganache around the jam. Do this to half of the shells. Next, cover the filled shells with the remaining unfilled shells.
- Refrigerate the assembled macarons for 24 hours. Remove from the fridge 2 hours prior to serving.