For loads of foodies, macarons (or is it macaroons — we’ll get to that later) are a bit of a culinary white whale. Something you’d like to get right, but just never do (or maybe you’re too scared to even try making macarons!).
To help you (and us) get over this irrational fear of what’s really just a baked good, we asked baker extraordinaire, blogging genius and honorary Essentials team member Katelyn Williams to share her tips for making macarons.
She promises that although macarons have a bit of a reputation for being temperamental, anyone can make them with a bit of patience and the right advice. And even if your first attempt isn’t Instagram-worthy, they’ll still be delicious.
Read more: How to make shortcrust pastry in 3 easy steps
First thing’s first: What’s the difference between a macaroon and a macaron?
‘Macaroon’ (rhymes with baboon) is the term often used to refer to coconut macaroons, whereas the French word ‘macaron’ (rhymes with mastodon) is used to refer to the delicate almond cookies we’re talking about here. But this is actually false. We’ll give you a moment to let that sink in
According to The Concise Larousse Gastronomique (the bible of cooking and baking) the correct English term to use for both is ‘macaroon’ — so you get almond macaroons and coconut macaroons. If you’re French though, go ahead and call it a ‘macaron’. Still confused? Don’t worry, it’s an ongoing battle even among pastry chefs!
[Note from the Essentials team: We still can’t stop calling them macarons though…]
Read more: How to make edible chocolate bowls
The Kate Tin’s top tips for making macarons
1. All about eggs
The first macaron tip I have to share is also the easiest to follow: always use room temperature eggs. Weighing the egg whites is also important, so don’t be tempted to skip this step! It ensures that you get exactly the right ratio of egg whites to sugar and almond flour.
2. Blend baby
It may seem fussy, but blending and sieving the ground almonds and icing sugar together is critical when making macarons. The ground almonds or almond flour we get here in South Africa can sometimes be quite coarse, and making sure you have a lovely fine consistency = lovely fine macarons.
3. Correct colour
Because the macaron batter is so temperamental, adding any additional liquid can result in less than perfect results. That’s why, if you want to colour your macaron shells, it’s best to use gel colouring or powdered food colouring.
4. Look for lava
Possibly the most important tip for making macarons relates to folding your batter (and when to stop folding!). If you fold too much, your macarons will be flat; fold too little and they might have holes and pointy tops.
Start by carefully folding the almonds and icing sugar into the egg whites. As soon as the batter looks mixed through drop some batter off your spatula — it should spread slightly, but hold its shape for a few seconds. If it’s too stiff, continue mixing.
If you’re a geologist, macaron makers love to say that the final mix should be the consistency of lava.
5. Consistency is key
Use a shot glass to trace circles on the baking paper then turn it over, this will help you to pipe macaroons that are the same size — which makes it easier to match your macaron shells when it comes to filling them.
6. Tap that
Once you’ve piped your macarons, tap the tray firmly on the counter so that all the bubbles come to the surface, This is important for getting that shiny smooth surface that macarons are famous for.
7. Well rested
Leaving the piped macarons out at room temperature for about an hour is a vital step — it allows the surface to dry out slightly and gives macarons their characteristic shape.
But keep an eye on them; depending on how dry or humid the air is, this could take more or less time. When they’re ready, they will look slightly dull and if you touch them (very gently), the batter shouldn’t stick to your finger.
Read more: Master the delicious art of making choux pastry
8. Temperature tips
Check that your oven temperature is accurate by using a sugar or oven thermometer before you begin. You may need to adjust the temperature accordingly.
Different recipes may call for different temperatures and cooking times, but remember: if you have a fan-assisted oven, you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 10 degrees Celcius.
9. Keep it simple
If you want to experiment with flavours, rather add the flavourings (such as spices, extract or zest) to the filling instead of messing with the batter. Once you’re a macaron-making pro, you can get fancy with the fillings, but in the beginning, don’t make things more difficult than they need to be!
10. Almost ready!
Maturing the macaroons after filling is vital to getting that signature chewy texture so fill them with ganache and then leave them out for a few hours.
11. Freezer friendly
Can you freeze macarons? Yes, you can! Unfilled macaron shells freeze wonderfully — simply pack them in an airtight container with baking paper in-between them. Then when you need them, simply defrost and fill.