French Macarons (Italian Method)
Out of all of my recipes, this is the one I get the most amount of positive feedback on. So, if you’ve been defeated by the little French cookie, this recipe will make it feel less intimidating for you. After you’ve mastered it you’ll feel like you’ve just completed a marathon and won first place, and Beyoncé is waiting at the finish line to put that first- place medal around your neck before singing you her entire new unreleased album. That’s how good you’ll feel.
With macarons, there are two ways to make the meringue part. The French meringue method, where you simply add the sugar to the egg whites, or the Italian meringue method, where you make a hot sugar syrup and add it to the egg whites. I prefer the Italian method. I find it yields much more consistent results.
One thing I would recommend is that you measure everything out before you start the recipe, because everything moves quickly when making macarons that you won’t have time to stop and measure things once you’ve started. After a couple of goes it’ll feel as easy as making cupcakes. It’s really not that difficult – promise!
French Macarons (Italian Method)
- 150 g almound flour
- 150 g icing sugar (confectioners’)
- 55 g egg whites
- 150 g granulated sugar
- 37 g water
- 55 g egg whites (for the meringue)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract vanilla bean paste
- Any frosting of your choice! I can’t say no to a chocolate ganachefilled macaron!
- Line two baking trays with silicone baking mats or baking paper (not greaseproof paper). If you’re using baking paper, you can dab the baking trays with a little of the macaron batter once you’ve made it. This will help the baking paper stick so that it doesn’t fly around in the oven and ruin your macarons. You’ll also need to clean the bowl you’ll be using to make the meringue. I find the best way to do that is to add 2 tsp of white vinegar. Use a paper towel to wipe the bowl with the vinegar until the bowl is dry. This will help ensure your egg whites whip up properly.
- Combine the almond flour and icing sugar in a food processor and pulse 4–5 times, or until well combined. (Take care not to pulse too many times, otherwise you’ll risk releasing the oils in the almonds.) Pulsing these ingredients does two things: it helps to get rid of any lumps in the sugar and it helps grind the almond flour to a finer consistency. Alternatively, you can sift the two ingredients together. This must be done at least three times.
- Transfer the almond mixture to a large, clean glass or metal mixing bowl. Add 55g egg whites and use a spatula to mix everything together until the mixture forms a paste. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
- To make the sugar syrup, combine the granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan. Give it a very gentle stir with a teaspoon to make sure they’re well combined. After this point, don’t mix the syrup again. Bring to a boil over a medium high heat. As the syrup bubbles away, it will splatter small bubbles of sugared water on the side of the pan. Use a pastry brush dabbed in a little bit of water to brush those bubbles back into the syrup. This will help prevent the syrup from crystallising.
- For this recipe, you’ll need a sugar thermometer to help you measure the temperature of the syrup. When the syrup reaches 115°C (239°F), add the remaining egg whites to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk them on medium speed to help break them apart and get them frothy.
- When the syrup reaches 118°C / 244°F, turn your mixer speed up to medium high and carefully pour the hot syrup into the egg whites in a slow and steady stream. Please be careful when doing this part, number one because the syrup is hot, but also if you add your syrup too quickly, you’ll cook the egg whites and they’ll turn into a runny soup. Once you’ve poured all the sugar syrup into the egg whites, continue whisking on high speed for about 3 minutes before adding the vanilla extract. It’s at this point that you can also add any food-gel colouring or food flavourings to the meringue.
- Continue whisking on high speed for another 4–5 minutes. Once the meringue has become thick and glossy and has cooled down almost to room temperature, stop the mixer and gently scrape down the bowl, then whisk on high speed for another couple of minutes.
- The next part is the mixing stage, otherwise known as ‘macaronage’, and is super important. It’s where most people go wrong – including me, until I took a trip to Paris and was physically shown how to do it by a French pastry chef!
- Grab a spatula full of the meringue and fold it into the almond-sugar mixture until well combined. This allows the mixture to thin out a little before you add the rest of the meringue. Different people mix macaron batter in different ways; some count the amount of times they mix, but I think it’s better to know what consistency to look out for. I like to go around the bowl with my spatula and then through the middle. You want to continue mixing that way until you reach the ‘ribbon stage’. The ribbon stage is when the batter falls off the spatula in a ribbon and disappears into the rest of the batter after about 10 seconds. That’s when you know the batter is ready to pipe. If you over mix the batter, it will thin out too much and you’ll have to start again. As you get closer and closer to a batter thing enough to fall off in that ribbon stage, you want to keep testing the batter. If you find it’s not quite thin enough, then mix only 2 or 3 times and test again. It’s really really important not to overmix your batter!
- Spoon the batter into a piping bag fitted with a medium round tip. Pipe rounds of batter, about 3 cm (1 1/4 in) in diameter, on the trays, being sure to space them 2 cm(3/4 in) apart. Gently tap the tray three times on your work surface. This will help remove any air bubbles that might be lurking in your batter. It’s at this stage that you can add any small sprinkles or freeze-dried berries on top.
- The next thing you want to do is let your macarons dry out in the open air for about 30 minutes to 1 hour (the drying time depends on the weather or how much humidity is in the air). Drying your macarons helps them to form a skin. The skin is super important because it means that when you bake your macarons and the steam escapes from the shells, it will escape from the bottom, not the top, forming the iconic ‘feet’ on your macarons. So, when you can gently touch the top of your uncooked macarons and they’re not sticky to the touch, you know they’re ready to bake. Ten minutes before the end of the drying time, preheat a fan-forced oven to 140°C / 275°F or a conventional oven to 160°C / 320°F.
- Place each tray of macarons, one at a time, in the centre of the oven and bake for 12 minutes. If you feel your oven is causing the macarons to brown on one side (usually the side closest to the fan), turn the tray around about halfway through. Once they’re baked, let them cool completely before you try to remove them from the tray.
- To finish your macarons, you can fill them with any number of fillings: lemon curd, chocolate ganache, buttercream or different frostings; the filling options are endless. For a vanilla macaron, I’d recommend Chocolate ganache frosting.
- Any frosting of your choice! I can’t say no to a chocolate ganache filled macaron!
Trays (lined with baking paper not grease proof paper)
Eggs - separate egg whites from the yolks and allow them to sit in the fridge for a couple hours. These must be measured accurately.
Sift almond and sugar together (if you don’t have a food processor) Storage: store in an airtight container for up to 3 days (refrigerated or unrefrigerated). Ageing your eggs: egg whites will liquefy if you sit them in the fridge for several days, preferably a week. During that time, the egg whites lose their elasticity, the albumen breaks down and they will be much easier to whisk to soft peaks without turning "grainy". Halving the recipe: this recipe can be halved.