How to make perfect macarons {Part 1}

How to make perfect macarons {Part 1}

Eva 25 febrero, 2019
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I’ve been thinking about this for a long time and I’m going to share it with you today. You know that I have taught and teach many online workshops, at the time were also face-to-face, but today I can not do with the continuity of before. In fact right now I only teach bread workshops and I do it once a year… It doesn’t give me life for much more, hahaha. Well, I continue. The fact is that it’s been a few years since I’ve taught my macarons workshop (it was my first workshop, I made it on 2013) and I think it’s a shame to leave it in a forgotten drawer… That’s why I thought it would be good to use it and share it on the blog with all of you. I am going to leave in different post of all my macarons workshop so that you learn how to make perfect macarons.

From today, I will be sharing post of all the process, information, tips… For you to learn how to make these little “devils”. I’ll divide it into parts so that it’s not too much information at once and that way the process becomes much more enjoyable. Today is the first part, of a few, in which I will tell you what are the macarons, their origin, ingredients that compose it and what is the macaronage.

How to make perfect macarons {Part 1}
What are macarons?

Macarons are small traditional cakes, very delicate and elegant, from France. They are made with egg whites, ground almonds, icing sugar and granulated sugar or syrup. Depending on the type of meringue with which they are carried out.

We must not confuse them with other sweets of similar name called macaroons. These are compact biscuits made with egg white, coconut or nuts. The first macaroons were made with meringue and almond, very similar to the current amaretti, with a crunchy exterior and very juicy interior.

Macarons origin.

The macarons’ origin appeared in the Middle Ages and evolved until reaching different forms and flavours. Born in Italy, macaron arrived in France during the Renaissance. In the Middle Ages the word macaron designated 2 different products:

The first was a cake and, from the 17th century onwards, a stew with grated cheese, cinnamon and saffron called macaroni. This fact often led to error when one wanted to know to which product the historical sources referred.

In the beginning this sweet treat was elaborated of a single face ( shell/couquille ).

Rabelais quotes that the origin of this pastry remains a mystery. Numerous cities claim that it was born within its walls and many legends were created around it.

Some claim that this “monk’s navel“, as it is named in the Larousse Gastronomique, was created in 791 in a convent near Cormery. Others claim that Catherine de Medici brought them with her from Italy in 1533 when she married Henry II of France.

The first macaron recipe appears in a work dating back to the early 17th century. In the 1830s, macarons were served two by two, as we know them today, with a filling made from jams, liqueurs and spices.

The popular macaron today is Gerbert’s macaron.

It was created in 1880 in the Paris neighborhood of Belleville. It was made known to the public thanks to two establishments:

  • The Pons Tea Room in the Latin Quarter of Paris (no longer in existence) and
  • The famous Ladurée

From the 20th century onwards, they began to be given a pastel tone or a tone in accordance with the flavour they had in order to differentiate them.

At the end of the decade of the 2000 they begin to elaborate macarons with fillings of different aroma to the shell and begins a stage of innovation: Peach-Pink, Lima-Basil… Here I have to say that for me nobody better than Pierre Hermé to surprise us and to fall in love with their combinations. They are the best macarons I have eaten in my whole life. And I’ve tried several in Paris.

As we know it today, the macaron is said to have been invented by Pierre Desfontaines of Ladurée pastry shop. Both Gerbert and Desfontaines affirm its creation.

Pierre Desfontaines joined for the first time two couquilles or macaron shells with a ganache, which gives the pastry chef his “origin”. He also introduced the notion of “time macarons” (seasonal) to refer to those that are on sale for 3 months.

How to make perfect macarons {Part 1}

The modernization of macaron with a great variety of flavors, combinations and colors comes from the hand of Pierre Hermé. My idol forever.

There are many variations in different regions such as France, Switzerland, Japan, Korea … but all with later dates. Although we already know that most of the recipes are adapted to different processes and elaborations depending on the hands that elaborate them.

INGREDIENTS THAT MAKE UP A MACARON

A macaron consists of 3 basic ingredients in addition to those necessary to give them color and flavor; ground almond or almond flour (I personally do not use the latter), sugar (glas and granulated) and egg whites.

GROUND ALMOND OR ALMOND FLOUR

The main base of the macaron is the almond. To make them we need it to be in a state very similar to dust. We can also make it with almond flour, although it can have a drawback and is that it is usually more difficult to find.

In my case I always use ground almond, it is very accessible and we can find it in any supermarket or specialized store.

Although it is ground it does not have the right texture, so it is necessary to process it through a food processor along with icing sugar, to later sift it. In this way we will remove any piece that has not been perfectly ground. This process also ensures that both ingredients are not clumped together, facilitating the elimination of moisture thanks to the starch* of icing sugar.

* See next

ICING SUGAR

For the elaboration of macarons we have to use the commercialized icing sugar, it is not valid the one that we can elaborate at home.

The reason? It has a small amount of starch, about 3%. It guarantees that the sugar does not clump due to humidity, as it is absorbed by the starch.

The percentage for the elaboration of perfect macarons must be 50% ground almond, 50% icing sugar. Commonly known as “tant pour tant“.

AGED EGG WHITES

We always read that for the elaboration of a good macaron we must use aged egg whites, maybe some of you think… And what is this?

Simple, it is to separate the egg whites from the yolks and placing them into a glass jar covering them with film (slightly perforated) so that they lose the humidity.

We already know that the macaron has a great enemy and that is humidity. For that reason we must eliminate it of all those ingredients that we are going to use for its elaboration. We can age them from one day to the next leaving them at room temperature. Although I recommend you, if possible, to do it 2-3 days in advance.

If on the contrary we are going to take 2 or 3 days even up to a week to elaborate them, we must refrigerate them in the glass jar covered with film or with its cover. We can leave the egg whites refrigerated even 10 days without any risk to us.

Why is it recommended to age the egg white?

A white consists of 90% water versus 10% protein. When it is left to age, the egg white loses its elasticity and the albumin increases its proportion. This makes it much easier to assemble and, above all, will give us much more stability in the meringue.

We must not forget that to make them must be at room temperature, so we must remove them hours before preparing them.

You may wonder what happens if I don’t age the egg whites?

In fact, the difference “can” go unnoticed. By aging the egg white not only favors the loss of moisture of it, but also facilitates whipping forming “soft peaks”. This will help the finish of the macaron to be less granular.

If I age the weigh egg whites, should I weigh them again when I make them?

Yes, as we age, the egg whites lose moisture, as mentioned above. This will have a direct consequence on the final weight when it comes to preparing our macarons. We will notice it, above all, in very hot seasons and if these rest for a couple of days.

In summer, do I run the risk that egg white will produce salmonella?

Salmonella is a bacterium that can come from a previously contaminated egg. It can be found in the yolk due to a previous infection in the ovary of the hen (very rare), in the laying of the egg or when the egg has contact with microorganisms in the environment.

It is important to prevent a possible contagion that when you crack an egg you do not do it in the same container that you are going to use to cook it or beat it, since it can contaminate the interior.

Ideally, yolk separators and egg whites should be used instead of the shell itself.

For this particular case, macarons, we do not have to worry because the bacteria does not tolerate high temperatures. It is totally eliminated from a cooking of 70º C and we bake at 155º C.

It is important that you take it into account when you use those remaining egg yolks or egg whites in other preparations that do not require heat for processing.

Do I need to use cream of tartar to better whip the egg whites?

No, it is not necessary at all. In fact, as they are aged, they whip very well without the need to add anything.  And if you don’t age them, don’t use it either, it gives a slightly acid taste.

Do I use pasteurized egg whites instead of fresh egg whites?

On more than one occasion I have tried to make macarons with pasteurized egg whites and I find a problem. Many batches come badly and we may find that when it comes to whip these do not whip, even using cream tartar.

After several tests, I opted for fresh whites until one day talking to a pastry chef told me how to use them.
They can’t use fresh egg whites to make these sweets treats in a bakery and he told me how to do it.

We must let them stand at room temperature for 24 hours. After this time we can use them with good results.

What if I use albumin powder?

In my case I have never made macarons with albumin powder, but I have added a small amount to the whites to strengthen them and obtain better results in the macarons. I think the feed given to the hens directly affects this aspect.

FRENCH OR ITALIAN MERINGUE?

At the time of elaborating a macaron we can find two ways of making them:

  • French meringue: Little by little we add the granulated sugar to the whites when they are semi-whipped and we finish whipping them with the sugar incorporated.
  • Italian Merengue: Elaborate a syrup which we will incorporate to the whites almost whipped and we will finish giving it firmness with this incorporated.

Yeah, right, there’s one easier to do than the other. But the result is not the same. A French meringue leaves a very granulated shell and a texture not as satisfactory as with Italian meringue.

With the Italian meringue we get macarons with a good base and much smoother, so I will teach you how to make them with this type of meringue. It may seem more laborious, but it’s really simple. It will be enough to have a kitchen thermometer or to know how to make a syrup with thread stage.

How to make perfect macarons {Part 1}
FOOD COLORANTS

Whenever we want to add colour to our macarons we will use food colorants in paste or powder, we should never use liquid colorants as they provide us with humidity and it is just what we run away from. Depending on the desired shade we will add more or less.

Where do we incorporate the colorant?

At the time of elaborating the macarons we will separate the total quantity of whites in two parts: one that we will whip and another that we will not.

The colorant we will add it in the whites that we do not whip, this way we can dissolve well the paste without leaving traces and without fear to lower the meringue.

And if I don’t incorporate colorant, should I separate the whites?

Yes, despite making them white, we will separate both quantities when we make macarons. Whip one part and add the other part to the almond/glas mixture after sifting.

AROMAS OR EXTRACTS

When we want to give flavor to the shell or couquille of our macarons we must be careful because it is a liquid ingredient.

It will be enough with 2 or 3 drops for each 150 g of mixture of almond + icing sugar. We must not add too much flavour and, above all, we must not add too much humidity.

We have to take into account that the extracts are natural and much more potent. We will add less than if we use a chemically elaborated aroma, unless it is concentrated… In that aspect, watch out, let’s not add too much.

We can also use the fruit pastes Home Chef type, but we must be careful when incorporating it in the couquilles/shells. We must remember that this is an ingredient, mostly liquid, and therefore an excess can spoil the results. With these pastes we can incorporate flavor, but we will hardly notice it in the color.

WHAT IS MACARONAGE?

This word is present to us whenever we hear or read a macaron recipe. It carries a fame of being very complicated and laborious. Nothing beyond the truth, with dedication and patience, is a method within everyone’s reach.

Macaronage is the technique of incorporating through gentle and enveloping movements the mixture of ground almond and icing sugar with egg whites.

The ideal movement when doing this is from the side of the bowl through the bottom and towards the center (this would create an enveloping movement). It is important that you slide the spatula over the bottom of the bowl, as it is easy for some of the almond mixture to remain unintegrated.

If we over mix the mixture of the batter we will have a mixture too runny. As a result we will have a batter that when piping falls practically alone of the piping bag, some flat macarons and without foot.

A good way to observe the exact point of our batter to pipe it, is to imitate the effect “piping bag” on it. The batter has to fall off and become practically whole. I will show you this later.

To elaborate a macaron we must control the preparation of an Italian merengue.

Note that the meringue is not firm and rigid, but has a smoother finish. It could be said that the success of our macarons resides in 75% in learning how to make this movement.

There is no doubt that the time of drying, temperature, baking… It is the remaining percentage key to obtain perfect macarons.

We should not be overwhelmed, especially at the beginning. It is a technique that is acquired with time and dedication, we must be very delicate in this process and pamper our batter very much. We already know that everything that is done with love, goes well 😉

How to make perfect macarons {Part 1}

This is the first part of several posts that I will share with you to know how to make perfect macarons. To make it easier for you to locate all the posts, I have created a category called "how to make perfect macarons".

The truth is that it's been a few years now and I haven't made use of it, which made me very sad. That's why I've decided to leave it open and unify it in several blog posts.

I hope you like the idea of sharing this workshop with you and get a lot out of it. The only thing he's not going to have is being tutored! Otherwise, it will be the same information I had in it.

Big hugs,
Eva

 

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