For this belated Fiesta Friday post, I wanted to do Macarons. But because I am on a drive to use up all the various flours and things I have been accumulating for baking, I decided to go for something else first. I was attempting a recipe for gluten free thumbprint cookies from the cookbook The Everyday Art of Gluten-Free, and unfortunately like most of the other recipes I’ve tried out of that book this one also needs altering although the end result is still delicious even if a bit disastrous. So I will have to experiment with it and see what I can do to make the dough more firm, and less likely to become vague puddles like it did when I followed the recipe to a T. But what testing that recipe did do was leave me with three whole egg whites which were going to need using, and which had settled to room temperature nicely while I was baking the thumbprint cookies. It seemed the universe was on my side, as three egg whites was all I needed to make this recipe for basic french macarons.
One thing I also have to mention is how amazing having a stand mixer again is. A while back I was able to get an old stand mixer from a friend’s girlfriend as she had got a new one. Unfortunately it eventually got rusted beaters and I couldn’t get replacements and so it had to go. Because of doing a little extra work these past couple of weeks I was able to put some cash aside and at last go and purchase a proper stand mixer. It’s something I have been meaning to do for a dog’s age, but have never had the funds to do until now. Oh man – am I so glad I have those funds now! I can’t get over how much easier this stand mixer makes baking for me. I unfortunately have tendonitis in my dominant hand and various spinal problems which can make doing time consuming recipes hard and a little bit painful for me, so having this stand mixer is amazing.
I breezed through making the meringue base for the macarons, and this time I was determined to get the perfect folded consistency which I had seen in all my research. I kept persisting with the folding until at last the batter ran from the spatula in one thick, lava-like ribbon. Perfect! I had also managed to find a good piping tip which seemed about the right size, and that turned out to be perfect as well! I’ve had some tips on how to pipe properly, and those helped me as well when piping the macarons onto the baking trays. And because I forgot this step last time I baked a batch of macarons I made doubly sure to give both trays a couple of good bangs on the counter top. Temperature and cooking time I still have to work on, as I’ve noticed there’s a minuscule gap between being cooked and being overcooked when it comes to macarons. But overall I was thrilled with the results.
I then whipped up a batch of cheat’s caramel frosting, and add a pinch of salt to bring out the flavour a little more. I had copious amounts of frosting leftover but I popped it into takeaway containers and put them in the freezer. Apparently buttercream is good for up to three months in the freezer, although the longest I ever saved mine for was about two or three weeks. It was a good way to use up some leftover caramel tins from a while back when I was making a cheat’s chocolate and caramel cake with an old work friend, and means I have some delicious buttercream set aside for another project!
Basic French Macarons
Makes: 10-12 large macarons, Prep: Up to 2hrs, including resting and assembly time, Cook: up to 15 mins
- 2/3 cup almond meal
- 1.5 cups icing sugar
- 3 large egg whites, room temperature and preferably aged up to 3 days
- 5 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 1 x 380g can pre-made caramel, I used nestle top n’ fill
- 750g icing sugar, sifted
- 200g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 pinch sea salt flakes, or to taste
- Preheat the oven to 140C (fan-forced), and line two baking trays with baking paper. Pop a wide circular piping tip inside a piping bag and prepare it, ready to fill, or snip a hole in the corner of a ziplock bag.
- Sift the almond meal and icing sugar twice, and if there are any lumps you’ll need to grind them up until they’re smooth.
- In another bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy and soft beaks form. At that stage start adding the sugar one tablespoon at a time, beating between each addition. Once all the sugar is added, pop in the vanilla bean paste and keep beating until the mixture becomes glossy, all the sugar is incorporated and stiff peaks form.
- Gently fold in a third of the almond meal and icing sugar mixture, turning the bowl each time you fold. Imagine you’re drawing a J with your spatula. Add the second third, and repeat folding until incorporated, and then add in the final third. Gently keep folding until the dry mixture is incorporated, and the macaron mix falls from your spatula in a thick, lava-like ribbon when you hold it up in the air.
- Fill the piping bag with the mixture, and pipe 2-2.5 inch rounds onto the baking trays with at least a centimeter or two between them. Take both trays and give them a few hearty bangs on the countertop as this gets all the air out of them and stops hollow pockets forming inside them as they cook.
- Sit the trays out to let the macarons form a skin, which can take anywhere from 15 mins to 2hrs, depending on how humid a day it is. To check whether the skin has formed you can very gently tap the top of one of the macarons, and if your finger sticks it needs more time.
- Pop the macarons in the oven and bake for 15-18 mins, or until the macarons are cooked through. Some tips for testing I use are whether they spring back if I gently push on their tops, whether or not I can ease one up from the paper or whether it sticks, or whether I can nudge one around, or even if I tap on it and get a firm and almost hollow sound. The tips I found online are endless!
- Pull the macarons out and either steam them loose from their sheets if need be, through drizzling some boiled water under the paper, or pull the paper onto your bench top to start the cooling process. Once I had dragged mine onto my bench top they lifted easily.
- While you let the macarons cool you can prepare the caramel buttercream.
- Beat the unsalted butter with a pinch of sea salt flakes for a minimum of five minutes, letting it get pale and creamy. Then scrape down the bowl and add in the caramel and beat for a further thirty or so seconds.
- Add a third of the icing sugar mixture and beat for about three minutes until combined. Scrape down the bowl and repeat this step with the last two thirds of the icing sugar. If your mix is a bit hard you can add in some more softened and unsalted butter, or if the mix is too soft you can add more icing sugar a spoonful at a time until you reach your desired consistency.
- Spoon or pipe the buttercream onto the base of your macarons, and sandwich another on top gently. Once all filled and sandwiched, pop the macarons in an airtight container in the fridge at least overnight.
- Macarons can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to five days, and leftover buttercream can be frozen.