Tips + a recipe for baking these sweet delights
There’s a difference between macaroons and the delectably light and stylish macaron; the first is a confection usually made with ground almonds or coconut, which is rather dense and filling. The Parisian macaron, however, is a lighter-than-air biscuit with a ganache or butter cream filling: two delicious yet brittle meringue biscuits that deliver a delicate crunch, and a moist and chewy centre in between. During a baking class at Le Dolci, a food education studio in Toronto, we acquired useful tips, as well as the confidence to tackle creating our own French macarons; sculptress-turned-pastry-chef Lindsey Greflund demonstrated the process.
The art of baking macarons
Macarons can be as colourful as you please: gel-based food colouring can be used to suit your whimsy, or match the colours of an event. What’s more, a large batch of shells can be frozen (after cooling) for up to a month. A few hours of baking can really be worth your while when planning a special event or party. However, the baking process for a dessert this delicate is a little more challenging than turning out a cake.
First, gathering all supplies and equipment you’ll need is a must. All the ingredients are measured by weight, which is the most accurate way of getting the amounts right. Making sure that the egg whites are not contaminated with even the slightest bit of yolk or shell is important; so if your egg cracking skills aren’t the best, purchasing a carton of egg whites may be a wise idea. The most important stage is the sugar syrup and the meringue. Basically, you should start the syrup, bring it to a boil without stirring, and use a candy thermometer to check the temperature. During this time, use your mixer on the low setting to whisk the egg whites.
When your syrup reaches 112°C is when you should change the setting on your mixer to medium speed for the egg whites. Timing is everything! When the syrup reaches 114°C, it is gently and slowly mixed into the egg whites. Finally, when the meringue has cooled in the metal mixing bowl, you are ready for the next stage. The manner in which the meringue is mixed by hand into the large bowl with the TPT is important. (TPT is a French baking terminology for ‘tant pour tant’, which designates the mixture consisting of equal parts almond flour and icing sugar.)
The final hand mixing technique is all about the ‘s’-shaped movement used to blend the TPT and the meringue together until smooth. Then, you are ready to fill disposable plastic piping bags for the next stage. Finally, when baking the macarons, check to make sure they are rising evenly, and don’t hesitate to turn the baking trays if necessary!
Macaron Shell Recipe
500g TPT (250g icing sugar + 250g almond flour. Grind in food processor and sieve)
200g egg whites
2 pinches of salt
Food colouring (optional)
1. Place TPT in a big bowl for mixing.
2. Place 200g sugar and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil at medium heat.
3. Place egg whites in the mixing bowl with whisk attachment.
4. Place 100g sugar in a small bowl and set aside.
5. When the syrup in the saucepan starts to boil, turn the mixer on low speed. When the egg whites get foamy, start to add the 100g sugar little by little until it becomes a soft meringue.
6. When the syrup reaches 114°C, pour in a thin stream over the meringue while the mixer is running on low speed.
7. When the syrup has been poured in completely, increase mixer speed to medium.
8. When the meringue builds a “body”, add pinches of salt and drops of food colouring.
9. When the meringue creates lines with the whisk, has volume and is cool to the touch, stop the mixer and add to TPT.
10. Fold meringue in two parts, making sure to get rid of lumps and incorporate TPT at the bottom.
11. Pipe mixture into small circles on parchment paper or silicon mat and bake at 290°F for 10-12 minutes.
12. To check if the shells are baked, lightly lift one shell inside the oven. If it comes off completely, they are ready.
13. Let the macaron shells cool before filling with ganache/buttercream.