I started making macarons over a year ago. I am not quite sure what possessed me to give it a try, but I love making them. Though they are time consuming; macarons are pretty easy to make.
In fact, in in Pierre Hermé’s book “Macarons,” he provides fool proof steps to make perfect macarons each time. Now, most of his combinations I would never try (ketchup macarons??! erhm no thanks…). If you are planning on giving these a whirl, make sure you have thermometer and scale; they really come in handy.
- 300g ground almonds
- 300g icing sugar
- 110g liquefied egg whites
- 3 vanilla pods
- 300g caster sugar
- 75g mineral water
- 110g liquefied egg whites
- 400g liquid crème fraiche or whipping cream (35% fat)
- 2 Mexican vanilla pods
- 2 Madagascan vanilla pods
- 2 Tahitian vanilla pods
- 440g Valrhona Ivoire couverture or white chocolate
** If you are like me and do not make macarons on the regular, the cost for the above vanilla pods can be quite pricey. I found that buying a container of three pods from the local grocer and Madagascan vanilla extract left my wallet a little happier. For the shells, I would use 1 vanilla pod and 1 tsp extract madagascan vanilla extra (The ratio is 1 – 2″pod = 1 tsp of extract). I would set the empty pod aside after I scrapped the seeds out for the shells and when it came time to boil the cream, I would use it with other two pods, and maybe add another tsp of extract if need be. The ganache actually tastes like vanilla ice cream which I believe is the goal and it was cheaper than shipping Mexican and Tahitian pods!
Also, it says 440g of white chocolate to use. The first time I made macarons, I used Hershey white chocolate mainly, because I didn’t know any better. Well, the ganache never harden and I had basically soup. Quickly learning my lesson, I buy the Valrhona chocolate, but usually need about 560 grams or more of white chocolate. It also makes A LOT of ganache so be generous when piping and I mean generous.
First off, you need to set aside egg whites in the fridge a week in advance so they lose their elasticity, which sounds kind of gross. Another tip: pre-packaged eggs whites containers DO NO WORK! One time, I was ok with having a small part of container egg whites mixed with real egg whites, but for best results you gotta crack the eggs. If you don’t want to waste all those yolks, you can make crème brulee or another type of custard.
A week later, when it is time to make the shells and ganache, I would sift the almonds and icing sugar together into a big bowl. Some people suggest putting it in the food processor first, and if you do, be careful not to over process or you will have almond butter on your hands! I skip that step and don’t think it’s necessary.
After the sugar and almonds are all sifted together, place one of the 110g of egg whites in the bowl and set aside. Set the other 110g of egg whites in a mixer, and on the stove in a medium saucepan put in the 300g caster sugar (aka superfine sugar) and the 75g water. Be sure to have a brush in cold water nearby so when the sugar starts to boil, the sides won’t burn. Bring the water and caster sugar to boil at 118 degrees C (tip: place the thermometer in the sugar and water as you bring it to a boil). When the syrup reaches 115C, start whisking the egg whites you have set aside to soft peaks. When the sugar reaches 118C, remove from the heat and pour it over the egg whites. Whisk for another min on high, and then two minutes on a medium setting. Allow meringue to cool down to 50C, and then fold it into the almond-sugar mixture.
Place the batter in a piping bag with a plain nozzle. Pierre suggests making a template for the shells so they are all exact. With the trays I own, I can’t pull out a stencil from under the Silpats or wax paper so I just eye ball it, they should be about 3.5cm in diameter, spacing them 2 cm apart if you want exact measurements. Leave the shells to stand for at least 30 min until they form a “skin.” Preheat oven to 180C (about 355F), then put the trays in the oven. Bake for 12 min, quickly opening the door at 8 min and 10 to release steam, and remove the shells on a cooling rack. DO NOT leave them on the baking sheet.
For the ganache: split the vanilla pods in two and scrape out the seeds with the blade of a knife. Stir them in the crème fraiche or whipping cream with the scrapped out vanilla pods. Bring the cream to a boil. Take off the heat, cover and leave to infuse for 30 min. Chop up the chocolate and melt it in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Remove the vanilla pods from the cream, wiping them one at a time. Pour the cream over the melted chocolate 1/3 at a time. Transfer to a gratin dish and allow it to cool. Spoon the ganache into a piping bag with a plain nozzle. Pipe a generous amount of ganache on to half the shells and top with the remaining shells. Store the macarons for 24 hr in the fridge and bring them out two hours before serving.