12 Days of Christmas :: 2 Macarons

Macarons are one of those things I've always wanted to try but have been too intimidated to. I haven't even tasted one, let alone baked them. From the horror stories to the legends about how hard they are to bake correctly, I put it in the "one day" basket. I decided I was going to finally tackle this fickle beast for this Christmas. I spent many hours researching recipes and advice and all the what-to-dos and what-not-to-dos. The more I read, the more confused I became. There is so much conflicting information, sworn by recipes, refuted techniques. It's enough to make you want to throw in the towel.

After one such evening I finally closed my internet browser and decided that was enough. It's only a meringue. I can do meringue. I needed to just get in the kitchen and have a go.

Turns out, there's a whole lot of fuss about not much.   
   
Being confident in making meringue will certainly help you here. Knowing how to successfully get meringue to stiff, glossy peaks is half the battle won. If you're not so confident, refer back to my meringue tutorial to help get you over this hurdle. 

You'll want to make sure you allow a bit of time to complete this, but most of this is inactive time. Your egg whites need to be separated and left in the fridge to age for 1-3 days before you even begin making the macarons. The macaron batter, once piped, needs to be left for an hour to dry before baking. Then, once baked and filled, they're best left for a day in the fridge before being consumed.

But while you're busy waiting, it leaves you plenty of time to mull over what you want to fill your macarons with. 

I drew my inspiration from the festive season upon us. I left the shells plain almond, choosing to focus all the favour into the filling. I made one batch of white macarons and one batch of red. 

I don't mind buttercream when the flavour is interesting and it suits the cake, but I'm not a great fan of it any more. Ganache was definitely the answer for a more sophisticated dessert, and in keeping with the bright Christmas theme it had to be white chocolate. That said, that's a lot of sweet flavours. I needed some bitterness to balance it out. 

I have to confess to being fairly against the idea of tea in food. I'd heard of the concept in a few dishes and hadn't been tempted to try it. It just sounded like something that shouldn't be in food. But for some reason, once the idea struck me I couldn't let it go.

For the red macarons I chose peppermint, both for the colour and for the iconic Christmas flavour. 

For the white I'd wanted strawberry but there were no strawberry teas to be found. Cranberry, raspberry and strawberry sounded like the next best thing. The best thing about these teas were that they come in packs of 10, so they're perfect to have on hand for desserts. 

The later flavoured ganache invoked such a strong food memory. The moment I tasted it, it took me back to being a kid. There was some snack, some biscuit perhaps or maybe even a roll up, that had an identical flavour. Something in the aftertaste. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what it was. I called my sister over, told her, and got her to try some. As she tasted it she gave me a look as though all her suspicions about my food memory nonsense had been confirmed. Until the after flavour hit. Her expression changed completely into one of amazement and she exlaimed, "Hey!" Well, we both still have no idea what it is, but we had fur trying to work it out. 

Being Christmas, however, this was not enough. I had to go for the full tower.

A macaron tower is a simple beast to contruct. Don't let any cooking show (I'm looking at you, MasterChef) convince you otherwise. 

All you need is a polystyrene (or styrofoam for those Americans playing at home) cone, a whole bunch of toothpicks and a couple batches of macarons. 

Start by inserting your toothpick about half the diameter of your macarons from the top. Push it in until only the tapered point is protruding: the macarons aren't heavy, and you don't want the pick to push right through your macaron. 

Holding the macaron by its sides, slide it onto the toothpick. Repeat until the top layer is full. 

Don't be tempted to push your macaron on from the top. This happens:

Eat any fallen soldiers (it's a hard job, but someone has to do it) and carry on. When you move down a layer, position the next toothpick between the two above it. This will ensure you leave as little gap as possible. 

You can leave the top blank if you wish, or fill it with macarons. I used a pair of napkin rings to adorn it. 

Once you're done, you'll end up with something like this.

I like alternating the colours to get the swirl running down the cone. But you can arrange them in any way that takes your fancy. Perhaps you'd like to have horizontal layers of colours, form zig zag patterns, cascade shades of colour from top to bottom, or find beauty in chaos. Whatever you choose, your imagination is your only limit!

But before we get too wrapped up in talk of towers, let's talk of baking macarons.

Macarons are best eaten the day after they are made. They will become stale if left for too long, but store well in the freezer. Store unfilled shells in the freezer for up to 3 months. Some fillings (most buttercreams and ganaches) will store well in the freezer, so with these you can fill them and store them until needed.

Here's how to make a batch of almond macarons:

Christmas Macarons

Ingredients

Macarons

125g almond meal
150g pure icing sugar
3 large egg whites (aged 1-3 days) at room temperature
65g caster sugar
Tea-infused White Chocolate Ganache
150g white chocolate
80ml cream
2 flavoured teabags

Method

  1. Prepare baking trays with double sheets of baking paper. Trace 2.5-3cm circles onto one of the sheets of baking paper as a guide for piping your macarons, leaving a few cm between each; make sure the side with the ink/lead is facing down so it does not come into contact with your food.
  2. Sift almond meal and icing sugar together; sift mixture thrice more, then set aside. 
  3. Beat the egg whites until foamy; add gel paste or powdered food colouring here. Continue beating on low speed, adding caster sugar a tablespoon at a time. Increase to high speed and beat until mixture forms stiff peaks and is glossy. You should be able to hold the mixture above your head without it falling. 
  4. Fold in half of the almond meal mixture until combined, add the second half and repeat. 
  5. Using your spoon or spatula, swipe the mixture against the side of the bowl, scoop the batter from the bottom and plop it upside down. This movement deflates the meringue. You need to repeat this process until your batter is sufficiently runny. To test, look for the following signs: Your batter will slowly slide back down the sides. If you scoop up a bit of batter with your spatula or spoon and let it drop back into the bowl, it will fall slowly, form a small mound on top of the rest of the batter slowly sink back into it. Another good way to test is by getting a tea spoon of batter and plopping it into a small plate. If the peak formed when it falls from the spoon sinks back into the batter within 15 seconds, it is done. 
  6. Fill a piping bag with a 1cm round nozzle, and pipe rounds of macaron batter onto your baking trays. Once done, bang your trays against the counter to knock any air out of the batter. Set aside your macarons aside to dry at room temperature. This will take 45mins-1 hour. Macarons are sufficiently dried when the batter does not stick to your finger when touched. 
  7. Preheat oven to 200°C or 230°C fan-forced.
  8. Place tray in the oven, reduce temperature to 140°C or 130°C fan-forced. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Here is where you need to experiment, as every oven is different and it will make a difference for macarons. Keep an eye on them and make sure your shells don’t char. Shells will be ready when they can be lifted from the baking paper without sticking. 25 minutes did it for me. 
  9. Set aside to cool. 
Tea-infused White Chocolate Ganache
  1. Place cream in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until warmed. Add tea bags and stir them through the cream until the flavour is released; you will be able to smell the aroma, and most likely see the colour run from the tea bags. Squeeze tea bags and remove. 
  2. Bring the cream to a boil; remove from heat and stir in the white chocolate until smooth and combined. Pour into a bowl and set aside to cool to room temperature. 
  3. When macaron shells are read, pipe or spoon ganache onto one half of a shell, then sandwich with a second half. Place in the fridge for a day to allow the flavours to mature. 

You'll find the printable version of this recipe here.

      

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16 thoughts on “12 Days of Christmas :: 2 Macarons

    • I typically use what’s called thickened cream. It usually has about 35% milk fat and some additive to thicken it. It’s cheap and muti-purpose, so I almost always have some in the fridge. For making ganache, many prefer to use pure cream or double cream — I’ll use double if I have it on hand. It’s the sort of thing you can freely substitute to suit your tastes and your budget.

  1. Thanks for sharing this recipe – and adventure. Can I clarify the oven temperature you mention here – 200C for regular oven and 230C for fan-forced; is the fan-forced number correct? I usually expect this number to be 20 degrees less than the regular oven temp, so not sure…

    Ang

  2. Pingback: Christmas Macarons | Cakecrumbs

  3. You have given conflicting information. Closer up the top, when explaining how lengthy the method is, you said that 3 egg whites must mature for 3 days in the fridge but in your method it’s room temperature. Which is correct? Thanks

    • There’s loads of conflicting sworn by methods on how to age egg whites, hence why I probably wrote both. You can do either (some people age their whites for a whole week so it’s better to have them in the fridge then), but it’s best to let the egg whites come to room temperature before you beat them. This goes for any time you make meringue – you get a better meringue when you use room temp eggs.

  4. Your blog is brilliant! I’m curious, did you attend culinary school? I’m a 16 year old working toward my WPC (I graduated high school 2 years early) and your work is BEAUTIFUL. I’ll have try experimenting in the kitchen at home with these when I can find the time… *sigh* 🙂

    • Thank you for your kind words. I have never actually attended culinary school, and I am flattered you think I may have. I am completely self-taught, and my mistakes have been a great teacher. I wish you good luck with your own experimentation!

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