Ask Marilyn – “French Macarons”

by Marilyn Markel in Learn


Have questions about a recipe, cooking techniques, cooking tools or ingredients? Hosting your first dinner party or holiday gathering and need some ideas or tips?

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Reader Question:

I’ve been trying to make french macarons, but every time I bake the shells, they end up raw on the inside. Help! What am I doing wrong?
- Julia

Marilyn’s Answer:

Julia,
I think I may have the answer for you.  Martin Bruner, Pastry Chef at The Bakehouse in Aberdeen, N.C., taught a class for us on macarons and did several different kinds.  I believe he explains it very well.  Please see if the information and recipe below help.
Thanks,
Marilyn


There are three basic types of Macaroons: Almond, Coconut and Meringue-based. The almond macaroon is made using almond paste, which is simply paddled and thinned out with egg whites, to a pipeable consistency, with the addition of a few other ingredients. Coconut macaroons are made with desiccated (finely shredded, non-sweetened) coconut, sugar and egg whites. The Gerber or Parisian macaron is made with almond flour and a meringue, and usually contains a filling. This type of macaroon dates back to the early 20th century, but was not made popular until some recent famous French Chefs re-introduced us to them. They are extremely trendy now and can be colored and filled with endless combinations.

The interesting part of the Parisian macaron is that the shell is crispy, yet the interior is almost cake-like, soft and delicate. This is achieved by a quick and hot bake, and also with the refrigeration of the filled macaroon, so that the filling can mellow or melt into the macaron disk. Popular fillings are preserves, nut pastes and ganaches.

Here are some production notes:

  • Parisian macarons are based on a meringue batter, into which finely ground almond flour and powdered sugar are folded.macarons
  • There are several ways to make a meringue, the two most common are a basic meringue and an Italian meringue.  A basic meringue uses room temperature egg whites to which   granulated sugar is gradually added, with most being added at the end.  An Italian meringue utilizes a hot sugar syrup, which once it reaches 243 degrees F, is then slowly poured into the whipping egg whites.  This meringue will yield a more shiny macaroon, as all the sugar is dissolved in the mix, which will allow it to create a glaze on the surface during baking.
  • One interesting aspect of making the batter is to actually deflate the meringue instead of just gently folding it in.  This is needed to achieve the desired texture.
  • If the mixture is sufficiently deflated, the little mounds that you pipe out will slowly sag and the surfaces will smooth themselves out, like the image on the right.
  • Allow them to sit out for 15 minutes or so before putting them in the oven to let this happen, and to allow a slight crust to begin to form. The macaron should appear dull, which indicates sufficient drying.
  • They should be baked in a convection oven for 12 minutes. A home oven may need to be preheated to about 425F, and then immediately turned down to 350F when the macaroons go in. This will help set the shell early on in the baking process, before the interior starts to expand.
macarons2

The little fringe, known as the foot, around the bottom edge happens when the shell successfully sets early on in baking. This is achieved by sufficient drying time before the bake. If the top is dry, it will act as a cap, forcing the mixture inside to push out the bottom as it expands. If your macaron cracks in the center, your egg whites were too fresh, you did not add the meringue powder (too wet), or the cookie did not dry out long enough. This is usually the case during the summer. Generally, the filling determines the color of the finished macaron, so pistachio would be green, mango yellow and raspberry red, for example. You may also choose to sprinkle nuts or cocoa on some to give them even more of a distinctive look.

 

 

 


Traditional Macaron Recipe, using Italian Meringue

10.5 oz Powdered sugar
10.5 oz Almond meal
3.5 oz Fresh egg whites (cracked a day ahead)
Desired food color (water based or powder colors preferred)
10.5 oz Granulated sugar
2.75 oz Water
3.5 oz Fresh egg whites (cracked a day ahead)
0.25 oz Meringue powder
Preheat convection oven to 300 F, or a deck (conventional) oven to 350 F.

1. Combine powdered sugar and almond meal into food processor and mix until fine.
2. Place fine powdered sugar and almond mixture into kitchen aid bowl, and add the first amount of egg whites to make a paste. At this time, incorporate desired color. This mixture should be overly aggressive in color, which will mellow out once we fold in the meringue. Set aside covered.
3. Begin to whip egg whites in kitchen aid bowl on low speed. Take a tablespoon granulated sugar from the second quantity, and mix it with the meringue powder. Sprinkle this into the slowly beating egg whites.
4. Combine remaining granulated sugar and water in a heavy clean sauce pot and cook to 243º.
5. Remove the sugar quickly from the stove and place on a cooling mat/rack.
6. Increase speed of the mixer and whip egg whites to a soft meringue.
7. Slowly pour sugar into the side of the mixing bowl, with mixer running at high speed.
8. Allow meringue to cool to room temperature with mixer running.
9. Fold meringue into the base mixture.
10. Using a round tip, pipe mixture on parchment lined sheetpans about the size of a walnut half.
11. Let stand for 15+ minutes until the top of the macarons become dry.
12. Bake for 12 minutes. If the macaroons loose color or brown, the oven temperature was to high. They are done baking when they barely peel off the parchment paper.
13. Allow to cool, then fill and refrigerate covered. Enjoy the next day for best eating! They can also be frozen for up to a month.