Thursday, 8 August 2013

Macaron Success, of the Sour Cherry variety

Macarons have been one of those dishes that's been on my list of things to cook for a long time now. I've been a bit hesitant as from what I heard, they were super hard, but that was also the reason that I really wanted to cook them. For the challenge. So a few weeks ago when I was helping a friend get a bit more comfortable with baking, we thought what better recipe to take on than macarons. And we did well. They turned out fantastically. Well, most of them did. Some of them didn't have the 'foot' and some of them were a bit strangely shaped, but all in all a success.

So once I knew I could actually make them, I decided it was time to make them for the blog, so here's how I went.
A few small notes before we begin. You will need a sugar thermometer for this, and piping bags. Both are a must. Don't bother with the macaron trays, they are a waste of money! Also, this is a recipe you can't rush, so make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to get through it. 5 - 6 hrs for your first try is good. You won't be cooking that whole time, but you may need it for setting and cooling time.

Ingredients - The Sour Cherry Marmalade (to be made in advanced)
NB: You can use this recipe to make pretty much any marmalade filling. In fact, it was supposed to be a raspberry marmalade, but I had frozen sour cherries in the freezer, so decided to use them instead.
175g caster sugar (or 160g jam sugar)
300g frozen sour cherries (or raspberries) thawed out
1/2 lemon
15g pectin

Ingredients - The Shells
NB: This is a pretty standard ingredients for an Italian Meringue Shell, so you can use this, along with the recipe to make most flavours of Macarons by varying the filling.
200g ground almonds
200g icing sugar
75ml water
200g caster sugar
2 x 80g egg whites (being really really careful not to get any yolk in with the whites)
Pink food colouring

Start by making the marmalade. This needs to sit for at least an hour in the fridge before using it to let it cool down. In fact, I made mine the day before.

Put 100ml water in a small saucepan, then add your 175g caster sugar (or 160g jam sugar). By putting the water in first, you'll help the sugar dissolve. Heat the sugar and water over a medium heat, stirring gently until the sugar is pretty much dissolved. Pop your sugar thermometer into the saucepan, bring the heat up and bring the sugar water to the boil.
Once the temperature reaches 110 degrees celsius add in the fresh fruit, or thawed out frozen fruit, making sure you add in all the lovely juices that have seeped out as you've been thawing. Also add in the juice from the 1/2 a lemon and the 15g pectin. Stir everything together. There's no need to be too gentle, as you want to crush and break up the fruit a little bit.
Cook the mixture over a medium heat, making sure you keep a close eye on the temperature. You're working with sugar and that can be temperamental. Once the temperature reaches 104 - 105 degrees celsius remove it from the heat and pour it into a glass jar. Now, I couldn't get my marmalade to reach 104, it wouldn't really go over 100 degrees celsius. After it had thickened a bit, I took it off the stove as I didn't want the it to thicken too much.
Allow the marmalade to cool for around 15mins, and then stick it in the fridge for at least an hour. As I mentioned, I left mine overnight, but then I took it out of the fridge a good few hours before I would need to use it to spread on my macarons. This allowed it to warm up and soften to make it easier to use.

Now onto the shells, the tricky bit. The bit that needs patience and precision.

Start by setting up your baking trays. I needed two big, flat ones, and even then, I had a bit of mixture left over, so make sure you have a few. All you need to do is line them with baking paper. Simple.

First you need to make the Tant Pour Tant or TPT, which is basically just a fancy description for the ground almond and icing sugar mixture. To do this, you process the 200g of ground almonds and 200g of icing sugar through a food processor, and then carefully sift it. Set it aside for now.
Set up your electric mixer, with a whisk attachment, putting into the bowl the first 80g of egg whites.

In a small saucepan, put the 75ml of water and 200g of caster sugar. Heat the sugar and water on a medium heat, stirring gently, until the sugar dissolved. Once you turn the stove on, also  start your electric mixer going at a medium speed. Then, pop your sugar thermometer into the saucepan and bring the sugar up to the boil. From here, DO NOT stir the sugar water.

When the temperature of the sugar reaches 105 degrees celsius, turn the electric mixer up to high. At this point, if you're using powdered food colouring, add it too the sugar water, without stirring it. The boiling will mix it in nicely.
When the sugar reaches 115 degrees celsius, take it off the stove and pour the syrup into the egg whites in a thin stream while the mixer is still going. Continue to beat the sugar and eggs for about 10mins to allow the mixture to cool down.
Mix the remaining 80g egg whites in with the TPT mixture with a spatula until it's a smooth paste. If you're using liquid food colouring, add as much or as little as you want to the paste and and mix it through.
Once the egg and sugar mixture has cooled down, mix about 1/3 into the almond mixture using a flexible spatula. This will help loosen the paste. Then add the rest of the mixture into the paste and carefully work the batter. You don't want to be too rough with this, as it will ruin all the work you did aerating the egg whites. The mixture will be ready when it's all combined, is smooth, uniform and gently flowing. You don't want it to be too loose, so don't overwork it.
Now onto the messy bit. Fill a pipping bag, fitted with about an 8mm, plain nozzle, with batter. I didn't really worry too much about the size of the nozzle, but you don't want it too big or too small. To pipe them onto the tray, hold the piping bag about 1.5cm away from the tray, nozzle straight down. Squeeze the bag until you get about a 4cm diameter round. You don't need to move the bag at all, as more batter comes out, the round should just get bigger. As you finish piping out each macaron, move the nozzle from 12 o'clock to 6 o'clock to finish the piping action. Then move onto the next macaron, leaving about a 3cm gap (although I don't think I leave that much of a gap). If you want to, you can get a macaron template to slide under the baking paper so you know how big and how far apart to make each macaron. I've never used them although maybe I should. Once you've piped a while tray, tap the bottom gently.
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees celsius and leave the macarons to dry at room temperature. Most recipes say 30 - 40 mins, but the amount of time totally depends on the moisture in the air. They'll be ready to stick in the oven when a light skin has formed over the top. When you touch them gently, they should not be sticky at all. This is a really important step, as it's that skin that lifts during cooking and forms the classic 'foot'.

Once the skin has formed, put the macaron tray in the oven for around 16mins, until the outer shell is firm. Remove the tray from the oven, and set aside for 2mins. Carefully remove one macaron with a spatula to check if the base is also cooked and dry. If it's still a bit sticky, stick it back into the oven for 2 - 3 mins, then check again. Once it's cooked properly, allow them to cool completely on the tray.
Now, from experience, don't try and put a second tray in the oven at the same time on a lower rack. It. Won't. Work. You'll end up with one tray of macarons that might taste nice, but just don't look as good.

Once the macarons are cooled completely, either spread of pipe a bit of the marmalade onto one shell, and squish it together with another shell of the same size. Be careful, as the shells are fragile. I had to spread the marmalade, as with cherries, there was no way they'd fit through a piping bag.

Store the macarons in an air tight container.

Enjoy and indulge in as many macarons as you want. After all, you went to the effort of making them!


  1. nice work - think ill have a crack again this weekend or next. so satisfying to nail a good batch

    1. DO IT!! And let me know how you go. I just got asked to provide macarons or a friends wedding. Slightly nervous and know there's a lot of practice to be done in the next 4 months!!

  2. The sour cherry filling sounds delicious! I also recommend The Macaron Master a great guide for perfecting the macaron!