Through trial and error I have also found a few tips which will help eliminate mistakes, make the macaroon making process a little easier and provide perfect macaroons (almost) every time!
So firstly, using a silicon mat with macaroon shaped moulds helps you to create macaroons of all identical size. In saying this, my silicon mat doesn't have moulds, but I do find that the silicon is much easier to work with than baking paper (parchment/greaseproof paper).
Secondly, when colouring your macaroons use food colouring paste and not liquid. Because getting the right the consistency is so important, the liquid colouring can alter this, giving you lumpy macaroons. Also add the food colouring into the egg whites as I find it is easier to distribute the colour evenly.
Thirdly, sieve everything. I always get lazy and rarely sieve ingredients, but trust me it makes a huge difference if you take the time to measure out all your ingredients and sieve them, it will be worth it, I promise.
Fourthly, be light handed while mixing in the flour and icing sugar into the egg whites, there are no raising agents in macaroons so all the 'lift' comes from the egg whites. Use a spatula to fold the ingredients together. The mixture should be thick and airy, you know you have over worked it when it becomes runny.
Fifthly, one of the most important steps is to tap and wait. This is done to remove any trapped air bubbles, and waiting about 30 minutes before putting them in the oven allows that smooth cap to develop, if you put them in straight away you'll have something that looks more like a cookie!
Big breath! And finally, half way through baking the macaroons waft air through your oven. This allows any steam to escape. So now that you've taken that all on board its time to get baking!
For the Macaroon cases:
- 100g / 1 cup icing sugar
- 100g / 1 cup ground almonds
- 2 medium, free-range egg whites
- Small pinch salt
- 55g / ¼ cup caster
For the Filling:
- 150g / 1 ½ cups unsalted butter, softened
- 75 g / 2/3 cup icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 160 °C
- Sieve the icing sugar, followed by the ground almonds, into a large mixing bowl and carefully mix together.
- In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites and salt until they form soft peaks. Add the caster sugar, a little at a time and continue to whisk until the whites are very thick and glossy. Gently stir in the icing sugar and almond mix. The mixture will lose some air and become quite loose, don't worry, this is the way it should be.
- Using a piping bag, fill with the macaroon mixture. Place the silicon mat onto a baking sheet. Pipe small blobs onto the sheet remembering that less is more at this stage because the mixture will settle and form into the allotted spaces.
- Gently tap the baking sheet a few times on the work surface to help the macaron mixture to settle and to break any air bubbles, then leave to dry for 20 minutes - the surface of the macaron will become smooth and shiny
- Bake the macarons in the preheated for 7 - 8 minutes minutes, open the door to release any steam, close the oven door and cook for a further 7 - 8 minutes. The macarons are cooked when they feel firm and are slightly risen.
- Slide the mat onto a wire cooling rack and leave to cool completely. Do not be tempted to remove the macaroons from the mat until they are cold or you will break them.
- Make the Filling
- Beat the softened butter until it is fluffy, then gradually beat in the icing sugar. At this point you can beat in any flavourings you may choose.
- Place approx 1/2 a tsp of the filling to the flat side of one macaroon and sandwich together with another then twist ever so slightly to create a bond. Continue with the remaining macaroons.
- The macarons can be eaten immediately but they become irresistibley chewy and tasty from being refrigerated for 24 hours if you can wait that long!