Although the ingredients are simple–only almond powder, confectioners’ sugar, egg whites and water– the macaron is deceptively tricky to produce. When made properly, macarons (pronounced mack-a-rohn) are a perfect combination of crispy shell and soft interior. Jory Downer, owner of Bennison’s Bakery, Evanston, Ill., shares his formula and Italian meringue method for making the tantalizing cookie.
The origin of macarons, like many bakery products, is unknown, but they most likely were first created in Italy and popularized in France several hundred years ago. In the early 1900s, Ladurée pastry salon in Paris introduced the double-decker macaron: two macarons sandwiched with ganache. It quickly become the “it” cookie in Paris. Even McDonald’s McCafés in France are now in on the act.
However, it has only been in recent years that macarons have taken off in the United States. And taken off they have, with many foodies predicting the macaron will be the next cupcake. Like cupcakes, macarons are portable, portion-controlled and suited to a variety of flavors and flavor pairings. The cookie now can be found everywhere from Whole Foods to Starbucks. Macaron-only shops are even beginning to pop up in major metropolitan areas, following in the wake of cupcake-only stores. Unfortunately, macarons are not as forgiving as the popular cupcake–one misstep and the batch is ruined. Downer offers tips to produce consistent macarons batch after batch.
While these cookies are often stand-alone treats, their colorful versatility makes them wonderful decorations, as demonstrated by the wedding cake shown in this article. Downer created this applesauce cake with caramel filling for the wedding of Matthew Reynolds, Modern Baking’s managing editor. Downer chose a variety of vivid autumn colors to make the cake visually appealing but left piped decorations to a minimum to showcase the macarons.
|Almond flour, blanched, finely ground||450 g||15.9|
|Confectioners’ sugar||450 g||15.9|
|Egg whites, room temperature||215 g||7.6|
|Dark cocoa powder*||50 g||1.8|
|Red food coloring, powdered, to suit|
|Total appr. wt.||1.165 kg||2||9.2|
Method: Sift together the almond flour, confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder. Add to the egg whites; add some powdered red coloring to darken the color. Mix until fully incorporated. Cover with plastic and set aside.
|Egg whites||450 g||15.9|
|Dried egg whites, pinch|
|Granulated sugar||450 g||15.9|
|Liquid red food coloring, to suit|
|Total appr. wt.||1.012 kg||2||3.8|
Method: Heat the water, sugar and food coloring to 240°F. When the sugar syrup reaches 235°F, begin whipping the egg whites and dried egg whites on high speed. Once the sugar syrup reaches 240°F, slowly pour into the egg whites while whipping. Whip on high speed for five minutes. The mixture should be stiff enough to form peaks on the beater. Slowly add the egg white mixture to the stage one dough. If you add the eggs too quickly, the mixture will be chunky instead of smooth. Once incorporated, mix the batter by hand to remove the air. The batter should fall off the spatula like a waterfall. Let set until a lip forms around the edge. Use tip No. 7 to pipe quarter-size discs onto a parchmentcovered sheet pan. Hold the bag vertical and the tip just above the pan so the tip is never in the batter as you pipe. Tap the bottom of the pan to flatten the discs, and let set for 20 minutes. Bake at 300°F in a rack oven for 6½ minutes. Then, open the vent and bake for another 6 minutes.
* For non-chocolate macarons, decrease the egg whites in stage one to 165 g and eliminate the cocoa powder. Use other coloring and flavoring to suit.
1. The formula provided divides the macaron production into two stages. In stage one, combine the almond flour, confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder and sift.
2. Add the dry ingredients and food coloring to the egg whites. Mix until fully incorporated; cover with plastic and set aside. The red coloring enhances the chocolate color, deepening the hue from a grayish shade to a rich brown.
3. For stage two, combine the sugar, water and liquid red coloring. Use induction heat to bring the sugar syrup to 240°F. Induction heat produces a constant temperature, eliminating the heat variation common in gas or electric stove tops.
4. When the sugar syrup reaches 235°F, begin whipping the stage two egg whites on high speed. Once the sugar syrup reaches 240°F, slowly add it to the egg whites while continuing to whip.
5. Whip the batter on high speed for five minutes until it forms peaks on the beater. Relying on temperature and time helps keep the macarons consistent from batch to batch.
6. Slowly add the egg whites to the stage one dough until fully incorporated. Then, mix by hand to remove the air. If undermixed, the batter will be too meringue-y, if overmixed, the macarons will be too flat. The batter should fall off the spatula like a waterfall.
7. Allow the batter to set until a lip forms around the outer edge.
8. Use No. 7 tip to pipe quarter-size discs on a parchment- covered sheet pan. Hold the tip straight up and just above the pan so the tip is never buried in the batter. This helps produce the desired dome shape. Tap the bottom of the pan, and let set for 20 minutes.
9. Bake in a rack oven at 300°F for 6½ minutes. Open the vent and bake for another 6 minutes. The perfect macaron has a thin, crispy outer shell and a soft interior. The top should be a perfect dome.
10. To create the featured wedding cake, use a variety of autumn-hued macarons in different flavors.
11. Begin the four-tier cake by icing the bottom 16-in. round layer, and add the supports.
12. Stack an iced 12-in round on top of the bottom tier. Use tip No. 12 to pipe a simple bubble border at the base of both tiers.
13. Begin placing the macarons in a swooping pattern on the bottom two tiers, using the different colors at random. The icing on the cake should hold the macarons in place without any additional icing as adhesive.
14.Place the 9-in. and 6-in. tiers on the cake, and use tip No. 12 to pipe the bubble bottom borders.
15. Add more macarons on the top two layers to continue the swoop started on the bottom.
16. Top the cake with berries and fresh flowers.