Macarons have become so popular these days, everyone’s trying to perfect them. There used to be a time when I would try different recipes and procedures and wait patiently in front of the oven, only to be disappointed with feetless macs, macs that were distorted and worst of all, macs that had exploded while baking. Waste of ingredients, waste of time and the disappointments combined together would make me vouch never to try them again. But the mere sight of these dainty little darlings would stir interest and I’d set about baking again.
Slowly, with practice, I started becoming better. I mean there would still be a batch that would go awry in between, but there were fewer disasters and fewer tantrums (from my end that is). It’s a bit intimidating, this macaron making, with all those tutorials and troubleshooting articles out there. It's also good to read through them once, so you know how to go about it, and what to expect. I am no expert here, but most of all, know your oven really well and half of your issues are sorted.
With the Wimbledon tournament in full swing, I thought it would be a great idea to do strawberry and cream themed macarons - quintessentially British and what's more, Wimbledon appropriate. This recipe has been adapted from Ottolenghi’s book, a trusted recipe that always fetches good results, and can be easily tweaked. The said amounts make 20 to 22 medium sized macarons.
Strawberry and cream French macarons
For the shells
60 gms ground almonds, sifted
100 gms powdered sugar
40 gms caster sugar
60 gms egg whites, preferably aged
2 generous drops of strawberry essence/ extract
Poppy red colour paste as required.
For the filling
Double cream- 1/2 cup
Powdered sugar- 2 tbsp (or more if you prefer)
Vanilla extract- 1/4 tsp (optional)
Strawberries- 100 to 150 gms, hulled and roughly chopped
A drop or two of Strawberry essence/ extract
Poppy red colour paste as required
Before you start, make sure you have all your ingredients and equipment ready. Line two baking trays with baking paper and get the piping bags (you would need two in this case) ready with a round tip nozzle.
Sift together the icing sugar and almond powder to make sure there are no lumps. It’s ok if they are not too fine.
Into a mixing bowl, add the egg whites and whisk till they are frothy. Add the caster sugar bit by bit, while continuously beating the egg whites.
You are good to go go when the egg whites hold its peak shape when you lift the whisk, but not too dry. I know it's tricky, but if in doubt, continue beating. Even if it's a bit dry, you can tackle the issue later.
Add the sifted sugar and almond powder into the egg white and fold gently using a spatula. Once mixed well, add the strawberry essence and give one final mix. Again, gently. Resist the urge to be vigorous with the folding. An over mixed macaronage is only going to fetch you disastrous results.
If you are doing two different colours, like I did, then split the batter into two and into one add the red colour paste.
Add a little at first, slowly fold it in, and if it's not the colour you want, then add more till you get the desired colour. It's better to use colour paste, because the liquid colours kind of change the consistency of the batter and you really don’t want that!
Lift your spatula with the batter and let it fall freely into the bowl. You know your consistency is right when it falls down like ribbons without a break. Or place a tsp of the batter on a plate, and if it spreads out on its own slowly, then you are good to go. If it doesn’t, then given a couple more folds and loosen it out. Whatever it is, make sure its not too loose.
Fill the piping bag with batter from one of the bowls and pipe them out onto the prepared baking tray.
Keep about 2 inches gap between the shells, as they are going to expand and also, try and get same sizes while piping which would mean resting times would be the same for all, and so will the cooking times.
Keep the tray aside to dry. This can range from 15 minutes to about an hour, depending on the humidity of the place.
They are ready to bake when a film forms on the shells. Basically they shouldn’t stick to your fingers, when you lightly touch them.
Pre heat the oven to 140C and bake the macarons on the middle rack of your oven for 12 to 14 minutes. You can also say a lil prayer to get those gorgeous macaron feet :) (If you have split the batch, then while the second batch is in the oven, quickly pipe out the remaining batter and leave aside to rest. It’s ok if it’s still not dry by the time the first batch comes out. Leave your oven on and wait till the shells are dry.)
Once the macs are cooked, take the tray out of the oven and leave aside to cool completely, after which you can carefully remove them from the paper and store in air tight containers in the fridge for up to 3 days (till you are ready to pipe).
For the filling, whip the double cream along with sugar and vanilla extract till soft peaks form.
I was using two types of filling for the macs, so I split the cream into two. Ignore the step if you are not doing two fillings.
Into one bowl add the red paste colour and a drop of strawberry essence and mix till the colours are blended in well. Be careful, you don’t want to over mix and split the cream. Keep refrigerated while you fill the first set of macarons.
Onto a baking tray, arrange pairs of macarons (try and pair similar size and shaped ones) and onto one shell, either pipe out the cream filling or use a tea spoon to spread the filling carefully.
Arrange a few of the chopped strawberries on top and sandwich with the other macaron shell. Continue till all of the shells are used up.
Similarly, arrange the white shells in pairs and pipe on the pink strawberry flavoured cream onto the shells.
Transfer the macarons into a box and store in the refrigerator for a couple of hours for the flavours to infuse and eat away.
Notes: Due to the nature of the filling, the macarons don’t stay well for more than a day. They turn soggy because the cream doesn’t do that well as a filling. So try and eat them the very same day. But otherwise, they can be stored for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.