Macarons “tarte au citron”

image-2Four years ago, when I arrived to Paris, I took a course on how to make macarons at the Alain Ducasse cooking school. It was a 3-hour course with tips and tricks on how to make these delectable French cookies and afterwards, I was so excited to try to make them at home… but my first attempt was such a flop! I didn’t have a self-standing mixer yet back then and I tried to make the egg white batter with a hand mixer, juggling at the same time the other steps of the recipe and to be honest, it’s very difficult. I’m a perfectionist and this failed experiment demotivated me so much that I didn’t want to try again for almost two years. And then I bought a Kitchen Aid self-standing mixer, a true life-changer! I gathered up the courage to give macarons another try and this time, it was a whole new experience. Ever since, I’ve made them several times and each time, I learn something new – tiny details that make the egg white-almond-sugar mixture better and easier to work with. Here are my golden rules for making macarons:

 

  1. I swear upon the Italian meringue recipe from the most famous French amateur pastry blogger, Mercotte – her blog is my go-to site for all french pastries and she’s especially famous for being the Queen of macarons.
  2. Be very precise in your measurements. French pâtisserie is a very exact science, technical and rigorous, with the most beautifully artistic and creative outcome!
  3. Test & learn – you need to try to make them several times before really understanding what works and what doesn’t. For example, in the original recipe, it is stated that the egg whites should be left to “age” for a few days before using them. I’ve tried to age them and I’ve used egg whites immediately after separating them from the yolks and to be honest, I found no significant difference in the result. It’s important though that the egg whites are at room temperature.
  4. There are 2 ways of combining almond meal and powdered sugar: either sift them together or pulse them together in a food processor to obtain a homogenous mix of the two. I prefer the latter because pulsing them together grinds the almond meal into a finer texture. The final egg white mixture is less runny, easier to work with and the macarons’ shells are smoother.
  5. Get to know your oven well. I always need to set mine 5-10ºC lower than the stated temperature in the recipe and I usually set my timer on 1-2 minutes less than the stated baking time. I bake macarons for 12 minutes at 150ºC instead of 13-14 minutes at 155ºC.
  6. Regarding fillings, I swear upon ganache and whipped ganache creams. In the case of the recipe below, lemon custard cream worked perfectly as well. Buttercreams are not used in French recipes.
  7. Macarons can be made in advance and frozen in an air-tight container up to one month which is great! Just take them out about 20-30 minutes before serving and they’ll be perfect for any occasion. They also make a beautiful gift!
  8. Don’t be afraid to try! Failing is a part of the learning process and very soon, you’ll be making the most perfect macarons, just as the ones sold at the famous La Durée ;-).
  9. And most important of all, have fun!

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For the macarons (makes about 50 macarons)
Italian meringue recipe from the blog La Cuisine de Mercotte
2 times 55g of egg whites at room temperature
150g almond meal
150g powdered sugar
15g white sugar
a knife tip of food coloring in powder or paste form (not liquid or gel), color of your choice
For the sugar sirup:
150g white sugar
50g water

  1. Weigh all the ingredients precisely.
  2. In a food processor, pulse together the almond meal and powdered sugar a few times, until the powders are well blended and a fine flour-type mixture forms. Set aside.
  3. Make a sirup by cooking together the 150g of white sugar and 50g of water. Bring it to a boil and heat it up to 110ºC.
  4. While preparing the sugar sirup, start beating 55g of egg whites at high speed in a self-standing mixer. When the egg whites start foaming, add the 15g of white sugar.
  5.  When the sirup reaches 110ºC, pour it slowly on the egg whites while continuing to beat at medium speed. Continue beating constantly until the temperature of the egg whites reaches about 40ºC.
  6. Slow down the mixing speed to add the food coloring and the remaining 55g of egg whites. Increase the speed to high again and beat for a few seconds, until the food coloring is well incorporated, then stop.
  7. Replace the mixing tool with the flat leaf tool. Add the dry ingredients – the mixture of almond meal and powdered sugar – and mix at minimum speed for about 1 minute. The egg white mixture must be nice and shiny.
  8. Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag with a round tip of about 6-8mm and form regular circles on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. To achieve macarons’ halves of the same size, it is best to either draw the circles on the parchment paper beforehand or use a silicone baking sheet, with incorporated circles, designed especially for baking macarons.
  9. Let the macarons “dry” on the baking sheet for 10-15 minutes before placing them in the oven. This helps form a thin crust and prevents shell cracking during baking.
  10. Bake at 150-155ºC 13-14 minutes (the first batch will be a test batch to help you understand your oven better and adapt the temperature and the baking time). When done, the macarons must detach from the baking sheet easily. Let them cool down for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.
  11. Fill and assemble the macarons when they are completely cool.

For the lemon custard cream (“crème tarte au citron”)
Recipe adapted from Audrey’s Tarte au citron, Qui sera le prochain grand pâtissier
75g butter
135 lemon juice, freshly squeezed, without pulp
zest from 2 lemons
3 eggs
130g sugar
15g corn starch
2g gelatin (1 leaf of gelatin which weighs exactly 2g)

  1. Place the gelatin in a bowl of cold water to rehydrate it.
  2. Beat the eggs and the sugar until they become a very pale yellow color and double in volume. Add the corn starch and mix well.
  3. Place the lemon juice, butter and lemon zest in a pot and bring the mixture to a boil.
  4. Pour a little of the hot lemon juice mixture into the egg mixture and mix well.
  5. Off the stove, transfer the egg mixture into the pot with the lemon juice mixture and mix very well. Transfer the pot back to the stove and bring the cream to a boil, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. The cream will become denser with the raising of the temperature and will be perfectly dense when the boiling point will be reached.
  6. Turn off the heat and add the gelatin, which you strained just before to get the excess water out. Mix well, so that the gelatin melts completely in the hot custard cream.
  7. Pour the cream into a deeper plate and cover immediately with plastic wrap to avoid a crust from forming. The plastic wrap must be in complete contact with the entire surface of the custard cream.
  8. Place in the refrigerator to let cool down completely.
  9. Transfer the cream to a pastry bag and using a 4-6mm round tip, garnish the macarons. Pipe the cream on one half of cookie and complete it with the other half. Make sure to match together the macarons’ shelves which fit well together in terms of shape and size to achieve a perfect looking cookie.
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