Raymond Blanc reveals the secrets to the perfect macaroon, one of the benchmarks by which a good patisserie is measured. You may need a little practice to get them right but, as M Blanc says, “every mistake will still be delicious. Trust me; I know!”
Equipment and preparation: You will need a kitchen mixer, a sugar thermometer and a piping bag fitted with an 8mm/¼in nozzle.
For the pâté à macaron
- 60g/2½oz unsweetened chocolate, ideally 100% cocoa solids
- 185g/6½oz icing sugar, sifted
- 185g/6½oz ground almonds
- 2 medium free-range egg whites
For the Italian meringue
- 2 medium free-range egg whites
- 1 drop lemon juice – do not be tempted to use more than this or the egg whites will become too stiff
- 185g/6½oz caster sugar
- 3 tbsp water
For the ganache filling
Heat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3 and place two unlined baking trays on the middle shelves.
For the pâté à macaron, melt the chocolate in a bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water – do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water.
In a large bowl, mix the icing sugar, ground almonds and egg whites to form a paste.
Fold in the melted chocolate and set aside.
For the Italian meringue, whisk the egg whites and lemon juice in a kitchen mixer on a medium speed.
Meanwhile, place the sugar and water in a small pan and cook over a high heat until it has reached 117C/242F or the ‘soft ball’ stage.
Reduce the speed on the mixer to its lowest setting and pour the sugar syrup onto the firmly whipped egg whites. Take extreme care when you do this as the syrup will be very hot and will burn your skin if it splashes.
Increase the speed to high and continue to whisk for 2-3 minutes.
Fold the Italian meringue mixture into the pâté à macaron until it reaches the ribbon stage – this is when a spoonful of the mixture poured back into the bowl sits like a ribbon on the surface. Do not over-mix or the macaroon will crack when cooked.
Place the mixture in a piping bag fitted with a 8mm/¼in nozzle.
Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper and pipe on 3cm/1in discs, at least 2cm/¾in apart.
Remove the heated baking sheets from the oven and carefully slide the greaseproof paper with the piped macaroons onto them (pre-heating the baking trays kick-starts the cooking and forms the distinctive 'collarette' on the base of the macaroons).
Bake in the oven for eight minutes and then leave on a cooling rack until completely cold.
For the ganache, place the cream in a small pan and bring to a boil.
Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the chocolate until the mixture is smooth then place the in a piping bag fitted with a 8mm/¼in nozzle.
Pipe about one teaspoon of ganache onto the flat side of a cooled macaroon and top with another macaroon to make a sandwich.
Repeat with the remaining ganache and macaroons and store in a single layer in an airtight container in the fridge.
The ganache filling and the macaroons are best made a day in advance and kept in the fridge in an airtight container. They actually improve if frozen – just defrost 2-3 hours before serving.
This macaroon can be served as the base of a cake. Pipe a 18cm/7in diameter disc of macaroon mixture and bake as above. Once cooled place a 16cm/6in diameter pastry cake ring on top and cut off any excess. Place the macaroon and cake ring onto a cake board or tray lined with greaseproof paper and pour in 400ml/14fl oz of chocolate delice filling and leave to set in the fridge overnight. To serve gently heat the outside of the metal cake ring with a blow torch and remove. Simply cut and serve to your guests, or you can decorate the outside with smaller chocolate macaroons.
Try these flavour variations by omitting the chocolate from the pâté à macaron and the ganache and replacing it with the following: lemon (25 drops yellow food colouring and 160g/5½oz lemon curd for the filling), raspberry (25 drops red food colouring and 150g/5oz raspberry jam for the filling), pistachio (15 drops green food colouring and 150g/5oz pistachio paste for the filling), vanilla (2 tbsp vanilla syrup and 150g/5oz vanilla butter cream for the filling or use vanilla ice cream and store the filled macaroons in the freezer until you are ready to serve them), anise (add 1 crushed star anise to the sugar and ground almonds, leave to infuse overnight then sift the star anise out of the mixture before you make the pâté à macaron and use 150g/5oz good orange marmalade for the filling).