I recently had the good fortune of taking a trip to Paris, where I discovered Pierre Hermé’s macaron store. He’s a genius when it comes to macarons. Entering his store is like entering a jewelry shop. Instead of engagement rings studded with expensive diamonds, behind glass are colorful macarons, as tempting as they are expensive.
Flipping through Hermé’s book of macaron recipes, I felt like making all of them! Then I took a closer look, and I realized it wouldn’t be that easy. Especially after I discovered that Monsieur chef makes vanilla macarons using three kinds of vanilla: one kind from Tahiti, one kind from Madagascar, and one kind from Mexico. And that his chocolate macaron recipe calls for a particular kind of chocolate made in a small village in northern Venezuela that is accessible only via the ocean.
His list of ingredients left me with my jaw on the floor, and feeling hopeless. So I decided to try some of his recipes with a few adjustments – and with less insane ingredients.
I started with a sweet and sour macaron flavored with yuzu. For those who are unfamiliar, yuzu is a kind of lemony citrus fruit found in Japan. According to Hermé, this rare fruit has the taste of a mandarine, the zest of a lime and the juice of a lemon. You can find it at Asian stores as bottled juice. It ain’t cheap. You might have to dip into your savings to buy it. But it’s really worth it. The flavor is incredible.
One last thing: do not be alarmed by the instructions below. It is the result of a lot of experimenting for the perfect way to make macarons. Also, the egg whites need one night in the fridge and the formed macarons need an additional night in fridge. Your patience will be rewarded.
200g almond flour
200g powdered sugar
75g egg whites (for the meringue)
75g egg whites (for the macaronage)
200g sugar (extra fine recommended)
Yellow sugar for decoration (optional)
30g white sugar
yellow gel-based food coloring
200g white chocolate
40g yuzu juice
80g heavy cream
zest from 2 limes (or lemons, if you don’t have limes)
Aging egg whites: A few days ahead of time, separate the whites from the yolks (easier when the eggs are cold), set aside the whites in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Take a toothpick and punch a few holes in the plastic wrap, then put the bowl in the fridge.
In this process, some of the liquid from the egg whites evaporate, which makes for a nicer and smoother macaron shell. Pierre Herme does this five days prior to making his macarons – but one day in advance is enough for me, especially since I just forget about it and remember it the day before. Also, I recommend weighing a little more egg whites than the amount in the recipe, because the weight drops slightly after evaporation.
The day you bake the macarons, take out the egg whites bowl and wait for the egg whites to reach room temperature before whisking them.
Infusing lemon in heavy cream: The night before baking, grate the peel of the limes/lemons (only the outside peel, without the white layer underneath) into the heavy cream and store in the fridge. When you’re ready to bake, strain the cream and discard the zest.
Break the chocolate into small pieces and put them in a measuring beaker (or regular bowl). Put the heavy cream (stored overnight) in a saucepan. Boil the cream and pour over the chocolate, making sure all the chocolate is covered.
Heat the yuzu juice for a few seconds on the stove (to around 50°C / 120°F) and pour that on the chocolate, too. Mix a little bit with a spatula and then use a hand blender to blend it to a uniform consistency. Pour into a bowl, take a layer of plastic wrap and cover the inside of the bowl so the plastic wrap touches the surface of the chocolate, and put in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
Coloring sugar (optional)
Put the sugar in a Ziploc/plastic sandwich bag. Use a toothpick to smear a teeny tiny amount of yellow food coloring on the inside of the plastic bag. Close the bag and mix the sugar with the coloring, massaging the sugar with your fingers until the color is uniform.
Mix almond flour and powdered sugar in a food processor for a minute or two. Sift the mix in a sieve once, or better, twice. (The macaron shell will come out smoother that way, promise!) If there are any chunks that remain from the sifting, grind and sift them again. Set aside the bowl.
Italian Merengue: In a saucepan, add water and then sugar, and bring to a boil on high heat. A syrup will be formed. Without mixing, let the syrup boil and check with a thermometer that the temperature does not exceed 115°C (240°F). While it’s boiling, whisk 75g egg whites in a mixer on medium speed. When the syrup reaches 105°C (220°F), increase the speed of the mixer so the egg whites get to soft peaks (white foam consistency). As soon as the syrup reaches 115°C (240°F), turn off the stove, reduce the mixer speed, and slowly pour the syrup into the mixer. Increase the mixer speed and continue to whisk for about 10 minutes, until the meringue cools. Add the other 75g egg whites to the flour mixture and mix well with a spatula.
Macaronage: This is just a mix of the meringue with almond cream. This step is critical. Take a third of the meringue, add to the cream and mix with a spatula to loosen up the density of the cream. Gently fold in the rest of the meringue until you get a shiny, dense texture similar to lava or raw tahini. (Here’s how you know it’s ready: take a spoonful of the batter and throw it back into the bowl in rows. After 10-15 seconds, the rows should sink into the mix but not flatten completely.) Make sure not to fold the batter too much, so it doesn’t get watery, which would make flat shells without the much desired “feet”. But also make sure not to fold too little, because then the macaron batter won’t flatten at all when you pipe, and it could rise and crack while baking. If you’re not sure, you can pipe a few test macarons, wait a minute and see if it stabilizes like in the picture above.
Prepare 3 or 4 trays (preferably baking sheets) with straight, unfolded baking paper on top – or use a silicon Silpat baking mat. Put the batter in a pastry bag with a smooth 8 mm piping tip. If you use baking paper, pipe a tiny bit of the batter on each corner of the baking sheet and “glue” the baking paper on top. Pipe circles of batter 2.5-3 cm in diameter with a little space between each one. Tap the bottom of the baking sheet. If bubbles remain on the macaron shells, you can pop them gently with a toothpick. Sprinkle the colored sugar on the macaron shells using a fine sieve.
Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F). Leave the tray out in the kitchen for about 30 minutes (depending on the room temperature) until the shells develop a crust and is not sticky when you touch it with your fingertip.
Put the tray in the preheated oven and bake for 14 minutes. For uniform baking, flip the tray after about 7-8 minutes. Baking time depends on your oven. Bake a couple test macaron shells before you bake the rest of the batter. When you get the tray out of the oven, immediately separate the baking paper with the macaron shells from the tray and place it on a cool surface (this makes it easier to remove the shells from the paper/mat). Wait for the shells to cool before removing.
Putting it all together!
Arrange pairs of equal sized macaron shells. Put the ganache in a pastry bag with an 8 mm smooth piping tip. Flip over one shell with the flat side facing up, pipe a little ganache in the middle, put the second shell on top and gently squeeze so the ganache spreads between them a bit. Put the macarons in the fridge for 24 hours, so the flavors develop and the ganache seeps into the shells and softens them. Remove from fridge 2 hours before serving.
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