Macarons with not an almond in sight
…not that there’s anything wrong with almond macarons. A little variation is always good though, especially when my two favourite nuts – pistachio and hazelnut – have such a distinctive flavour that open up even more flavour possibilities. The pistachio variety has been a long time coming – after three failed batches I was very close to giving up. These nuts aren’t exactly cheap either! After so many batches I do have a few insights though, so it’s all worth it (right?!). In the process of making the fillings I’ve really fallen in love with using honey instead of icing sugar – obviously honey has its own flavour, but it also produce an unbeatable silky smooth texture. I also feel a little less guilty about eating icing, given that honey is much better for you than refined sugar! Of course, I’m not denying it helps that I was gifted some wonderful honey :D
If you’ve never made macarons before, you really have nothing to fear – seriously, failure is still delicious and you won’t have any problem getting rid of them, foot, cracks, whatever! However, I’d advise you start with a small batch. I’ve done 1/3 batches for this reason, but also because macarons are pretty rich and I can never really eat more than two at a time without reaching my sugar quota for the next few hours!
First, a few ingredient notes:
- Instead of aging my egg white, I leave it in the bowl I’m going to beat it in and leave it in the sun for about 15 minutes. You should really work at room temperature and it shouldn’t be humid (this prevents the shells from drying out enough).
- To get really smooth macarons, reserve the larger nutty pieces that don’t make it through your sieve for sprinkling on top or freeze for using as a garnish/dukkah/crumb coating another time. You really don’t want more than 1 tsp of nutty bits that don’t make it through the sieve in your macarons.
- Once you’ve processed your nuts (or even if you’re using nut “flour”), sieve it over a bowl on your scales that you’ve tared, to get the amount of flour you need. Reserve the rest for another use. I only got about 40% flour when I processed my pistachios in the food processor, so make sure you get enough!
- You can’t get pistachio flour easily (can you? Let me know if I’ve missed somewhere) but there are heaps of places in NZ selling hazelnut flour, which makes macarons MUCH easier. I got mine from Rare Fare, who buys from The Nut House, but Hazelz also sell it at Piko.
- The icing sugar I used had 3% cornstarch added – check the ingredients rather than just going for the more expensive sugar.
100% Hazelnut or pistachio macarons – adapted from Tartelette
makes about 12-15 filled macarons
- 1 egg white (around 33g, but I didn’t bother measuring) – you can freeze the yolk, broken & mixed with a pinch of salt, for another use
- 15g white sugar + pinch fine sea salt
- 65g icing sugar
- 37g hazelnut or pistachio flour (see point 2 & 3 above) – the bits that made it through the sieve!
1. Line a baking tray with ungreased baking paper or a silicone baking mat.
2. Whisk nuts and icing sugar in a bowl, set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg white until foamy, then gradually add white sugar in between beating. Continue beating until you get a creamy but sturdy meringue. If you lift the beaters out of the mixture and turn the beater upside down, the point should stand up straight. It may wobble still, and this is good. The meringue should still be shiny. If you’ve beaten until it is dull and separating, you’ve gone too far and your macarons will be quite hard without the soft inside. I tend to find they just never form feet and crack more. Up to you whether you want to keep going!
4. Dump the dry ingredients into the egg whites and start folding quickly by scraping the outside into the centre. It’s ok to beat a bit of air out of the meringue. Slow down once the dry bits are all incorporated. When you scrape the outside of the mixture it should stay together almost like a very very wet dough, but after a few seconds reluctantly sort of fill out the bowl like wet cake batter. Drop some batter onto a small plate – the tip should disappear into the batter after 30 seconds. If not, keep folding.
5. Fill a pastry bag with a plain round tip, then place in a large, tall glass, vase or jar, letting the end of the bag hang over the lip of the glass. Scrape/pour the batter into the bag. Twist the end of the bag so that stuff doesn’t explode everywhere when piping.
6. Pipe 2.5cm (1″) circles onto the baking paper, leaving just under 2cm between circles. The best way to pipe very round circles is to hold the bag perpendicular to the tray, and the tip of the pastry bag should stay a little in the circle. They spread out a bit once piped, so keep that in mind. Immediately after piping you can scatter the bigger nutty bits on top if you like (I’ve done that for the pistachio). Bang the tray on your bench or drop it several times, with quite a bit of force. You’ll see some air bubbles pop on the surface, and the macarons will spread out even more.
7. Let trays rest at room temperature until the tops are dull, not shiny. Touch one lightly with dry hands- it should feel dry, and not stick to your finger, even when you press it and make a little dent it will spring back and not stick to your finger.
8. Once the shells are dry, fire up your oven to 140C (285F) (take 15C off the temp if using fan bake), with a rack centered. Once up to temperature, place another baking tray under the tray with the macarons on and bake for 15 minutes before checking. The edges will darken ever so slightly. Try to peel a macaron on the corner off the paper – if it comes off without leaving bits of macaron behind, they should be done.
10. Let cool on the tray until room temp before peeling the rest. My oven (even on fan) doesn’t cook evenly so the centre ones are less cooked. If you find the middle ones stick more, pop them back into the oven for a few more minutes. If using baking paper: try not to get them off the paper by gripping the edges and pulling, as this will leave more of the cookie base slightly stuck to the paper. Instead, I find peeling them off gently works a charm. If they are stuck, Helene suggests either popping the cookies back into the oven (in the case that they may be slightly undercooked) for a few minutes, or spraying under the paper with water (only lightly!), then trying to peel them off. I’d then let them dry non-glossy sides up.
10. Make your filling and either pipe it onto the macarons or spoon on (I just spooned – flag washing the pastry bag again!). Spooning will be less neat but otherwise it’s fine. Then place similar sized shells on top, pressing down to make the icing come to the edges of the shells.
- 50g bittersweet chocolate (at least 70%, or this will be far too sweet)
- 10-30g unsalted butter, cubed (more butter makes for a softer ganache) – or used 10-20ml cream
- 1 heaping Tbspn stiff honey (I used J Friend & Co Kamahi honey)
Pomegranate & honey buttercream
This buttercream packs a surprisingly tangy punch and is not too sweet, making it perfect for macarons. Flavour wise this would best work with almond or pistachio macarons. It is silky smooth. You can make a double batch and use the rest on cupcakes! EDIT: As I just found out, it is also ridiculously good on toast. No surprises there!
- 40g unsalted butter, cubed and softened (you should be able to push a cube without much pressure and it’ll give in)
- scant tsp pomegranate molasses* (google pomegranate molasses and your country name to find this)
- 40g honey (I used J Friend & Co Pohutukawa honey)
- about 1 Tbs hot water (optional, makes a softer, lighter buttercream)
More macaron tips
- Every oven differs. With my new oven, I found that 150C cooked the macarons too quickly, and the edges got a little golden. If you’ve never made macarons before and you know your oven runs a little hot or cold, it can be good to do a test run by piping one macaron on a separate tray and using that as your sacrificial macaron as it were. If your oven is too cool the macaron will take ages to bake (more than 20 minutes) and may be quite hard (some of pistachio ones on the edges were like this). Use a moist filling, and refrigerate your macarons for a few days (this is pretty normal practice anyway) to soften the centres up a bit.
- Slightly undermixed macarons tend to be more rounded, whereas slightly overmixed macarons tend to be flatter. A trick to keeping your macarons rounded is to use frozen nut flour which means the batter is not so liquidy, but when piping the tops will show piping marks more and you will end up with little beaks. As long as you beat the whites at room temp though, you should be fine.
- Use fresh pistachios or hazelnuts. Don’t just grab them at the supermarket – really look at them. Pistachios should be quite green, not yellowing and not too shrivelled.
Foodie favourites at the moment
Hazelnut flour isn’t just great in macarons – a touch of it in bread & cakes gives them a swoonworthy aroma and when you think about it, a good amount of healthiness! My packet says you can substitute up to 1/3 of flour in most recipes with hazelnut flour. For bread I added a little extra gluten to keep things springy, but otherwise it has worked wonderfully. I simply LOVED it in this banana cake, especially with brown butter. I got mine from Rare Fare, who buys from The Nut House, but Hazelz also sell it at Piko.