Italian macaron method
The Italian macaron method.
Photo: Marina Oliiphant
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200g almond meal, laid out on tray to dry for 2 days
200g pure icing sugar, sieved
150g egg whites (from 3 to 4 large eggs), sieved and allowed to stand at room temperature overnight
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1g dry egg-white powder (optional)
200g castor sugar
Few drops food colouring
Preheat oven to 150C. Place almond meal and icing sugar in a food processor and pulse to get a finer consistency. Sieve through a drum sieve into a large mixing bowl. Divide egg whites in two batches, each 75 grams. Place one batch of egg whites in an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add cream of tartar and egg white powder and set aside.
Mix the remaining egg whites into almond mix to make a thick paste, then set aside. Put sugar and water in a saucepan on medium heat, stir to make sugar syrup. Insert thermometer. When thermometer reaches 110C, start whisking egg whites on low speed. Gradually increase the speed until the egg whites are thick. If the sugar syrup gets too hot before the egg whites are ready, add three teaspoons of cold water to syrup to reduce the temperature. When sugar syrup reaches 118C and the egg whites are ready, slowly pour syrup down the side of the mixer while whisking the egg whites on medium speed.
Continue to mix for about 10 minutes until the meringue cools (the bowl should still feel slightly warm). Add food colouring. Using a pastry scraper, mix the meringue into the almond meal paste — no need to be gentle. Keep mixing until the paste is supple and shiny. It is important to have the correct consistency. The mixture should be oozy and lava-like. When you fold the mixture over itself, it will spread slowly. Using a pastry bag fitted with a one-centimetre plain nozzle, pipe mixture on to a lined double baking tray. Using two trays ensures even heat distribution. You can use baking paper to line the trays but I have found a silicone baking mat gives the best result. Rap the baking tray on the bench firmly a couple of times to get rid of any large air bubbles, settle the shape of the macaron and help make the pied or "foot". Bake for about 16 minutes-18 minutes.
Check the macarons are dry by testing whether the top and the pied are firm (if the top is soft and the sides are moist, leave them a few more minutes). Remove from oven and cool on baking trays, then remove and place on wire racks. When cool, sandwich with filling (see recipes right). Refrigerate overnight for the correct soft macaron texture. They can be frozen for up to six weeks.Makes 85-90 (42-45 filled macarons)