Homemade Macarons – à la Pierre Hermé
If you’ve been one of my longtime readers, you know I have an obsession with macarons. I admit I go insane over Pierre Hermé macarons. (When I landed in Paris for vacation last May, the top “must do things” on my first day was to go to any of Hermé’s boutiques and have his macarons and pastries!)
In case you didn’t know, Pierre Hermé is one of the preeminent pastry chefs in the world and most known for his macarons and his unusual flavor combinations, especially his signature flavor Isaphan (a wondrous palm-sized rose macaron was filled with rose petal crème, whole raspberries, and lychees). He creates some fantastic chocolates and gorgeous, delicious cakes if you ever visit any of his boutiques in Paris, London, and Tokyo.
When I attended this year’s second day of StarChefs.com International Chefs Congress, they invited Mr. Hermé to speak for two workshops (the one later in the day was sort of hands-on) and him speaking about foie gras chocolate macaron (the link goes my YouTube clip of his lecture about his foie gras macaron).
This workshop inspired me to make his macarons and I started to plan when I can actually bake since I have graduate classes and work to take care of. Eventually, I received my English copy of his Macaron book and sourced most of my macaron ingredients from American Almond Company and Green & Black’s Organic chocolates.
As Thanksgiving neared, I whipped up three flavors: jasmine, pistachio, and foie gras chocolate macarons. As you read from my Thanksgiving post, I gave out some as parting gifts from my Thanksgiving dinner and as part of my petit fours. They came out great (macarons developed feet, composed and set macarons were delicious and texturally great – thin crisp exterior meets soft, moist crumb) and my friends polished them off in no time.
I know some of your are probably asking: Is making macarons difficult? Do you think it’s worth the effort? It’s difficult if you don’t have an accurate candy thermometer (or any thermometer to gauge your very hot simple syrup’s temperature), don’t read the instructions carefully, and it does help to have baking experience. It is worth the effort as you can satisfy your craving for macarons.
You do have to be patient since it takes about 3 days to make your huge batch of macarons (one recipe creates about 144 macarons shells or 72 macarons). You’re not constantly monitoring the cookies, it’s more like you have to let things sit in your refrigerator to let it set and your egg whites have to be “aged” or “liquified” (purpose here is to relax the egg whites’ proteins – and Hermé prefers it to sit in the fridge for a week). Some recipes require a few more steps, as you make the macaron flavors more complex (like I had to make the foie gras jelly ahead of time before making the shells). To create successful macarons boils down to three main things: good ingredients, good technique, and time.
Hopefully, this doesn’t intimidate you further. When you’re actually making the macaron shells, it takes about 20-25 minutes to prep, mix with a stand mixer, and done with baking (baking time is about 12-15 minutes with my standard oven, at a lower temperature than the stated). If you’re willing to bite the bullet, roll up your sleeves, and get your hands dirty to make macarons, you will enjoy the fruits of your labor.
The recipe below is Pierre Hermé’s pistachio macaron (my standard favorite flavor) with my adaptations to the ingredients (my book was printed for the United Kingdom audience so there’s some difference in ingredients and conversions but I do use grams when I weigh my ingredients). If you still have questions about the recipe below, I will try to answer them on the comments section.
Adapted from Macarons by Pierre Hermé
Ingredients for the macaron shells:
300g ground almonds (or purchased blanched almond flour, like I have from American Almond Company)
300g powdered sugar
110g ‘liquefied’ egg whites
2g approx. lemon yellow food coloring
4g approx. pistachio green food coloring
110g ‘liquefied’ egg whites
Ingredients for the pistachio ganache
275g liquid creme fraiche or whipping cream (35% fat)
300g Valrhona Ivoire couverture or white chocolate (Hermé prefers Valhrona but any reputable chocolate company like Green & Black’s like I’ve used, is perfectly fine)
45g pistachio paste OR 45g unsalted shelled pistachios blended with the cream (I used American Almond’s pistachio paste, which has more oil blended into the mixture for consistency, I balanced it by using less cream)
Hardware needed for making macarons (I listed the ones that might not be your standard kitchenware)
Digital scale (to weigh out ingredients)
Candy thermometer (or any thermometer that can safely handle high temperatures)
At least 2 cookie sheet pans (the flat pans with a lip around the edges)
Silicon mats or parchment paper (to line your pans)
12-inch piping bag fitted with a plain piping tip (I used Ateco tip #804)
- Sift together the icing sugar and ground almonds. Stir the colorings into the first portion of liquefied egg whites. Pour them over the mixture of icing sugar and ground almonds but do not stir.
- Bring the water and sugar to boil at 118°C (244°F, if you have to guess without a thermometer, soft ball stage). When the syrup reaches 115°C (239°F), simultaneously start whisking the second portion of liquefied egg whites to soft peaks on a medium speed.
- When the sugar reaches 118°C, pour it over the whipped egg whites. Whisk and allow the meringue to cool down to 50°C (122°F), then fold it into the almond-sugar mixture with a rubber spatula. (The mixture should be relatively loose and meld into itself as you fold. Just don’t go too far before you deflate your batter.)
- Spoon the batter into a piping bag with a plain piping tip.
- Pipe rounds of batter about 3.5 cm in diameter, spacing them 2 cm apart on baking trays lined with baking parchment.
- Rap the tray on the work surface covered with a kitchen cloth. Leave to stand for at least 30 minutes until a skin forms on the shells (other words, when you gently touch the macarons, it does not cling on to your finger).
- Preheat the fan oven to 180°C (356°F; for my oven I used 310°F) then put the trays in the oven. Bake for 12 minutes quickly opening and shutting the oven door twice during cooking time. Out of the oven, slide the shells on to the work surface.
Making the pistachio ganache & Assembling
- Chop up the chocolate and melt it in a Pyrex of stainless steel bowl over a pot of barely simmering water.
- Bring the cream to the boil with the pistachio paste. Stir then pour it over the chocolate a third at a time.
- Blend for 10 minutes with a hand blender.
- Pour the ganache into a gratin dish or brownie pan. Press clingfilm over the surface of the ganache and set aside in the fridge for the ganache to thicken.
- Spoon the ganache into a piping bag with a plain nozzle. Pipe a generous mound of ganache on to half of the shells then top with the remaining shells.
- Store the macarons in the fridge for 24 hours and bring them back out 2 hours before serving.
If you’d like to view the slideshow of all the macarons I’ve baked so far, please scroll through my slideshow below (or view my Flickr set):
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Information about ingredient sources, etc.:
American Almond Company (for almond flour, pistachio paste, etc.)
Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate
Official Website (available in stores like Whole Foods)