To some people, French or Italian may not mean anything when it comes to macarons. To some other people, it might even seem confusing. What we're referring to here is the method adopted while making macarons. Yeah yeah they're supposedly French macarons,
but we're all the way Italian in our chosen method of making them.
What is the Italian method? Why is it even called Italian? Err, aren't macarons from France?
I'm not really sure, and I wouldn't believe anyone that claimed they were sure, but allegedly, and perhaps controversially, macarons actually originated from Italy. Rumour has it that when King Henry II of France proposed to Catherine d’Medici of Italy back in the 1500s she stipulated she would only accept if she could bring her Italian pastry chefs, the masters of the art of Macaronage, along with her to France. Despite the authenticity of the story, there's a clear difference in methods. The Italian Meringue method involves a hot sugar syrup, and the French meringue method doesn't.
Hot sugar syrups and even sugar thermometers put some people off. But one or even two failed batches of macarons is enough to put a lot of people off from making them forever. After painstakingly following a recipe to the T and getting some gnarly macaron shells at the end of all that measuring, piping, waiting, baking, it is really dis-heartening. Maybe you've even gotten lucky with your first batch, and the second attempt gave all sorts of wonky ones, or there are some beauties in the batch mixed in sporadically with some beasts? As macaron
recipes and techniques are heavily dependent on two elements, air (Goodie) and moisture (Baddie), any fluctuations from the ideal levels of both elements show up inconsistent and unpredictable results. By boiling the sugar syrup and pouring it into beaten egg whites to whip to a stiff and fluffy meringue, the Italian Meringue method adds more stability to the macaron batter by controlling the moisture in the egg whites and air in the meringue.
Photography: Anneli Marinovich
You need a decent macaron recipe
. Like the one below! Use this. It's ours and works for us - in our recipe section we've added recipes for different flavours and the macarons shells, you will also find some tips and tricks.
Before you embark on your macaron journey, you need some gear too. In particular...
Digital scales: Measurements are precise. 1 gram here or there, especially when measuring 'wet' ingredients like food colouring, egg whites and water, could flop out your batter.
Sieve: A fine stainless steel mesh is the one. Sifting is that important first step to aerate the dry ingredients (ground almonds and icing sugar) and pull out coarse bits that would weigh down the batter and make it grainy and bumpy.
Sift ground almonds and icing sugar together. If grinding your own almonds, do it with the icing sugar so that it doesn't turn to butter
Sugar thermometer: The only extra piece of kit that's leads to the main difference between French and Italian methods. These are different to meat probes as they can reach higher temperatures and are often digital. Handy when playing with caramel as well.
Boil the granulated sugar and water together to reach a syrup just before the "hard-boil" stage at 118 degrees, while simultaneously whipping the first measure of egg whites on medium speed
Electric mixer: I'd be lost without a KitchenAid. It is the only brand I have worked with all the way through from culinary school to the Michelin starred restaurant in Paris to the Anges kitchen in London. Having owned my personal hot-red KitchenAid mixer for the last 6 years or so with no complaints, there was no doubt in my mind that these were the ones we were going to invest in for Anges. The speeds are stable, the motor is durable, the base is of adequate weight, the attachment extras are great (we have a meat mincer and pasta roller at home!), and they are drop dead gorgeous.
Once the sugar syrup has reached 118 degrees, reduce the speed of the mixer and pour the syrup down the side of the bowl in a steady stream (otherwise you risk getting omelette-y lumps and/or hot syrup splattered everywhere)
Bring the speed back up to medium to whip the egg whites to a stiff meringue. Pour the second measure of the egg whites with any colouring of choice onto the dry almond-icing sugar mix in a heavy-based mixing bowl
Ceramic mixing bowls: A weighty ceramic bowl is what you need when it comes to the crucial folding-the-batter stage. Say no to plastic bowls as they transfer heat from your hands into the batter which in turn deflates the air out of it. We swear by the range from Mason Cash
. They're good lookers too.
Fold the meringue in using gentle and firm strokes, scraping from all the sides of the bowl and pulling the spatula through the middle to incorporate all ingredients and to reach a smooth and shiny cake-batter like consistency
Silicone spatulas: Bendy spatulas help the crucial technique of folding the meringue into the dry ingredients by scraping everything around the sides of the mixing bowl gently. Mastrad's a good brand.
Heavy baking trays: To transfer heat gradually and evenly I recommend heavy trays like these
. They don't need to be non-stick (you're using baking parchment anyway) but they do need to be reasonably heavy-weight.
1cm nozzle: Maxi macaron, medium macaron, mini macaron, all possible with the one nozzle size. Don't be tempted by the bigger nozzles to make bigger macarons - it's much more difficult to control the flow of the batter when it comes to piping and you're more likely to end up with some funky shapes.
Pour two-three ladles of batter into the prepared piping bag and use this handy template below to help pipe perfect pretty round domes. Once piped a whole tray, tap firmly against the work-surface to pop out any trapped air bubbles and let rest for 20 minutes before baking
Print this on A4 sheet of paper, cut baking parchment to size and place on top of template on a baking tray. Pipe batter to fill outlines evenly, and once a full tray is piped tap the tray against the work surface, slide out the template and leave to rest
Happy baking lovers, Reshmi xoxo
Don't have the time to make your own macaroons? Look at our macaroons collection to buy online.