Finally, finally I’ve conquered the french macaron! All of them had feet, no cracks and shiny tops- yahooo! As Malaysia is extremely humid- more so now that it’s the rainy season, I had to take lots of precautions to ensure that the feet form. Macarons are notorious for misbehaving in humid environments!
Firstly, I age the egg whites for at least a day to dry it out and increase its acidity. This step is essential regardless of the humidity as aged egg whites are much more stable than fresh ones.
Secondly, I switched on the airconditioning for at least half an hour before I start baking. This nippy environment is much more friendly for macarons, and will help the “skin” form properly before baking.
Thirdly, I let the piped macarons rest on the baking sheet for an hour to properly dry it out. Recipes usually state a rest period of 30 minutes, but that’s hardly enough for KL where it’s so muggy. I baked one macaron after a 45 minute rest just as a tester, and it cracked on top, so it definitely needs at least an hour- don’t skimp on the wait time, otherwise your efforts will be wasted and you’ll have lots of cracked macarons!
Fourthly, I baked one tray at a time.. I’m not sure if this helps but it doesn’t hurt either. Anyway, the bake time is short (15 minutes per tray) so the other tray would just have a slightly longer rest period.
The basic recipe is:
- 3 egg whites
- 110g ground almonds
- 170g icing sugar
- 50g caster sugar
- 2T cocoa powder
1. Sift the almonds, icing sugar and cocoa powder together, then blitz them in a food processor or blender until fine. Don’t blend for too long, the almond will become oily.
2. Whisk the egg whites in a very, very clean bowl. When it’s foamy, slowly add the caster sugar in. Beat until stiff, be careful not to overbeat it!
3. Sift the almond mixture over the stiff meringue and use a spatula to fold it it. The mixture will be quite hard initially but it will become more viscuous after several folds. Don’t worry, the meringue is meant to deflate quite a lot. The mixture is ready when it “flows like magma”.
4. Pipe 1.5″ circles on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper or a Silpat. Pipe them an inch apart. I drew a template on a large piece of paper and placed them under the parchment paper as guidance.
5. Let the piped batter rest for an hour in an air-conditioned room.
6. Bake for 15 minutes at 150C. Don’t forget to rotate the pan halfway.
Pavlovas are possibly one of the most delicious things to eat, and so effortlessly pretty. It’s perfect as it is- its crisp, fragile shell, marshmallowy centre, luxurious cream and sweet-tart fruit tumbled on top. Absolutely perfect. Although I used peaches along with strawberries this time, I prefer it with just strawberries. Lucas Hollweg’s brilliant book, Good Things To Eat has a beautiful autumn version with blackberries and cinammon- what a dream. A gorgeous book with gorgeous photographs, definitely one of my favourites.
My go-t0 recipe for pavlova is from here- I’ve made it several times, and it’s flawless.