Earl Grey Macarons and Troubleshooting tips for Macs
I love earl grey. Anything. I get a kick out of finding ways to incorporate tea into my baking. I also have an obsession (as you probably figured out by now) with making macarons. A simple way to add flavor to anything is to infuse the cream you use when making ganache, and this technique is used often by bakeries to flavor their macarons. Matter of fact, a lot of bakeries specializing in macarons use white ganache flavored different ways as part of their fillings exclusively. You can add flavor on the “back end” of the ganache as well using flavor compounds. The possibilities are endless when it comes to flavoring a ganache. Sometimes the trick is being able to incorporate ENOUGH flavor and this is why I love the double bergamot earl grey tea. You don’t have to use a ton of tea to get the flavor you want. I particularly love the Stash brand of double bergamot earl grey if you can find it.
Earl Grey Macarons
(This recipe is the Italian method)
200 g almond flour, sifted (I like Wellbee’s brand-see below under tips)
200 g confectioners sugar, sifted
2 teabags of loose earl grey (tear bags open and remove tea)*
*I like Stash brand of “double bergamot” earl grey
75 g egg whites
200 g granulated sugar
50 g water
75 g egg whites (room temp)
pinch of cream of tartar
2-4 drops gel food color of choice (such as lavender or violet) I used a combo of each
1. In a large bowl combine the almond flour, and confectioners sugar, and the loose tea. Add the 75 gms of egg whites, and stir to combine to form a paste. Set aside.
2. In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment combine 75 gms of egg whites and the cream of tartar and begin whipping them on medium-high speed.
At the same time combine the 200 gms of granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan on high heat; bring to 240° without stirring while whipping the egg whites on your mixer simultaneously. You want the cooking sugar syrup to reach 240 degrees at the same time your whites reach stiff peaks. To time this; keep the stand mixer next to the stove so you can peek at the whites while still watching your cooking syrup. If you notice the whites starting to get too stiff before the sugar is done; slow down the mixer to low-speed.
3. Once the syrup is at 240 degrees, stop/take off the heat and start pouring the syrup down the side of the mixer bowl slowly with the mixer running on slow-medium at the same time; careful not to let the syrup hit the whisk to prevent hard syrup forming. Once all the syrup is in, crank up the mixer and whip the whites until very glossy and stiff. Add the gel color to the meringue when it is about 90 % done.
4. Take the whipped meringue and place on top of the almond mixture and start to fold gently until all of the meringue is incorporated; careful not to deflate the mixture. You are looking for a thick consistency like lava but one that allows you to have the batter fall in ribbons when you hold the spatula above the bowl. A good measure of consistency is to let the batter fall off the spatula until you can make a figure 8 without the batter breaking. If the batter breaks while doing this, fold it a few more times. Fill a piping bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round tip and pipe the cookies on parchment lined sheet trays; leaving at least an inch space between cookies. Take the trays and rap them hard on the counter to release any air bubbles. Let the trays sit out anywhere from 30-60 minutes; as long as it takes until when you touch the top of the cookies they are dry and no longer tacky to the touch.
5. Bake the cookies one tray at a time in a 325° F oven (300° F if convection oven) for about 15-18 minutes until the cookies are no longer wet on the bottom and appear dry. Please note: Every oven is different and you may need to play around with your temperature or time to achieve the perfect macaron. Sacrifice one if you have to test. Let the cookies cool on the tray. Sandwich with the filling. Store the cookies in the fridge to “mature” in an airtight container 8 hours or overnight; this helps the cookies become even more chewy as the moisture from the filling helps the texture of the cookie as well as enhancing the overall flavor.
Earl Grey White Chocolate Ganache
9 oz. white chocolate chopped fine (Do NOT use white chocolate chips!)
4.5 oz. heavy cream
2 earl grey tea bags
Make the ganache: heat the heavy cream in the microwave on high for 1 minute. Steep the tea bags in the heavy cream for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes; squeeze the tea bags into the cream until dry and discard. Place the white chocolate in a medium size heat proof bowl. Using the microwave, heat the heavy cream again on high until very hot and pour over the chocolate; let sit one minute then gently whisk until emulsified. If there are chocolate pieces remaining; reheat the mixture on high at 20 second intervals until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Set the ganache in the refrigerator until firm while you make the macarons. You can prepare the ganache the day before.
Tips/trouble shooting for successful macarons:
• Know your oven. Buy an oven thermometer and keep it in your oven and calibrate your baking based on the oven temp. Rotate the pan if necessary. Even the most expensive ovens can have hot spots or uneven areas. If your oven has a convection function- use it! Convection is best for macarons (plan to drop the temperature 25 degrees less if using convection for baking). Quite a few of my earlier recipes I did not have a convection oven so that’s why those recipes did not post an oven temp for convection.
• Try different recipes. I’m not claiming mine is perfect by any means. I have even tried different recipes/ techniques myself by adding in dried egg whites etc. The point is find one base recipe you like best and practice with that same recipe over and over- tweak the temperature, tweak the timing, tweak your mixing etc. This will help you find your rhythm and determine what is wrong by eliminating/changing each component. When I want a more shiny mac, I swear by the Italian method- but I use both French and Italian. I find the Italian method yields macs that are more shiny because the sugar is fully melted into the batter.
• There is no ‘perfect’ recipe for a successful macaron. Early on I would scour the web trying to find the perfect recipe thinking it was the recipe. The truth is it’s about the technique and mastering the trouble shooting factors that yield the perfect macaron. Practice as much as possible. Try not to get mad- you will have bad macaron days. It happens. Don’t give up. #beenthere #Ifeelyou
• Use only flat sheet pans. THIS IS KEY!! You cannot use a warped sheet pan- your batter will run and you will end up with weird shaped cookies. Side note: you can buy 1/4 sheet pans-they can be tricky to find but they resist warping more since they are smaller. I find mine in restaurant supply stores. You can even find 1/4 size silpat mats for them as well. Sometimes when I’m testing a new recipe I will pipe out a batch on this size pan so I don’t have to pipe as much.
• Use a scale to measure ingredients. People have asked me why I don’t post the measurements in just cups etc. Macarons are very fussy- if you want to increase your chance of getting the perfect cookie plan to measure by using a scale. That’s what professional bakeries do. There are many inexpensive scales out there. To be a serious baker (no shade) you should have a scale- and buy one that does both grams, ounces. #sorrynotsorry
• To get smooth bump free macarons you should always sift. I admit- sometimes I’m lazy and even I don’t always sift- case in point on my matcha tea macarons; when I made that batch I was being lazy and I did not sift (look at the pics of them and you will see bumpy macarons).
• Don’t crowd the pan with as many macarons as you think can fit. If you pipe too many it can create excess moisture and lead to cracked shells. Also, they need room to spread after piping. FYI- there are silpat (copycat like mats) out there that have an excess of circles on them with little spacing- I shoot for the ones that have 20 circles per 1/2 sheet pan on them. I made the mistake of buying a mat that had the circles way too close- I won’t name the brand but it is a dark brown mat.
• Parchment paper vs. Silpat. The choice is up to you. I personally do both. I tend to prefer parchment paper-I find that the foot of the cookie is better, but some people swear by a silicone mat. If you do use paper- make sure it is flat and fits the size perfectly on the sheet pan. Any excess wrinkling or curled or wavy flaps will affect how the cookies rise and affect the ‘feet’ of the cookie. FYI- you can find boxes of parchment paper that fits 1/2 sheet pans at places like Smart and Final for cheap. The box will last you forever and its superior than the roll type you find in the grocery store because you don’t have to fight with the roll factor.
• Almond flour: consider drying out your almond flour (it may be too moist and contributing to your shells cracking). To dry out almond meal/flour place on a sheet pan in single layer and set in the oven at your lowest temperature (ideally 170-175 F) and bake for around 10 minutes. If you place a handful of almond flour in your hand and squeeze it and it sticks together than chances are it needs to be dried out first. BTW, I recently found this “very fine” almond flour online called Wellbee’s and it is NOW my favorite. It is very fine and light in color which I love!
• Don’t use liquid food coloring or add excess liquid flavorings. Only use gel food color or powdered food coloring. Too much liquid added to the batter can adversely affect the shells.
• Consider aging the egg whites. I’ll be honest- I typically don’t do this-again, I’m inherently lazy. I’ve tried it, I even did my own study once over a weeks time when I aged whites and made several batches with and without and I’m not completely convinced. Some people swear by it and say it makes a difference. Eh, I’m not sold. I heard a rumor though that Laudure ages theirs like a week. But do try it. To age: separate your whites out the day or 2 before and place in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and then poke holes in the plastic and place back in the fridge. Remove from the fridge when ready to bake and let sit out until room temperature.
• Speaking of egg whites; make sure they are separately cleanly. Wash your hands before you start. #Captainobvious. Not a tiny speck of egg yolk can invade your whites or your meringue will not come out right. Clean our your mixer bowl each and every time before starting your recipe. You can even wipe out the bowl with a paper towel that has been moistened with vinegar to remove any trace of dirt or grease. Also- when separating your whites use 3 separate bowls. Crack one egg at a time and then place that egg white into a separate CLEAN bowl so that if you get a speck of yolk you don’t destroy the whole batch. Even though I’m lazy I ALWAYS use this method.
• Watch as many videos you can find about how to mix/fold correctly. Under mixing or over mixing is typically the main reason why macarons don’t come out right. Hint- err on the side of undermixing as you can always squeeze out the batter and redo. Youtube is great for this-type in the search area macaron and a plethora of videos will come up. To visually see how the batter is supposed to look will make a huge difference. I tried to make a video using my camera once but it was a disaster, otherwise I would post a video for you.
I hope this helps. Just know that we’ve all had times when our macs did not come out. I used to work in a commercial kitchen where we made thousands of macs in one day, and even the head pastry chef would have times where she would have to do over a recipe because she over mixed or whatever reason they did not come out right, so don’t beat yourself up if they don’t look perfect. They are very finicky.