If you regularly read my blog (and if you don’t: why not?!?!), you might know that this year I started teaching macaron making at The Essential Ingredient. It’s been a fantastic and rewarding experience (especially when I get sent pictures of finished macarons from former students) and I look forward to more classes next year. One question I get asked frequently is “What macaron book do you recommend?” I’ve probably bought all the books on macarons ever published. I have even bought two macaron books written in French (Christophe Felder and Pierre Herme) to learn as much as I can (on a few occassions I have even translated a few recipes). With the craze of macarons in the year or so, a number of books in English have also been published. None of them I have been completely happy with.
That is of course until last week, when, by some happy accident (meaning I went to the bookstore without intending to buy anything) I found Jose Marechal’s Secrets of Macarons.
Jose Marechal is the chef and owner of Café Noir in Paris. He has also authored another book entitled Verrines.
Without a doubt, this is the one book that I would recommend anyone to buy if you’re serious about learning macarons. While the book is tiny (in size), it’s packed with information that I have learned only through years of tears, trial and error.
The book is set out in three main parts
This section also covers basic ingredients for macaron fillings: chocolate, butter (for buttercreams and crème mousseline) and fruit fillings.
Finally, this section ends with a number of answers to questions that many of us macaron makers have asked in the past. (Why are my shells flat? How do you store and keep macarons?)
The second section covers Classic Macarons Recipes and how you can pair them with a number of fillings. For example, there is a basic Vanilla Macaron recipe but a selection of three fillings (butter cream, chantilly cream with mascarpone and crème mousseline). Marechal’s preferred technique is the Italian method and he presents recipes for other classic flavours such as pistachio, chocolate, caramel, strawberry and lemon to name a few.
The last chapter covers Specialty Macarons. Here you will find a recipe for the French method (uncooked sugar shell), Macarons de Nancy, amaretti, walnut, and honey for example.
Do I think that if you have never made macarons in your life this book will guarantee you a successful first batch? Honestly, probably not as I haven’t met anyone who has made a first batch successfully – but please feel free to prove me wrong. Plus nothing beats a proper class (my macaron classes start in February 2011 hint hint!) But it will give you a much better understanding as to why things are done a certain way and certainly cut down on your failure rate. In fact, once you get the hang of macaron making, you’ll realize how easy it was in the first place.
I fell in love with Donna Hay’s latest Strawberry and Vanilla Macaron trifle and I decided to test the book’s recipe for plain macarons. I noticed the proportions to be very similar to the Italian Method that I currently use and I was happy with the result. For the filling, I whipped 250 grams cream until soft peaks and added 75 grams caster sugar and beat until stiff peaks. I used this to fill the macaron shells and found it to be a quick way which worked well in the trifle. I also made individual trifle portions rather then serving in a big bowl. I suggest instead of cranberry juice, you might want to also try strawberry flavoured instant gelatine instead.
Overall, this book is well thought out, comprehensive and the small enough to get through in one sitting (yes, probably just like a batch of macarons). Even if you think you know everything about macarons, it’s a handy resource to have and sure beats reading every single article on the internet. Plus, at 20 bucks, I promise, it’s a steal. I’m glad I bought it but just one question to the author: Where was this book four years ago when I first set out on my macaron making?
Basic Macaron Recipe
Jose Marechal: Secrets of Macarons
- 200 grams ground almonds
- 200 grams icing sugar
- 75 ml water
- 200 grams caster sugar
- 2 x 80 grams egg whites
- 1 vanilla bean
- White Colouring (Optional)
- Process then carefully sift the ground almonds and icing sugar (this is called tant pour tant). Set aside.
- In a saucepan, bring the water and caster sugar to the boil. Without stirring, make sure the temperature of the resulting syrup doesn’t go above 115c.
- Gently beat 80 grams egg whites to soft peaks, then increase the speed of the beater when the temperature of the syrup passes 105c. When the syrup reaches 115c remove the saucepan from the heat and pour the syrup in a thin stream into the beaten egg whites. Continue to beat the meringue for about 10 minutes, so that it cools.
- Combine the tant pour tant and the remaining unbeaten egg whites, making a smooth almond paste.
- Scrape the vanilla bean and incorporate a few vanilla seeds into the almond paste, then add the colouring (if desired).
- Using a flexible spatula, incorporate about a third of the merinque into the almond paste to loosen the mixture a little, then add the rest of the meringue, working the batter carefully.
- Fill a piping bag fitten with an 8 mm nozzle with the batter. Attach a sheet of baking paper to each baking tray, placing small dots of batter in each corner. Pipe out small, regular and well placed rounds, each about the size of a walnut. Lightly tap the bottom of the trays and allow the macarons to form a crust at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 150c.
- Bake in the oven for 14 minutes. When you take them out, carefully place the baking paper on dampened benchtop: the shells will be easier to remove. (Me here – I just left them to cool on the baking tray. I have found if the macarons are cooked through there is no need to dampen the baking paper.
Donna Hay’s Strawberry and Vanilla Macaron Trifle
The trifle can be served individually or in a large trifle bowl.
- 16 pieces plain macarons
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 500 ml cream, whipped
- 250 grams strawberries, halved
For the Jelly
- 2 1/2 teaspoons gelatine powder
- 750 ml cranberry juice
- 110 grams caster sugar
- 500 grams strawberries, halved
- To make the strawberry jelly, place the gelatine and ½ cup (125ml) cranberry juice in a bowl and stir to combine. Set aside for 5 minutes or until the gelatine is absorbed. Place the remaining cranberry juice and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, add the gelatine and stir to combine. Set aside to cool for 20 minutes.
- Arrange the strawberries in the base of a 4 litre-capacity bowl and pour over the jelly mixture. Refrigerate for 2–3 hours until set. To assemble, arrange the macarons on the jelly. Fold the vanilla extract through the cream and layer over the macarons. Top with strawberries to serve. Serves 6–8.
Secrets of Macarons Published by Murdoch Books RRP $19.95