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For Christmas last year I received a voucher from my in-laws for the Essential Ingredient Cooking School. It’s fair to say that I absolutely lost it when I was looking through the course guide and found a class hosted by Adriano Zumbo entitled ‘Pastry: Meringue to Macaron’. I immediately booked in and have been eagerly awaiting the class since March.

The class covered quite a bit of ground, with demonstrations on making Italian, Swiss and French Meringues as well as the aforementioned macarons (plain and chocolate) and five different fillings.

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We started the class with a demonstration of Adriano’s basic macaron recipe (a version of which is available here), before we tackled making the macarons ourselves.

Adriano recommends using an Italian meringue to make the macarons. A French meringue can be used, but it is a drier style meringue which will produce drier macarons. French meringue is also more difficult to work with and is best suited to making stand alone meringues which are baked or dehydrated. Swiss meringue is similar to the Italian meringue but is used for topping tarts (such as lemon meringue pie) and for aerating mousses and buttercreams. Here are some of Adriano’s creations:

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The top picture are little animals made from French meringues and under that, lemon tartlettes topped with Swiss meringue.

The basic way to make macarons is to make an Italian meringue by heating a sugar syrup (sugar and water), then combining with egg whites in an electric mixer and beating until thick and cooled. Make a mixture of almond meal and icing sugar (called tant pour tant, literally ‘half and half’), pour some eggwhite on the tant pour tant, then pour the meringue on top. Gently fold together, then pipe the mixture in circles onto trays and bake.

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Easy right?

Regular readers will know I have somewhat of a macaron obsession, despite my inability to make decent ones myself. In fact, my macaron failure was one topic of our very first blog post (which also contains a picture of an incredibly sad macaron). I have since had some other (unblogged) failures and definitely need some help.

Adriano was a great teacher and had lots of tips and tricks for macaron success. Nonetheless, he emphasised that macarons are largely based on feel and practice makes perfect. Looks like I have several more dud batches in my future then!

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This perfect macaron was made by Adriano, not me!

Tips for macaron success

1. Ingredients

  • Egg whites – old egg whites are more watery than new egg whites and therefore aerate better. Egg whites are used in the macaron recipe firstly to make the meringue and secondly, as an addition to the tant pour tant (almond meal and icing mixture). It is best to use old egg whites for the meringue and fresh for the tant pour tant. Age your egg whites by leaving them on the bench for a couple of days. Egg whites should be used at room temperature.
  • Use egg white powder as well as egg whites to help achieve a more stable mixture.
  • Use pure icing sugar, not icing sugar mixture.
  • It’s okay to use almond meal but you can get better results if you process blanched almonds in a food processor yourself, as the powder will be finer.
  • When making the tant pour tant (almond meal and icing sugar) you can process the mixture in a food processor to make it finer. It is very important to sift the tant pour tant (ie. both the almond meal and the icing sugar together) prior to using it. Don’t sift each ingredient separately and then combine them.

2. Technique

  • It is best to add any food colourings to the sugar syrup, rather than later on to the meringue. This is because colourings ordinarily contain liquid and adding liquid can change the structure of the meringue.
  • When making the sugar syrup, the sugar and water should reach between 118C and 121C. It is easier to get an accurate measurement using an electronic thermometer as the mixture is not very deep. If you overheat your mixture, you can add some extra cold water to reduce the heat.
  • If you overheat the sugar syrup and still use it, this is what happens:

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Yes, I managed to overcook the sugar syrup and ruin the meringue. Basically, if the sugar syrup is too hot, it hardens when it hits the bowl, rather than being incorporated in the meringue. If this happens it is best to start again as your mixture is ruined. We actually baked up this mixture and you can see the results below (if I could describe them in one word, it would be FAIL).

  • Use two trays stacked on top of each other – this prevents the bottoms of the macarons from drying out due to direct heat (though I note that Duncan believes that whether you need to double tray depends on your oven).
  • Stop whisking the meringue while it is still a little warm, if the mixture is too cold it will hold too much air.
  • Gently fold the meringue together with the tant pour tant and the extra eggwhite.

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  • The mixture should be fairly loose (some have described it as molten lava). If the mixture is too thick, knock the air out of it by slapping the mixture with a spatula.

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  • When piping, evenly space the macarons. For beginners it is easiest to draw a template of the circles, this will also help make the macaron shells even in size.

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Note that the mixture in the picture above is awful and lumpy due to my overcooking of the sugar syrup. In comparison, below are Adriano’s macarons:

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  • Once you have finished piping, tap underneath the tray a few times to knock out extra air.
  • To create ‘feet’ on the macarons, it is important to dry the shell. You can do this in the oven by heating the oven to 200C, then immediately switching it off when you put the macarons in. Wait 10 minutes, then turn the oven back on at 150C and cook for 5-6 minutes. Alternatively, leave the shells on the bench until they have formed a skin and are touch-dry (ie. you can touch them with your finger and the mixture will not stick). Then cook the macarons for 15-18 minutes at 135C.
  • Knowing when the macarons are cooked is a matter of feel. To check if your macarons are cooked, pick one up. It should easily come away from the tray and appear to be set when you gently jiggle it.
  • If your mixture wasn’t perfect it will be pretty obvious once the macarons are baked:

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The top batch was made by another group in the class. The bottom batch was made with the overcooked sugar syrup.

  • Cool the macaron shells on their trays before filling.

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Thankfully, one batch we made worked perfectly.

Cool and then sandwich with the filling of your choice. This one is raspberry with a shortbread centre:

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Here, the back macarons are filled with salted caramel buttercream, the front with chestnut buttercream and passionfruit ganache

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We also made choc-mint aero and chocolate with fig and foie gras.

Finally, we got to taste a batch made by Adriano (something I was very excited about given what happened last time I had Adriano’s macarons):

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All in all, it was a wonderful day and I cannot recommend it highly enough. The Essential Ingredient Cooking School organises its schedule in the early part of the year so it is unclear whether this class will be available in 2011. However, I note that Adriano offers classes at his Rozelle premises.

We took our creations home to enjoy. Apparently macarons are best served the day after they are made… though I’m not sure they will last that long!

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Details

Essential Ingredient Cooking School
Prahran Market, Elizabeth Street, South Yarra VIC 3141
Ph: (03) 9827 9047
Email: cookingschool@essentialingredientvic.com.au

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14 Responses to “Macaron making with Adriano Zumbo”

  1. claire says:

    Awesome post, Em! A.Zum’s class looks and sounds like lots of fun (but with a degree of difficulty that definitely surpasses my meagre baking skills).
    Those little birds are freaking adorable.

  2. Oh!! How absolutely fabulous! I was so excited to see his class on the schedule too, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend.

    Thank you for the write up, it was a really interesting read, and the tips were really helpful to prep me for my first macaron making adventure. I’m really nervous about that!

  3. Your pictures are so fantastic! Glad we got similar notes from the day. Don’t beat yourself up over the sugar syrup, now we all know how to make it.
    My macaron haul lasted until 7pm. Wait for 24 hours, pfft 🙂

  4. Lynne says:

    Wow! That sounds like an amazing class!! I tried making macarons, but they were such a failure I’m scared to try again! These pictures look so yummy I feel I really must try again!!! Thanks for posting this!!

  5. Brilynn says:

    Macarons are pretty much my culinary nemesis. I’ve failed SO many times at making them! Despite that, every now and then I get the urge to try again just to check and see if I’ll do better this time around…

  6. Hannah says:

    LOVE the little birds! Utterly, utterly gorgeous. So, is your blog title going to change to “… macarons please us”? 😛

    • Emily says:

      Claire and Hannah: yes I loved the little birds too – such perfect beaks! Really gorgeous.

      Brilynn and Lynne: have a go again! I have had many macaron failures but am going to try again. I think it is so easy to make a little mistake and for things to go bad, but it will be such a triumph to make some good macarons! I think my plan will be to make a very small batch so if it is ruined, I won’t have too much to throw out! Let me know how you go!

      Celeste: Have a go when you don’t have any pressure (ie. don’t offer to bring them to a party). I think the best tip I got from the course is to add colouring in to the sugar syrup. I was adding it at the end and it is amazing how a couple of drops of colouring can seriously alter the consistency of the mixture. The other great source for macaron tips is Duncan – http://www.syrupandtang.com/macarons/

      Emma: Yep the sugar syrup thing is pretty funny, I really think it looks like the whisk of the KitchenAid has wings! And no… I don’t have any macarons left either!

  7. OohLookBel says:

    Loved this post! It must have been so awesome and fun for you. I did a class with Adriano a few years ago where he showed how to make some tarts and cakes. Can’t wait to do more when his classes start at Rozelle.

  8. Oooh lucky you! And thanks for posting up the macaron tips too – I couldn’t afford the ticket price so it’s nice to get a secondhand account. Lovely pics too 🙂

    Jetsetting Joyce

  9. Cindy says:

    Lucky you! It must have been terrific. Based on his Masterchef appearances, Adriano seems as sweet as his desserts. 🙂

  10. Agnes says:

    Squee! What a cool class – great write up too. Looks like it was heaps of fun as well as a good learning experience.

  11. Thanh says:

    Lots of delicious looking macarons. Which one was your favourite?

  12. Pina says:

    Excellent post and pictures!

  13. Emily says:

    Oohlookbel: a tarts and cake class with Adriano would be incredible – and undoubtedly very complex, given his penchant for highly involved cakes and sweets. I am hoping that Adriano may take some more classes in Melbourne if this mooted macaron shop comes about!

    Joyce: yes the price was quite steep, but I was lucky to have a voucher to spend. It was a great class and I’m so pumped to try making some macarons..

    Cindy: yes Adriano was quite a character! I admit a teensy little crush.. and I wasn’t the only one in class who thought that!

    Agnes: great learning experience, now I just need to back it up with some macaron success myself. I’m still a little intimidated but hopeful my next batch will be a vast improvement on their sad, footless predecessors!

    Thanh: favourite macaron was the chestnut buttercream with passionfruit, though I loved the salted caramel too. I found the foie gras a little intense!

    Pina: thanks for stopping by!

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