A few weeks ago I left London for a friends wedding in Hong Kong. Whilst I was there I paid a visit to the famous Shanghai Street (上海街) where one can spend hours and hours getting lost in kitchenware shops. That was exactly what I did and before I realised, the whole afternoon had flown by and my wallet was many Hong Kong dollars lighter. Piping bags, cookie cutters, baking moulds and edible paint are just a few items on the long list of things I came back with! Needless to say, I couldn’t contain my urge to indulge myself in a good baking session when I got home. So I decided to cook up one of my favorite recipes. The white chocolate lemon macaron using the Italian meringue method!
This recipe is special for two reasons. Firstly, the combination of the rich white chocolate ganache and the sharpness of the lemon makes for some of the most refreshing and light macarons you’ll ever have. Secondly, it is not at all an easy recipe which elevates the experience even more when they come out the oven so perfectly. This is not for the faint hearted and if it is your first time making macarons I would recommend trying out a recipe based on the French meringue method first.
Macarons are incredibly tricky and it is hard to describe everything in words so I have included the basic steps below but I would strongly recommend watching the full video for a visual guide (especially for the consistency of the batter).
Before we start, these beauties are about the look as much as they are about the taste so make sure you have the following equipment before you start so that nothing is left to chance.
- Piping bags
- Piping tip
- Macaron template
- Silicone baking mat and/or baking parchment
- Stand mixer
- Candy thermometer
- Sieve and/or food processor
For the white chocolate lemon ganache filling:
- 100ml Double Cream
- 200g White Chocolate
- 10g Sugar
- 1 Lemon
- 5ml Lemon oil (optional)
For the macaron shells (Almond Paste):
- 70g Egg White
- 200g Almond Flour
- 200g Icing Sugar
For the macaron shells (Italian Meringue):
- 70g Egg White
- 200g Castor Sugar
- 50ml Water
Step 1: Making the filling
Over a medium heat dissolve the sugar into the cream making sure it never boils. Once you start to see bubbles forming around the edge of the pan, remove from the heat and pour over the white chocolate in a mixing bowl. Stir gently until the chocolate has fully melted. Add and mix in lemon oil (if using), zest and juice of a lemon. Cover with cling film to stop the filling from drying out and set aside for at least an hour for it to set.
Step 2: Making the almond paste
Mix the almond flours and icing sugar together. To ensure it is evenly incorporated, this can be done with a sieve and/or a food processor.
Once combined in a mixing bowl, add in the egg white and stir until a thick almond paste is formed. This will take some time as the dry ingredients will absorb the egg whites very slowly. See the video for how this should look.
Step 3a: Making the hot syrup
In a small milk pan, add 200g of sugar to 50ml of water. To measure the temperature accurately, mount a candy thermometer on the side of the pan. On a medium high heat, bring the liquid to 120 degrees Celsius. Do not stir at any point as we do not want the sugar to crystallise. This will take some time but keep an eye on the temperature to make sure you do not over cook the sugar otherwise it will burn and turn into caramel! Whilst the syrup is heating up move onto the next step, it is important you do this in parallel!
Step 3b: Whipping up the egg whites
In a stand mixer, beat the egg whites into soft peaks. Start off at a low speed to relax the protein before turning it up to a higher setting. Once it has reached a foamy consistency, leave the mixer on the lowest setting whilst the syrup come to 120 degrees Celsius.
Step 5: Combining the syrup and eggwhites
Check the temperature of the syrup and as it approaches 120 degrees Celsius, remove the candy thermometer and switch the stand mixer back to a high speed. Slowly and carefully start pouring the hot syrup into the mixing bowl. Try to drizzle it down the side in a slow steady stream. This is to prevent the whisk from spraying hot liquid everywhere! Keep on beating on high speed for 5 to 10 minutes or until the mixing bowl is no longer hot to touch (approximately 50 degrees Celsius)
Step 6: Loosening up the almond paste
Remove the cling film from the paste paste from step 2. Using a spatula, take a third (and no more!) of the meringue and mix it into the almond paste. Do not worry about over or under mixing at this point. Just keen on stirring until it becomes a uniform consistency. Like before, this will take a bit of work as the almond paste is fairly dry but keep going until you reach a slightly runny batter like in the video.
Step 7: Folding in the rest of the meringue
This is the tricky part! We have whipped a lot of air into the meringue which will help it rise in the oven to produce those iconic macaron feet. However, too much air will cause the shells to burst and crack. So the idea is to mix in the “right” amount so that it rises but not too much. To deflate the batter slowly and evenly, use the batter to slowly fold inn the meringue.
Unfortunately there is no easy way to quantify when to stop folding the meringue into the almond as there are too many factors at play (e.g size of mixing bowl, humidity, etc). Instead we will have to rely on eyes to visually judge. A lot of people describe the batter dripping like a “ribbon” or the consistency being lava-like but personally I don’t find these descriptions that helpful. Again, the best way I can demonstrate this and my folding technique is through the video, so please go check that out.
Step 8: Piping the macaron shells
Once you’re happy with the consistency, get the batter into a piping back with a round 1cm tip and begin piping little circles. To help maintain a constant size for each one, I would recommend inserting a template (link above) under the silicone mat or parchment to act as a guide. If it is your first time, try to keep the piping tip parallel to the baking matt and take things slowly!
Step 9: Waiting for the “skin” to form
Remember to remove the paper template if you are using one. Tap the baking sheet on a table or counter a few times to release any excess air pockets in the batter. Set aside for 20 minutes. This is a good time to pre-heat your oven to 150 degrees Celsius. After 20minutes the surface of each macaron should no longer stick when you touch it. This is often called the “skin”. If you live in humid environment, then this may take longer. To help speed up the process, you can point a fan at the batter to help dry out the surface.
For those curious minds, here is why this step is important. As the macarons cook in the oven, the air trapped inside will get very excited and look for ways to escape the batter. The skin on the surface of the macaron will force the air to escape through the bottom which will form those iconic little macaron feet!
Step 10: Baking the macaron shells
Bake in the oven at 150 degrees Celcius for 18 minutes. Remove from the oven and wait for it to cool to room temperature. They are very fragile whilst hot, so do not try removing them before it has completely cooled.
Step 11: Filling them up!
Get the ganache filling into a piping bag with a 1cm round tip. Pipe a generous amount into a macaron shell. Find a similar sized shell and sandwich the filling together whilst applying a little pressure so the ganache will fill the shells completely without spilling.
Step 12: “Maturing” the macarons
It may be tempting to start munching but the macaron shells will be pretty hard and crunchy at this point. We need to give the macarons at least 12 hours to absorb all the moisture and flavour from the ganache filling. This is what gives the macaron that amazing soft texture. To make sure we really get that lemon freshness, put the macarons in an air tight container with a slice of lemon. Give it at least 12 hours or until desired softness. Finally, go and enjoy some of the best macarons you’ll ever taste!