Saturday, 13 August 2011

Macaron improvement, thanks to Syrup & Tang

So I only managed to get a photo of the very worst, for a self-deprecating tweet. The rest were slightly better.

It has been some weeks since my last confession post. There has been horribly cold weather, troubling economic and social developments near and far, kimchi and brie sandwiches, and newly discovered knitting.

There has been illness, much work, yet another failed batch of macarons, and a rejuvenating couple of days off to go to some sessions at the Melbourne Film Festival. It was after a gloomy-and-thus-right-up-my-alley Romanian film about infidelity and marriage breakdown that I hung out with Steeles at Brunetti’s and had one of their macarons, then another. 

With the brightly coloured little delights plus the rejuvenation, new enthusiasm sprung in my heart. And when I stumbled across an incredible site that night called Syrup & Tang, in which a brilliant food writer provides detail like no other seen anywhere, I was running not walking to separate those eggs and get some white maturation going. 

I like someone whose level of obsession makes mine seem the epitome of easygoing, nay, slack. And he’s right here in Melbourne, and is also somewhat scathing about the macaron efforts he’s found around these parts. I never knew there were so many – and this post was three years ago. I started making them before I went to Paris last year, and had never actually eaten one before; I've only noticed them on last year's Masterchef and gradually appearing around Melbourne in the last few months. But then, I don't get out much.

Among the gems of wisdom on offer at Syrup & Tang is a table that gives the proportions of almond meal and sugar per grams of egg white. This is about a hundred times better than trying to follow a recipe set out in numbers of eggwhites, or even weight of egg white; this formula frees one to use any amount of white one happens to have sitting about.

And there are comparison trouble-shooting photos. Among them I found the dead ringers for my failed, flattened attempts so far; gentle reader, it seems I am guilty of over-mixing as well as over-thinking and over-working. 

On offer are the two distinct techniques for macaron-making: French and Italian. I tried the simpler but less reliable French method first for the purple lavender ones, in which all the eggwhite (aged for 4 days in this case) is beaten at once. They were much better than any others so far, without the wild spreading after piping them out.

They even developed little feet, although the feet reduced slightly in size as they cooled. 

And then they tended to leave their guts on the silicon – too sticky inside, probably undercooked, although the edge ones had faintly browned surfaces. 

I stuck them in the fridge for a few days until I got around to trying the Italian method for the yellow lemon ones, which involves sugar syrup and beating only half the eggwhite (aged for 8 days now) – more like the Dorie Greenspan recipe. Even better! They were well-shaped and domed, and barely spread at all. 

They had feet! 

I still had problems with the sticky innards, and the trick of mostening the underside of the baking paper didn’t help...
 ...but I tried the final noted solution to this, of bunging the whole tray of macarons into the freezer for a while. They popped off like a charm.

I made up a ganache with 200g white chocolate, 200g cream and the fine zest of a lemon, and refrigerated it overnight for more solidity before using it to sandwich the macarons, but it was still too runny. It made the macarons too soft; they had to be eaten with the head held back, and the chin and fingers washed afterwards. Not good. 

Still. Closer. And these posts on the subject, amounting to essays, have been the find of the year. How can I possibly repay Syrup & Tang?


  1. Hi there, and thanks for the kind words. Always glad to read of stories where my own hard work has helped other people's hard work pay off:)

    Looks like those macarons need some more warmth underneath. You might try warming a baking tray and sliding the rested sheet of macarons onto that tray and then popping it the oven... Or try other methods of increasing bottom heat.