I think I must have made at least 10,000 macarons in my classes over the past eighteen months. It has been quite a journey, learning as much about myself as anything! I have learnt that a recipe is a guide given to you by a food writer who is working in their own kitchen. They are not there with you, in your kitchen, using your equipment, your ingredients and working under the same conditions. Whatever you create is the the result of your own recipe, the unique things that you do that produce the end result, which in this instance is the French-style macaron.
More than any other baking I have been doing, people seem to be obsessed with creating ‘perfect’ looking macarons, looking like those that can be found in most top end patisseries. The visual perfection seems to come higher than the taste in order of importance.
If we make meringues we expect them to look a bit different each time and a macaron is really a meringue with nuts mixed in. However what we now recognize as the macaron (two macaron shells with their smooth tops and the ‘foot’ around the bottom that are sandwiched together) is actually the result of many years training as a pastry chef. They have high levels of knowledge of how their ingredients behave under different conditions and they ensure that the conditions are the same every time so they appear identical. It is a specific technical skill.
The main piece of advice I can offer is to realise that every time you make them, the conditions will be slightly different, your eggs, your almonds, the weather, your mood! This needs to be taken into account. I have now made them so many times that I can feel the difference when whisking my egg whites as to whether the egg whites are fresh or old. As long as you take these kind of things into account you will be fine. The attached recipe is trying to provide advice along these lines.
Mine are pretty regular now although every time I use a new oven I do a practise run before a demonstration to get a feel for how the oven behaves. If there are a few cracks, I don’t worry too much and my friends all rave about them. It is worth looking at Nigella Lawson’s Pistachio Macaroons in ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess’. She describes them as being “the most elegant macaroon on the world”. They look fantastic, taste absolutely delicious and can quite happily be regarded as ‘perfect’, although they do not look like those sold commercially. The recipe I have provided is based on Nigella’s, although I have adapted it slightly to get more consistent results.
There is a limit to how much I can write as most of what you learn making these is when you actually see and feel how the method is executed. I offer classes on scheduled dates and also private classes in your own home if you wish to learn.