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M is for macaron

making macarons using the ICE Culinary Kathryn Gordon Method at home

It seems the stars were colliding recently and sending me a pretty strong message that I needed to bake some more macarons.   First of all, on my recent trip to New York in March Break (I didn’t blog about this but you can check out some of my photos over on Flickr), I attended a class with Kathryn Gordon, co-author of Les Petits Macarons, at the Institute of Culinary Education.  I’ve had Kathryn’s book for a while now and haven’t tried her method which is quite dramatically different from my tried and true macaron recipe – the quantities of ingredients are completely different (she uses equal quantity of almond meal to icing sugar whereas my recipe uses double the icing sugar to almond flour) and instead of “drying” (resting) the macarons at room temperature for 30ish minutes, she does this in a very low oven for 15 minutes. The class I took was awesome  – Katherine was an informative teacher who made no bones about the fact that these are temperamental little confections and prepared us for the fact that our macarons might not be perfect first (or second or third) time around. I like that in a teacher. A realist!

Most of our macarons turned out that evening – there were a few wonkies and it was great using different ovens for the same batch of macarons to prove how different ovens can bake your macarons completely differently.  I always used to pray to the macaron gods, nowadays I realise the oven is such a huge part of the puzzle too…

making macarons at ICE Culinary

macarons from class at ICE New York

Some pretty, some wonky – pretty much what you can expect when making macarons!

I set about making a batch of these immediately when I returned home from New York and had big success. Kind of.  Beautiful shells, but one rack of completely burned tops :(

making macarons burnt tops

Ok, no problem. I was guessing 15 minutes at 200˚F for the “drying” then 9 minutes at 350˚F was too much in my oven. Still, the not-burned tray came out with some gorgeous macarons

chocolate orange macarons Kathryn Gordon method ICE New York

I made a second batch with a group of girlfriends a week later and we lowered the oven to 320˚F for the baking time but they still burned. They were perfectly formed, just burned…

So then, this week’s Gastropost challenge asked us to choose between cupcakes and macarons. I mean, seriously, is there even a question? You only have to look at the 50 or so macaron posts on this site to know that I’ll choose a macaron over a cupcake anyday! Clearly I needed to get in on the voting there and vote for #TeamMacaron… I was guessing I needed to make more macarons using the ICE method because I was pleased with the shapes of the shells, just annoyed they were burning…

Love and Olive Oil Kitchen Challenge macarons AprilThen, over on Linsdey’s lovely site Love and Olive Oil, she announced April’s Kitchen Challenge: macarons!  So clearly I needed to keep working with this new-to-me method.

This time I only “dried” the shells for 5 minutes at the very lowest oven temperature on my oven – 170˚F which is pretty low. Then I baked at 320 for 6 minutes, turned the trays front to back (only used one rack this time – thinner trays that can go in side by side for more even baking) and then after 3 minutes, I noticed the shells were starting to brown slightly – they were white this time so easy to spot… I turned off the oven completely, opened the door slightly and let them finish their time (9 minutes in total). The result was perfect looking shells (even with cacao nibs, speculoos crumbs and orange zest sprinkled on top before baking!) and just eve so slightly overcooked shells. No matter as when you fill them then leave them overnight, the ganache or filling will soften the crispiness up a bit.  I made three flavours with the plain white shells:

macarons Les Petits Macarons method chocolate orange ganache

Orange chocolate macarons

 then, because I had it in the house…

Speculoos macarons using Kathryn Gordon method Les Petits macarons

Speculoos sprinkled and filled macarons

 and finally..

White chocolate and cocoa nib macarons

White chocolate and cocoa nib macarons

I’m definitely “getting there” in terms of understanding this recipe – with my oven which is key.  Next time I will dry for 5 minutes at 170˚F then bake at 300˚F for the 9 minutes. That sounds to me like it will work. With my oven.  I’m still not too clear how you make more than one rack’s worth of macarons in the oven as it will already be hot when you need to “dry” the second trays. That’s on my agenda soon but I also need to figure out a couple of other things which are different with this method – the batter has a completely different consistency  – more like Italian meringue macarons, so I am learning to see what looks and feels right there. These have also been a little bit hollow. But then again, so are a LOT of macarons that I have bought over the years…. (not a reason to stop trying to figure that out, just means I maybe need to stress less about it!)

Ah macarons, they are frustrating and compelling. But I love making them and trying to figure them out!

If you’re interested in trying out this method, there is a version of Kathryn Gordon’s recipe for macarons over on Food 52 (I’ll point out that the author does not use the oven to dry the macarons, I guess she didn’t figure out the dilemma of baking more than one tray like that in a home oven either)

Buy your own copy of Les Petits Macarons on Amazon or Amazon Canada. Or for free worldwide shipping, buy from The Book Depository.

Canadian readers – did you enter my Pati’s Mexican Table giveaway yet? Closes Thursday April 11th.

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33 Responses to M is for macaron

  1. Cher April 8, 2013 at 08:09 #

    You are incredibly patient :-)

    Beautiful!

    • Mardi Michels April 26, 2013 at 20:31 #

      You know, I am really NOT. Except when it comes to macarons.

  2. Lindsey April 8, 2013 at 17:31 #

    You have become a veritable macaron expert, I love seeing your creations (and the faux pas/tips that go with them)! When can we expect you to open your own bakery?? :)

  3. Lacey April 8, 2013 at 17:32 #

    How did you make those swirly-colored ones? So pretty!

    • Mardi Michels April 26, 2013 at 20:31 #

      By painting food colour gel in the piping bags…

  4. bridget {bake at 350} April 8, 2013 at 17:34 #

    They are gorgeous! I love seeing that YOU play with different methods. I still get nervous every time I attempt them. They’re not always beautiful, but they always taste good. Haha!

    • Mardi Michels April 26, 2013 at 20:30 #

      Love that about macarons tasting good even though they might not look great! And of course I play with different methods. I am a Taurus!!

  5. Colette @ JFF! April 8, 2013 at 17:36 #

    Mardi, you’re an expert. Those are beautiful macarons. I certainly don’t have that skill to make them,
    but I’m great at eating them.

  6. Paula April 8, 2013 at 18:25 #

    You are nothing if not an adventurous baker! Not many people, once they have perfected their way of making macs would jump head-long into trying another method. Your diligence paid off and I’m betting the next time you dry and bake at the adjusted times will produce nothing but perfect mac shells.

    I’m really loving the white shells with all the different fillings.

  7. claudine April 8, 2013 at 20:35 #

    Hi! Love your blogs and gorgeous photos! I have been trying to make macarons for a few months. I even splashed out on the macaron mat and piping squirty thing (not useful!). Ironically the more I make, the worse they are and now, never seem to have the little ‘feet’ necessary to make them crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside! I have tried a cooler oven and a warmer one, mixing them more and less, the last batch seem to have given me a sneezing, itchy eye allergy, aaaaargh!!! I will keep trying to master these little delicacies and looking at the photos of your successful ones!

    • Mardi Michels April 26, 2013 at 20:29 #

      It definitely is a case of practice makes perfect…

  8. yummychunklet April 8, 2013 at 21:23 #

    I LOVE the pink macaroons!

  9. Ann Mah April 9, 2013 at 18:25 #

    I am so impressed, Mardi! If baking is a science (as they say) you have macarons down. And your photos are so tempting, too!

  10. Rosie @ Blueberry Kitchen April 9, 2013 at 20:01 #

    Your macarons look amazing!

  11. Josie April 10, 2013 at 00:54 #

    Totally drooling over your speculoos macarons!

  12. Lora April 10, 2013 at 14:03 #

    Very interesting technique and such gorgeous results. Those white shells are stellar.

    • Mardi Michels April 26, 2013 at 20:28 #

      I love using white powder colour to make white shells!

  13. Rachael April 11, 2013 at 02:03 #

    Mardi, you know I am in complete awe of your macaron skills! I still haven’t progressed past the Italian method – you are so brave! These look utterly divine :)

  14. Natalie April 11, 2013 at 03:48 #

    How brave of you to try new recipes when yours already works!:O

    Lately my shells have been browning like the ones you baked here. :( I bake it at 300, but it still turns brown by the time I take them out (12 min) should I take them out before that then? or what can I do?

  15. Anne Marie April 11, 2013 at 09:54 #

    Beautiful photos as always, a good challenge

  16. Laura@bakinginpyjamas. April 22, 2013 at 13:33 #

    I have that book sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be used. I really want to try and make macarons as they look so pretty and I love that you can use different colours and flavours.
    Your macarons look lovely as does your blog which I’ve just come across.

  17. Linsey May 29, 2013 at 05:10 #

    Most macaron recipes call for a low oven (300) with no drying in the oven but instead drying i=on a counter for 20-40 minuets. I hope this helps!!

    • Mardi Michels May 29, 2013 at 05:40 #

      Thanks, you’ll see from my many (ahem!) macaron posts that I have experimented a LOT with different recipes and have one I am pretty happy with – this one intrigued me because of the consistent shape and no cracking of the shells. Just need to work on figuring out what works for MY oven as is the case with most macaron recipes since all ovens are very different.

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