ARTICLE

La Macaronicité 4: fillings, flavours, frippery

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Dear meringue shell crazy people,

It's time for fillings, flavours and frippery!

This article will be shorter than the others. I feel that the filling is where the cook has the opportunity to show their initiative and creativity and I want to communicate general principles rather than fine detail.

Fillings

There are probably five main types of filling:

  • jam (probably the original filling) — confiture
  • ganache
  • butter cream — crème au beurre
  • thickened creams
  • caramel

I won't say anything about jam, but will comment on the other types below.

Ganache

A cream, chocolate and butter mixture, ganache can provide a strongly flavoured counter to the sweetness of the macaron shell. It can also act as a milder carrier for other flavours. White chocolate ganache is often combined with acid fruits such as berries — a nifty way of getting popular fruit flavours while countering the tang of the fruit, but can sometimes end up too sweet and cloying.

Butter cream

Simplest of all is a mock cream, made by whipping butter and adding icing sugar. Almond meal is frequently added as it improves stability and absorbs some moisture. Mock cream can sometimes be a little gritty.

More flexible than a ganache, a butter cream is a fairly neutral canvas for flavouring and colouring as you please. A basic rich butter cream (egg yolks, sugar syrup, butter) is simple but easily too rich. When cold it can be too firm for immediate eating, and when at warm room temperature it can begin to feel greasy when eating the macaron.

Another option is a lighter butter cream, where Italian meringue (yet more sugar syrup!) is added to the basic butter cream. This is a popular option amongst some bakers.

And finally, another simple butter cream: with whole eggs and sugar heated in a bain marie, beaten until thick and then with butter added. Also popular and less inclined to seem greasy.

All butter creams tend to be disappointing in a macaron which is served cold. The textures don't match and the flavours are muted.

macarons pink and yellow
Pink and yellow shells, filled with rose and apricot butter creams.

Thickened cream preparations

Many of the classic French creams are given some structural reinforcement by adding some gelatine. Most of these (chiboust, bavaroise, etc) are suitable if prepared to a consistency which can be happily piped when cool. These thickened creams, and also standard crème pâtissière, are often used in larger macarons and macaron cakes, probably because they hold their shape better at a range of temperatures and under different loads.

Caramel

And this is where this article series sort of started! The response to my salted caramel macarons provided the impetus for a comprehensive look at macarons. I make a simple sugar-cream-butter caramel and add salt. It's inspired by the salted butter caramel popular in the north of France (Brittany and Normandy), but rather than using salted butter, I like the sensation and variation in flavour experience created by crystals of salt.

Other caramels are fine too, of course, though the sweetness can be overdone. Flavoured caramels are probably more interesting.

macarons with caramel
Uncoloured macarons filled with salted caramel (a little too fresh and runny!).

Salted caramel

  • 50 g sugar
  • 23 g cream
  • 35 g butter, cold, in cubes

 

  1. Place one third of the sugar in a small saucepan and heat very gently. After some time it will suddenly start to melt and go brown.
  2. As soon as the sugar is liquid, add another third of the dry sugar and melt, stirring gently.
  3. Repeat with the remaining sugar.
  4. When the liquid sugar has reached a rich caramel colour (perhaps very soon after melting),add the cream in a thin stream. The caramel will bubble vigorously, so be careful.
  5. Stir and measure the temperature promptly. When the caramel reaches 108-110 C (this can happen very quickly!), remove from the heat and immediately add the butter.
  6. Stir well (or use a handmixer) until the caramel is smooth and has cooled somewhat.
  7. Refrigerate the caramel. It will firm up after an hour or two.

There are many other things you could make to fill macarons, but I'll leave that to your imagination!

Colours and flavours

Beyond the basic creams and other fillings, it pays to think about how you can enhance the flavour sensation of these pâtisserie divas. Coarse nut pieces and other textural elements can be fun, as can an interplay between the flavour of the shell and the flavour of the cream inside. Most pâtissiers don't play with the shells' flavour because it makes it harder to deploy the batter for a range of macarons. I love flavouring my shells with citrus zest and then using a filling with a complementary flavour. Some of the better producers spray the inside of the shell with an aroma (such as a flower water or flavoured syrup) and then use a differently flavoured cream.

Liquid colourings are the most obvious choice for home cooks, but professional powder colourings are often used and I've read of some bakers using powdered fruit which is a fun idea. Whatever the colour, I feel the shell should entice. Too often when trying to not overdo it, my shells have been the faintest pastel colour, barely here or there. You need to be bolder! On the other hand, some disappointing producers go for maxi-colour, beyond bold and into lurid. If the colour evokes, say, the fruit in the filling, that's great; if it looks like an accident with rotten raspberries or an ageing banana, well, no.

trio of flavours
Chocolate shell with chocolate-cinnamon ganache. Lemon shell with ganache. Chocolate shell with lemon-basil cream.

Part of the allure of these divas is that they're a visual treat. They can be beautiful in their naked simplicity, or they can be a painter's canvas.

Think about what you want to achieve. Experiment. Enjoy!

You can also read La Macaronicité 1: an introduction to the macaron.
La Macaronicité 2: basic technique and simple macaron recipe.
La Macaronicité 3: the more reliable macaron recipe and a few tips.
La Macaronicité 5: Macawrongs and macarights, macarons day and night.

- DM

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COMMENTS

40 responses to “La Macaronicité 4: fillings, flavours, frippery”

  1. Lennyk

    Duncan,

    Nice article to conclude with,
    how cold are macarons normally served ?
    I was under the impression that they were served at room temp, is the filling expected to be as stiff as the filling in an oreo cookie, which happens to be fairly stiff at room/warm temps also.

  2. Harry

    Putting the syrup into syrup and tang!

    I agree with Lennyk: a nice article, but I hope not the last one!

    I've been wondering which of the techniques you mentioned would lend themselves better to more subtle filling flavours. I was thinking in particular of violet, lavender and rosewater (well, the latter is perhaps not subtle, but it's not rich and buttery).

  3. DC

    Glad to hear there's another article to come! Personally, I think you should go on a tour of Melbourne (and Paris if you can afford it!) and review the macarons in every bakery you can find :)

    You mentioned in an earlier post of Macaronicité that macarons seem only to have hit Australia fairly recently. While they seem to have been around for some time now in Paris, it's also true that they're becoming more commonplace there (well, here, actually) too. You only have to go into your local bookshop in Paris to find a number of different books on how to make macarons, many of them inexpensive, but hélas, all in French.

    Interestingly, I saw in the latest addition to the growing range of macaron recipe books a section called 'Macarons ratés' (i.e. ones that you've messed up). It gives the unfortunate cook some delicious sounding suggestions on what to do with your soggy, crusty or just broken macarons, including a tiramisu and a crumble.

    So, I guess thats… um.. encouraging to know that even if I get them wrong, my macarons can still be used for something edible!

  4. Veron

    Great series Duncan, even your macawrongs look delightful. I had my share of macawrongs when I first started. I am one of the meringue shell crazy people! :)

  5. Hellie

    Thanks for some great tips.
    My very traditional ENGLISH mother used to make macaron for afternoon tea when special guests came to visit. As a little girl,the soft pastel shades always caught my eye. I hope I can now replicate these memories for my daughter.

  6. Rayne

    Duncan,

    You didn't include the amount of salt needed for the salted caramel…is it just a pinch, or to taste?

    thanks

  7. Mochene

    Nice science. I'll have to compare it to my macaron recipe and see the results.

    I like the way you break things down and explain the process. If I'd had this while I was in pastry school, it would have made more sense.

    Thanks!

  8. elizabeth

    Hi Duncan, for 200g of butter, can u advice me how much almond meal to put, can i also add in gelatine as well ? I stay in a very hot n humid country, my buttercream melts very very fast. Please help. Tks, elizabeth

  9. elizabeth

    Hi Duncan, tks for your advice. Will try it out. Tks, elizabeth

  10. Cynthia

    For the love of all that's Holy! I DID IT! I actually got these to work ON MY FIRST TRY! I have no earthly idea if I can make the magic a second time but now I'm hooked.

    I about screamed when I saw their cute little feet and smooth tops forming. Thank you for the extreme detail (I know that took you a lot of time to write up)- it was WORTH it. Thanks!

  11. Beth

    I've been using mostly Swiss meringue buttercreams and chocolate ganaches with good success. Two recent experiments though have me contemplating how some fillings lead to soggy shells.
    Experiment 1: I combined gelatin with a pear puree, let it firm up on a sheet tray, and cut out small rounds which I placed on a macaron shell. I but buttercream on the other shell and sandwiched the two together. The shell next to the pear puree was horribly soggy by the next day.
    Experiment 2: I made creme de marrons by roasting chestnuts, simmering them with a vanilla bean, pureeing and thinning with sugar syrup. Again, I put creme de marrons on one shell, chocolate ganache on the other, and the shell next to the creme de marrons went somewhat soggy within 2 days. (Still very tasty)
    Any thoughts/suggestions on how to use these less traditional fillings?

  12. Kurt

    I nearly fell over when I tasted the caramel – just killer. My first batch (made with your recipe) is currently in the fridge cooling off, and I have a rack full of PERFECT shells just waiting to be smeared and sandwiched. Many thanks to you, Duncan, for the excellent advice on your website. Macaron success is just pure joy.

  13. vera

    Hi!Congratulations for your site and all the details and troubleshooting. These are the little details that books like Pierre Herme's dont't tell you. I launched a macaron's business myself. I do have some experience now but still fail sometimes. I'd like to start with Beth comment on oct, 29th. I have that problem right now with lemon curd macarons and strawberry macarons. Indeed, I added gelatine to some fillings in order to get them more solid but the macarons shells still absorb all the humidity and they get completely soggy (I had to throw away a whole batch). What should I do? If I add white chocolate, it will be too sweet… 2nd, at what temperature and how long should I bake light color macarons (lemon, vanilla, coconuts) so that they don't get that brown colour at the edges?3rd:I have to stock some production to have them available for my clients when they want.I freeze them but when I take the out, with the temperature schock, they quickly create humidity in their shells. How should I stock them (freezer or fridge)? and how to avoid this? I also have a shop that is interested in selling them. They have a chocolate vitrine (18-20º). Is that enough to conserve macarons? For how long?
    Thanks for all your support

  14. Lloyd

    Hi Duncan,

    I'm so glad to have found your website! I've been attempting to make macarons and today was my 6th attempt, and failed without having any clues. I been staring at my oven for the whole day and not being able to know what went wrong. I hope you can advise me.

    For today, I used this recipe: Egg whites 100gm, I aged them in the fridge at 4 degress. From what you wrote, its better to be at room temp. But my warm Singapore has a room temp of 31 degrees. Any problem you think?

    Cream of Tartar, just a pinch

    Caster sugar 200gm. I don;t know if this is pure or not. I mixed them with the egg white and deat to stiff peak.

    Folded gently with mixture of 140gm of sifted almond meal and 15gm icing sugar.

    Piped on baking tray and leave to dry. I don;t see any drying after 20 mins, so I put them into the oven. Temp at 150 degrees. My oven as a fan-oven or bake selection.

    I piped over a normal baking tray, on 1 parchment paper, without lining any tray below. 5 mins into the baking, I thought of increasing the temp to 160 to give a shock, and I saw little feet standing, but the crust pops out and erupted. I could just stare at the oven til the buzzer goes off. Another batch into the dustbin, as I have stopped eating my own scraps. Disappointment and wonder if I should try again…And I'm back to the web, reading again and envying others who have made it.

    Can you help me?

    [THIS POST HAS BEEN EDITED FOR BREVITY]

  15. Judy

    Thank you, I could just kiss you! I have made macarons a number of times with others and this is the best one. Congratulations on a great website.

  16. Aileen

    Thank you for your recipe! The plain shells in my first batch were great, but my chocolate fissured and came out looking like brownies. Still tasty, though. I am making my second batch today.

    Can you give me some ideas for what to do with all those egg yolks? I made plenty of aioli from the first batch, so I trew away the second batch of yolks. Such a waste!

  17. jb

    Why do French Macaroons lose their color during baking? My macaroons turned a light tan or beige color. I have a poweful convection oven with a fan running constantly. Also, I rotate the trays half through the baking and bake the cookies for about 12 minutes. The macaroons have the right consistency and shape, but not the attractive bright colors! Thank you, jb

  18. Lloyd

    After so many attempts, I have finally got it right. If duncan allows, u can see my blog.

    The browning is due to overbaking or strong top heat. I had the same problem. What u can do is to keep the oven temp constant at 140deg c. Open the oven door slightly , stuck a wooden chopstick for eg. if it gets too hot. Bake no more than 12 mins. If your oven has a top heated grills, place an empty tray on the upper deck to shield the direct heat from the crusts at about 10 mins mark. This is where the shells reaches the optimal state. Convection fan tends to be hotter so best is not use it. Just use bake setting .macaroons contains high sugar and whites, so browning happen as the temp rises beyond 120 degree c. Just like caramel. So as the baking reaches the 12 min mark,u need to watch the heat.

  19. Lloyd

    So far I have invested in silpat mats and oven termometer as I don't trust my oven knob. Small home ovens are very unpredictable. Unlike professional deck oven, it's Uniformed heat in the deck, not grilled red hot bars that emit heat directly on the crusts.

    For hot and humid kitchen like mine, it's impossible to follow the rules from all the books and instructions u find. I've dine it all and finally found a way. Before pipping, chillthe batter for 20 min to harden it. It's easier to pipe when slightly cold. After piping, quickly put the whole tray in the dry chiller. Put the macaroons in the chiller for 30min to 2 hours. up to u. Too wet, u get flat n weak crusts. Too dry, u get dome shaped crusts. So it's very tricky. And a cold chilled tray at 5 deg C , once it's goes in your home oven, the temp dives down to 110 deg c. It best if u work in an 22deg room. Everything will be much easier.

  20. Liz

    Duncan – so I am attempting macarons and after the first failed attempt I will be trying your recipe based on all the excellent feedback! Question about coloring – I know they are rather finicky regarding liquid, so when would be the best stage to add liquid food coloring? And how much do you find you need to get the good color? Thanks!

  21. salz

    Hi duncan

    great site!!!!

    i did try to make macaroons from another site and they came out really big, kinda crispy an tasted like nougat in the centre.
    i also had tiny holes on the surface of the macaroon after baking.
    my mixture did not have any feet, therefore it was a flop.

    can you please tell me what went wrong and can you tell me how much of ingredients to use (according to your recipe) for about 20-30 macaroon shells

    thank you

  22. FancyNancyPantsy

    HI Duncan

    Just wanted to say thank you for the entire macaronicite series. I have really enjoyed reading the articles and have relied heavily on your experience with regard to trouble-shooting. In particular, the article about ovens was very helpful.

    My one problem is that my batter always seems to be a little to thick. I am using the French meringue technique with ratios as you suggest. Whilst it hasn't so far affected the finished product in texture in term of eating, the shells are not as beautifully smooth as I would like. I fear it may be my scales.

    If you could spare the time, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

    Thanks again!

  23. FancyNancyPantsy

    Well, I have been a bit paranoid (to put it mildly) about overmixing, so, maybe I'll loosen the reins on that and see what happens :)

    Thanks!!
    FNP

    PS Also, just wondering, have you tried the macarons at La Belle Miette in Hardware Lane? Impressions?

  24. MacaMad

    Hi Duncan,

    I was after some advise on how to avoid getting the lopsided "feet". I have followed your recipe and instructions to the T and most of the time the macarons come out shiny and domed but always lopsided. What am I doing wrong? I am baking a batch every night hoping to get it right so any advise would be much appreciated.

    Kind regards,
    Sophia

  25. Adrian

    Hi Duncan! It's been a while since I last wrote on your blog, I have since made more than ten batches of macarons and my success rate is hovering over 70% now!(made three batches yesterday and all turned out great!)

    However, I did have some problem with the cream cheese filling that I made last week, my macarons ended up becoming SUPER soggy the next day and literally inedible. I had to chuck them in the bin, which was such a waste considering the shells were very nicely baked! I tried twice with both low fat and full fat philly cream cheese and both turned out soggy, is this normal for cream cheese fillings or was I doing something wrong? I added fruit puree to the cream cheese in both occasions but I deliberately reduced the amount of puree recommended by various other sites just so I could get the right consistency for my macarons, they were able to hold their shape(just barely)when I left them in the fridge. I was frankly quite disappointed because that could mean I will never dare to experiment with the fruity flavours anymore.. Having said that both ganaches and buttercreams work very well with my macarons. :)

  26. Adrian

    Cheers for the reply Duncan! I was actually thinking of doing something along the line of mango-white chocoate ganache tomorrow and now I feel much more confident doing it knowing it's not just a totally experimental thing to do.

  27. Simonne

    Thank you for posting this article. I am in the midst of experimenting with my filling (salted caramel buttercream) . I am thinking to use gelatin to set it. But after reading comments from other reader is a NO .
    The problem with my caramel buttercream is… It taste ok but I suspect it has too much moisture in it and makes my macaron wet. Can u suggest what I can add to stabilised the buttercream .. I hate to add icing sugar, would almond meal help ?
    Thank you
    Simonne

  28. Lloyd

    Hi simonne

    What is your room temperature?. Select butter with a high melting point. Some retail stores butter gets runny very quickly once out of fridge and not suitable for whisking. If its warm 28 – 31 deg, u chill your ready buttercream before piping. Some commercial butter are mixed with coconut oil to withstand higher temp – 28 deg. The higher the temp, the less butter fat inside.

    Just share my experience, Duncan hope u don't mind.

  29. Simonne

    Thanks Lloyd and Duncan
    I will try source for high melting point butter, if they exist at the place I living (Malaysia) very humid …or else I try adding the almond meal.. Yeah will super grind it into super find thanks again guys,

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