Colouring Macarons: Review of the Master Elite range

Before I start, let me premise this post by saying I am not affiliated with brands or products mentioned in this article.

I have been making macarons for a while now, but admit to still having my good and bad batches. A friend dubs them “devil cookies”, and for anyone out there that’s made macarons before, I’m sure you can understand why she calls them that.

I found I usually got worse batches when wanting deep, vibrant colours. The general rule of thumb for colouring macarons, is to use gel colours (my usual brand preference for gel colours is Americolor), as they are high in pigment but low in liquid content. Works extremely well for pastel colours, but when wanting vibrancy, the amount of gel I found I needed to use to get the colour, affected the consistency of my macaron batter and therefore end product.

I knew I needed to invest in some powder colours. After a lot of reading other people’s reviews on Facebook, I took the plunge and bought some Master Elite colours by The Sugar Art (at AU$8.95 a little container I admit it felt a little risky – what if it didn’t work for me?).

A few hints I’d come across for using the Master Elite powder range were:

  • the powders are liquid-activated, so stir in the powder into the liquid egg whites and wait at least 30 minutes (or overnight) before using [note for reference: the recipe I use contains 60g egg whites]
  • a little bit goes a long way – most colours only need 1/8 teaspoon per batch of macarons
  • be really careful not to drop any on the bench or onto anything you don’t want stained!

I started my experimenting with Emerald Green. For my first batch, I did a light sprinkle of the powder into the liquid egg whites and found that it turned dark straight away. I didn’t want to overdo it, so I stopped adding more and proceeded to let the colour activate while I prepped everything else (following my preferred Swiss method).

When it came time to whipping the egg whites, I found within a minute or so, the colour began to fade. By the time the meringue was fully whipped, what I thought was going to be a deep, vibrant green, ended up a pale green. Keep this in mind – you won’t really know the end macaron colour from what you see at the liquid egg whites stage! What you see in the picture above was in a follow up attempt where I added 1/8 teaspoon to the liquid egg whites. The same amount worked well or the Sapphire Sky blue colour (perfect for Cookie Monster macarons ;-)), and also for Violet.

It seriously BLEW MY MIND when I saw just how well the powder colours worked! Suddenly, my concern about how wise was my investment decision dissipated, and I found myself bragging about my macarons to anyone asking in macarons groups for colour recommendations lol they really are well worth every cent.

But what about the dreaded red and black, I hear you asking? Well, I did experiments with those too!

As you can see above, the Red Rose colour also works brilliantly. In this instance, I pre-coloured the egg whites for a couple hours with 1/4 teaspoon. When the meringue was close to being done, I wasn’t quite 100% happy with the red, so added a small amount of Americolor Super Red. It was enough to ensure I got the red colour I wanted, without compromising the macaron batter with too much added liquid. For future runs, I think 1/3 or 1/2 teaspoon of red powder would be sufficient.

I was also really impressed with the Black! Although fair warning: there is a reason why the Black is sold in bigger containers lol In my first experimental run (pictured above), I went with 1 teaspoon and after whipping the meringue, found that it was a dark grey. So I added a decent squirt of Americolor Super Black to achieve the black macarons in this picture. Again, it was just enough to get the black I wanted, and because it wasn’t too much liquid added, it didn’t compromise the macarons like it would have if I used all liquid gel. I think 1.25-1.5 teaspoons of Master Elite powder would be enough to achieve black-black macarons without the need for extra Americolor gel paste assistance.

All in all, I highly rate the Master Elite by The Sugar Art powder colours for colouring macarons. A little bit really does go a long way for most of the colours, so well worth the price. If you are located in Australia and wanting to give them a try for yourself, you can buy them from Miss Biscuit.

Chocolate Macarons

Thought I would share a recipe for chocolate macaron shells. I asked the All Things Macarons facebook group for advice on how to convert a regular mac recipe to chocolate – I was advised to try reducing the almond meal/flour by 5%, and to reduce the icing/powdered sugar by 5%, and then replace that 10% total with cocoa powder. This approach was successful for this recipe.

Full chocolate macaron shells

Chocolate Macarons (Shells)

A chocolate adaptation of the classic macaron shell
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 14 mins
Resting time 20 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine French
Servings 12 pairs

Equipment

  • Electric scales
  • 2x Mixing bowls
  • Food processor/grinder
  • Sieve
  • Small saucepan
  • Glass bowl
  • Whisk
  • Electric hand mixer
  • Spatula
  • Cookie tray/s
  • Baking paper, printed macaron template (5cm diameter)
  • 12" piping bag fitted with 9mm round tip

Ingredients
  

  • 45 grams Almond meal/flour
  • 36 grams Icing/powdered sugar
  • 9 grams Cocoa powder Dutch processed
  • 40 grams Egg whites Aged
  • 40 grams Caster sugar

Instructions
 

  • Follow the method in YouTube video https://youtu.be/n-BS0u3Kqsc - except use measurements in this recipe to get chocolate shells.
  • For additional tips, check out my other blog post https://www.anitaofcake.com.au/macaron-mania/

Notes

Additional notes:
For one batch I subbed out 10% aged egg whites for carton/pasteurised egg whites. The feet came out a bit smaller but were still full and successful
This recipe can be doubled to make 24 macarons (verified)
Keyword chocolate, cookie, macaron

Macaron Mania

Macarons. You either love making them, hate making them – or you pull your hair out over and over again while trying to find the perfect recipe. Sad news – there is no perfect recipe. You just need to keep trying until you find the one that works best for you and your equipment.

You may recall my previous mac-post boasting about adapting to the Swiss method – as I had never been able to achieve full macarons  with French or Italian recipes. The only issue I had with the recipe I was using: I could only successfully cook about 10 shells onto a tray lol The outer ring of macs would crack if I  filled the whole tray.

That’s OK if you’re only needing a few – but for bigger lots, it’s just impractical and takes too long… So I banked up egg whites in the freezer over a couple months, and when I had a order-free weeks I went back to looking for another suitable Swiss-method mac recipe.

I’d tried a few recipes recommended on the All Things Macarons group on Facebook – but none were working no matter the tweaks I made. So I was running low on egg whites and time; I turned to YouTube. I managed to find a recipe that worked for me and I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief as I needed them for an order a week away.

Macarons

Macarons success!

I did take notes on slight adjustments/techniques that I used to get absolute success with these cookies:

  • I didn’t monitor the sugar/egg temperature while on double boiler (#lazycook). I only periodically checked to see if the sugar had dissolved – once it had, it came straight off the heat and I started whipping with my el-cheapo 5-speed hand mixer
  • I did: 2 minutes @ speed 1, 2 minutes @ speed 2, 2 minutes @ speed 3, scrape down sides (can add gel colouring at this stage), then 1 minute @ speed 2
  • Macaronaged as per YouTube video; takes me 3 scrape rotations to get the right consistency
  • Used Loyal plastic tube size 9 (9mm round tip) in 12″ bag (the recipe yields a small batch of approx 12-14 cookies, you don’t need a bigger bag)
  • Piped perpendicular onto Glad baking paper with printed mac template underneath (5cm diameter). Firmly rapped tray onto bench 4x, then used a toothpick to smooth out tops.
  • I set my oven to Fan Bake mode (it is an electric oven – top and bottom elements are on plus rear fan to circulate air around) – looking to get a 175°C reading on my oven thermometer that I have sitting on the middle rack
  • Let rest until matte finish and dry to touch. (In my area it is about 20-30 minutes)
  • Double trayed and put into oven, immediately reduce temp to 140°C setting (I find that my  oven doesn’t start heating again during the 14-minute total cooktime). I place a sheet of baking paper on top of the macarons at the 8-minute mark to help prevent any browning (while the oven elements don’t turn back on, the fan is still going around)
  • After the 14 minutes cooktime, I check that I can remove one cookie without any sticking issues – if so, I pull the tray out. If not, I leave for an extra minute and recheck
  • Once they’re out, I increase the oven temp again to 175°C to ready for the next batch to go in
  • Straight from the oven I tend to crack open a cookie to check that it’s full (om noms). Once they’re cool enough to touch, I match up pairs and place into an air-tight container.

Now here is the funny thing about doing the cookies this way – they look like a macaron (smooth tops and ruffled feet); they taste like a macaron (yummm), and they’re full (#winning). But (there’s always a but isn’t there..) – I find that they are a little on the crunchy side. So I turned to Dr Google lol And here is what I found – this is actually a common practice for some pro mac bakers! (Refs 1, and 2 who themselves reference the expertise of Pierre Hermé).

They tend to slightly overbake their macs (to ensure their macs remain full) but then apply moisture back into the bottom of the cookie by way of simple syrup, milk or sweetened condensed milk! So, I have chosen to use simple syrup (1 part water to 1 part sugar, boiled until the sugar has just dissolved, with a dash of vanilla extract). I quickly dunk and then lay them bottom-side up on a cooling rack and watch the cookie absorb the syrup before piping the filling (using Loyal plastic tube size 11 (11mm round tip)). Maturation took two days (using white chocolate ganache filling). It was perfect – crunch on outside, soft filling that just melts away – divine <3

Christmas Mini High Tea

We all know what Christmas lunch is like, feeling as stuffed as the turkey and feeling rather regretful as we try make it through the afternoon without falling asleep lol I usually offer up Christmas desserts, this year I decided to do a mini high tea. Light little desserts that wouldn’t weigh you down!

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On the menu:

  • Vanilla macarons
  • Salted caramel macarons
  • Chocolate mudcake santas
  • Shortbread
  • Meringue nests
  • A shot of salted caramel Baileys irish cream

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The Macaron Stackaron 2.0

Everyone loves a good macaron, don’t they? Now imagine a cake topped with loads of them! Not just a few, a complete STACKARON! That’s what I can offer, something a little bit special for those macaron lovers out there, all custom made to tie in with the flavour of the cake – something just for you!

Macaron Stackaron 2.0

Macaron Stackaron 2.0

This Macaron Stackaron was Snickers themed. It was a double barrel (ie 2 tiers of the same size stacked on top of each other) 8″ chocolate mudcake. Filled with my own special peanut butter frosting, coated with caramel buttercream (using REAL homemade caramel – not just a flavouring :)). Complete with caramel and chocolate drips, toasted peanuts (that I toast myself because it makes a HUGE difference!) and then a stack of macarons that, in this case, were chocolate shells and filled with a variety of Snickers themed fillings.

Chocolate macaron shells

Chocolate macaron shells

Knowing that I would be cooking 4 layers of the same size, I decided to go out and buy 3 extra 8″ tins. I have done a few cakes in the past where I did one cake at a time, back to back to back… and it takes hoooours. My time, I’ve now realised, is precious and I wanted to try and do it all in one go. I did manage to do it which was amazing – although I did have a giggle when I was doing the batter for all of it. HUUUGE pot for the melted ingredients, my largest bowl available to mix it all together… 13 eggs, about 700g of chocolate, about 700g of butter, just over 1.5kg of sugar – I did manage it though which was a miracle and it saved my sanity doing it all in one go 🙂

Four 8" cakes in one go

Four 8″ cakes in one go

The caramel frosting I use takes a little bit of time to set up, but it’s so worth it for the real caramel in it. However, in this case I omit any additional salt – I just wanted regular caramel, not salted caramel.

Unfortunately when I was making this cake it was a rather hot day in my kitchen so it took a lot longer to get the elements ready in time (I’ve noted this for experience as this was my first “summer cake”). I was rather embarrassed to have to inform the customers that I would probably need another hour or 2 to get it all done, although I am *so very blessed* to have them be so understanding about it all. Thankfully there was still time before the party, so they came back a little later to collect once it was all done and set in the fridge.

Mastering the Macaron


So I have been doing macarons for quite some time now and admit that even though they looked great, I was still not 100% satisfied with them. I had Googled for tips and tricks to get them absolutely perfect but it still didn’t really help.

So when I came across a book for sale (secondhand for $5 – bargain!) called “Secrets of Macarons“,  I just had to get it to give it a read.

I studied it and then gave it another whirl, hoping that the hollow I had been experiencing would go away and I would get that perfect texture. You know what I’m referring to – the slight crunch on the outside as you bite into it but still soft and chewy on the inside. Bliss!

And I couldn’t believe it when I pulled out the macarons and set them on the counter to cool – they looked amazing! Even better than that, I took one to take a bite, looked inside and NO HOLLOW! Now it may have been a fluke.. I guess I’ll just have to keep doing them to confirm 😉

In the meantime, I do highly recommend this book. And here is a snap of the macarons I did:

Bubblegum macarons with fairyfloss

Bubblegum macarons with fairyfloss

So what are the secrets of macarons? There’s so many really, but here are probably the biggest ones:

Separate the egg whites in advance and let them age 2-3 days in an airtight container in the fridge. However, ensure the egg whites are at room temperature before you begin making the macarons

Beat the egg whites at medium speed to gradually build the foam and air bubbles. Too fast and you’ll trap big air pockets which is a no-no.

When doing the macaronage stage (combining the egg whites with the dry ingredients), you want to fold the mixture until it gets to the stage where if you drip some off the spatula into the mix it should take about 30 seconds before to meld back in (not completely just the edges.. If that makes sense?) 

When piping the shells use a template to make your life easier!

Drop the tray on a countertop a few times to bring out any bubbles. Use a toothpick to smooth them out.

Let the shells rest for about 30 minutes before lightly brushing one with your fingertip to check if they’ve formed a skin. This is important: you need it to babe formed a skin, but as soon as it does it’s time to cook! 

The oven temperature should be preheated to 150°C fan-forced. Cook for 7 minutes before reducing the temperature to 130°C fan-forced and cook for a further 5 minutes. When done, take out of the oven and immediately place the baking sheet with the macarons onto a cool countertop.

The Snickers Macaron Stackaron

Snickers Macaron StackaronThe cake was a 2-layer chocolate mudcake filled with peanut butter frosting (recipe given in an earlier post), and coated with salted caramel buttercream. It was then covered with a caramel drip and a chocolate ganache drip. The caramel drip consisted of melted Werther’s caramel chews which I think tasted better than melted caramel jerseys which tasted sort of marshmallow-y. The Werther’s caramels tasted more like tradition caramel, and textured like the sticky, stringy caramel which I would expect.

I decorated the cake with piped kisses (Ateco 849 tip), toasted peanuts, cut Snickers and homemade Snickers-inspired macarons.

Flavours of macarons (top to bottom):

  • Choc and peanut butter frosting
  • Choc and choc ganache (no cream)
  • Choc and salted caramel buttercream

To pipe the fillings I used a small-medium sized closed star nozzle to get the twirl effect on the sides. I have to say, the macarons really were the star of the show on this cake I think.