Blitz the almond flour in your food processor for two minutes. Then add the icing sugar and run for a further minute. Put the mix through a fine sieve. If there are any pieces that won’t go through, put them back in the food processor – the finer your flour mixture, the better the texture of the macarons. Whisk the egg whites until nicely foamy, then slowly add in the sugar and keep on whisking until stiff peak stage. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and carefully fold through to incorporate. (NB: I consider this the most important part in ensuring successful macarons. If you don’t mix it enough, your macarons won’t be smooth. If you stir it too much, the mixture will become too runny to work with. What you want is something resembling thick lava that drips smoothly from a spoon.)
Spoon the mixture into a piping bag. I use disposable ones and don’t bother with a tip, I just snip it open to create about a 1cm hole. Pipe smallish dots – about 3cm in diameter – onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. (NB: Be sure to use proper baking paper, not wax paper. Being a meringue, this puppy will stick if you don’t use proper baking paper.) Now give the tray a seriously hard whack on a flat surface 3-4 times to remove air bubbles.
Now for the next incredibly important step – let the macarons sit for 30-120 minutes before they go in the oven. If you don’t do this, you will not get that cute frilly bottom that is the hallmark of a well-made macaron. I could bore you with the science of dried-surface-meets-expanding-things-underneath, but I won’t. Just trust me that you really need to do this and you can’t cut corners.
How long the macarons take to dry depends on how humid the air is. You will know they are ready for the oven if you can gently touch them on the side and on top, and your finger does not stick. Then into a 170 degree Celsius (normal setting, not thermo) it goes for 12-15 minutes. This is 10 degrees warmer than many other recipes state, but I’ve established through trial and error that a bit more heat works for me. (Here’s another hot tip: what your oven’s temperature gauge says the internal heat is and what it actually is, are mostly two totally different things. Get yourself a thermometer that you can hang in the oven. They only cost about R100. You’ll probably be gobsmacked how it differs!)
The best way of knowing whether the macarons are cooked through, is to lift them. If they easily come off the baking paper, they’re done. If the bottom stays behind there’s no need to freak, it just means they need another minute or two. Allow the macarons to cool, then spoon some of my milk tart filling onto a macaron and top with another.