The code has been well and truly cracked. People all over the place are making gorgeous French macarons sans eggs and it’s downright remarkable.
It’ll come as no surprise that the secret ingredient in these eggless/vegan macarons is aquafaba – the vegan chickpea water that replaces egg whites in meringues, pavlovas and rich vegan chocolate mousse.
I’ve tried to nail the perfect eggless/vegan macaron for years and as soon as aquafaba came along, it was like all my baking prayers had been answered. It was the magic ingredient needed to form the basis of hundreds of recipes I’d always wanted to recreate without eggs.
I’ve tried making macarons with both French meringue and Italian meringue and each time, the French meringue would look so promising and the end results were a total disaster – they’d puncture in the oven and ooze even though they had been rested for hours, were dry to the touch and baking at a low temperature.
It had to be a problem with the stability of the aquafaba French meringue. I read online that even with regular macarons, the eggs should be aged and that Italian meringue offers tonnes more stability due to the hot sugar syrup being boiled to 115C – past the soft ball stage and verging on the hard ball stage. This means the fluffy whites hold stiff peaks, whether you’re using eggs or aquafaba. All that beating in the stand mixer allows the proteins and acids in the whipped-up whites to bond with the sugar and create a stable network to trap in air for volume that wouldn’t look out of place in a L’Oréal advert.
My recipe is based on a classic French macaron recipe in most ways – it contains equal measures of ground almonds, icing sugar and caster sugar. The changes I’ve made are that I used thick, reduced aquafaba in place of the eggs (which you absolutely cannot taste in the final product, I promise). I also made my sugar syrup for the Italian meringue with strong brewed jasmine tea for a gorgeous aroma and flavour. The rest of the changes come with baking the macarons.
I tested several batches of macarons, baking each sheet at different temperatures and found that the key to getting even ‘feet’ on every macaron depends on several things, baking temperature being an integral one. Here are some tips I learnt along the way.
How do I made vegan macarons?
- Aquafaba from a can is rich in protein but contains a lot of water. You should reduce it by half the night before you want to make the macarons, pour it into a bowl and keep it in the fridge – the resting and cooling time is essential for a thick, viscous ‘egg white-like’ replacer.
- Use a sugar thermometer to measure when the syrup reaches 115C – don’t eyeball it.
- Sift the almonds with the icing sugar – I skipped this when making a previous batch and the tops weren’t as smooth as I’d have liked them to be.
- After adding the sugar syrup to the foamy whipped aquafaba, beat it for ten minutes. It won’t be as voluminous as making French meringue with aquafaba but that’s okay.
- Don’t hold back when combining the almond paste and Italian meringue. Add all of the almond mixture in one go. Use a spatula to make sure it’s well mixed, pressing it against the sides of the bowl and folding, 20 times or so. The batter should look like light and airy molten lava, dropping off the spatula and becoming one with the mixture within 10-15 seconds. Some people like to imagine magma oozing from a volcano.
- Pipe the macarons straight from above, at a 90 degree angle.
- Make sure you tap the tray hard on the surface at least 5 times to remove any air bubbles. I did it 3 times whilst working on a batch and my macarons were lop-sided.
- Pre-heat the oven to 150C and as soon as your tray of macarons goes in, turn it down to 115C. This will give them the shot of heat they need to develop feet and also cook evenly. If your oven has hot spots, make sure you turn the tray after the first 5 minutes of cooking has elapsed.
- Allow the macarons to cool completely before attempting to lift them off the greaseproof paper.
I chose to fill my macarons with vegan white chocolate ganache – I love the feeling of chilled, set ganache against the chewy almond texture of the cookies. This is best achieved after filling the macarons, placing them in an airtight container and refrigerating overnight.
If you want to make dark chocolate macarons, replace the white chocolate ganache with your favourite darker variety.
How do I decorate my vegan macarons?
The shells are flavoured with jasmine tea and fresh vanilla. I added a little blue colouring to some of them for a pretty watercolour effect you don’t have to. The gold was edible gold dust painted on with a clean paintbrush.
Eggless/Vegan Vanilla and Jasmine Macarons
Makes 28-30 macarons
For The Macaron Shells:
350g aquafaba – from 2 x 400g tins of chickpeas in water (not salted water)
180g icing sugar
180g ground almonds
100ml strong brewed jasmine tea
180g golden caster sugar
Seeds ½ vanilla pod, scraped
Blue gel food colour and gold petal dust, optional
For The Whipped White Chocolate Ganache:
200g vegan white chocolate
200g thick coconut milk
You will also need:
5 x (13in x 9in) baking trays lined with silicone greaseproof paper
1cm round piping nozzle
Stand mixer with whisk attachment
1. Take two 400g tins chickpeas and pour the liquids into a bowl on a weighing scale. Weigh out 350g.
2. Pour the mixture into a pan and simmer until the liquids have reduced to 150g. Pour into a bowl and cover with clingfilm. Allow to cool, and then place in the fridge overnight.
3. I like to line my trays well ahead as I draw a stencil (2cm rounds) on the reverse of the greaseproof paper so I can ensure the macarons are the right size and spaced far enough apart. For this recipe you’ll need 5 heavy bottomed trays lined with silicone greaseproof paper.
4. The next day, sift the ground almonds and icing sugar into a bowl. Add 60g of the chilled chickpea liquids and stir to combine.
5. Pour the rest of the chickpea liquids into a clean, grease-free stand mixer. Turn the mixer on to medium speed. It will start getting foamy.
6. Pour the jasmine tea into a pan and add the caster sugar. Boil until the mixture registers 115C on a sugar thermometer.
7. Turn the mixer on high speed and carefully but quickly pour the sugar syrup into the whipped aquafaba.
8. Add the vanilla and beat the mixture for 10 minutes. It won’t be massively voluminous but it’ll become thick, glossy and rather like marshmallow fluff. After 10 minutes, you should have a mixture that resembles a bird’s beak on the whisk when it’s pulled up.
9. Add the almond mixture to the meringue and use a spatula to incorporate fully. Use a spatula to make sure it’s well mixed, pressing it against the sides of the bowl and folding, 20 times or so. The batter should look like light and airy molten lava, dropping off the spatula and becoming one with the mixture within 10-15 seconds. Think magma oozing from a volcano.
10. Fill a piping bag fitted with a 1cm round tip with the macaron batter. Add any colours you might want to use.
11. Take your pre-lined trays and pipe the macarons from straight above, not on a slant. If your batter is the correct consistency, you’ll see it spread slightly and smooth out within 30 seconds or so for each round.
12. Once all your macarons are piped, give each tray a firm but steady bang on the countertop – I do it 5 times.
13. Allow the macarons to air-dry in a cool place for about 2 hours.
14. Pre-heat the oven to 150C.
15. To make the vegan white chocolate ganache, place the coconut milk and vegan white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high power for 90 seconds and leave it to sit for 10 minutes. Give it a gentle mix. Once it’s uniformly melted, cover and refrigerate until set.
16. Once the tops of the macarons are touch-dry, bake the macarons, one tray at a time. Once the tray is in the oven (middle rack), turn the temperature right down to 115C. Set the oven timer to cook for 25 minutes. During the time they’re in the oven, pay to your oven’s hotspots and turning the tray if you need to (after the first five minutes if you do).
17. Remove the tray from the oven and allow to cool. Repeat the baking process for each tray.
18. While the last tray is in the oven, remove the ganache from the fridge and whip it until fluffy and light. Add vanilla if you like.
19. Once the macarons have cooled fully, gently peel them away from the greaseproof paper.
20. Match the macarons up by shell size. Pipe the ganache onto one half and gently press the two shells together for the perfect macaron sandwich. Decorate as you wish.
21. They taste WAY better the next day. Line an airtight container with kitchen paper and arrange the macarons in a single layer. Put the lid on and refrigerate overnight.
Try not to eat them all in one go. I struggled with that part.
Now go and make these and enjoy looking like a baking wizard in front of all your friends.