Silicone Macaron Mat Review

For all the macarons I’ve churned out in the past few years, have you also noticed that there are trendy kitchen gadgets such as a silicone macaron mat in specialised baking shops? When Mum told me my cousin, Julie, made wonderful macarons for a family party (using my first book, Mad About Macarons) and that she was using a macaron mat, I thought it was about time to jump on the bandwagon, try one out myself and help you decide if it’s worth buying one or not by this silicone macaron mat review.

So I bought myself a Mastrad macaron matThis post is not referring to a silicone Silpat mat, but a special macaron mat with pre-defined circles. (Incidentally, I don’t use a plain Silpat mat as it tends to overcook macarons…)

Although it’s referred to as a “small” macaron baking sheet, it’s rather a large mat (42cm x 33cm; 17″x13″) and so the small is referring to the size of macarons, not the macaron mat itself. In America this may be an extra small size, but in France this is the normal size found in the pâtisseries in Paris. The mat produces 56 shells for 28 macarons.

Silicone macaron mat review comparison with baking parchment paper

It was great to see so many macarons condensed onto one tray. If you see the photo above left, however, you will see that my macarons are not quite round.  Why?  Well, although it may look easy I had to pipe the batter right into the middle of the raised rounds. By the time the batter spread out a little (as they normally do), I realised that some of my piping wasn’t quite directly in the middle. I’m so used to piping quickly free-hand.

Although I missed the centre on some of them, the majority turned out in perfect circles.  On the other hand, the mat was too big for my large baking sheet. The result was that the batter moved and produced some oval macarons which were not so pretty. I would, therefore, recommend that you use a baking sheet that is large enough to support the mat, such as this aluminium 18×14 baking sheet.

small macaron feet using a macaron silicone mat

Oh what little feet we have

Baking the macarons using the silicone macaron mat took an extra 4-5 minutes compared to the ones being baked just on baking parchment.

Macaron Feet using the Silicone Macaron Mat

In general, the end result was satisfactory but I really wasn’t happy that the macarons’ feet were much flatter than I normally achieve by piping directly onto good quality baking parchment/paper. I also found that the macarons tended to stick to the mat, creating a shiny surface underneath.  I would recommend oiling the mat slightly before piping to avoid this.

review of silicone macaron mat

flat-footed macarons?

Being so used to piping out macarons free hand, I find it much easier to use simple baking parchment (good quality) and pipe out rounds quickly.

perfect macaron shell feet using baking paper

We have much better feet, see? Baking parchment is all we need…

After a few batches I stopped using the silicone mat for macarons; it’s too time consuming to relearn how to pipe the batter into the centre of the silicone rounds on the mat.  So that my money doesn’t go to waste, I’ve used it for making chocolate mendiants.

how to make chocolate disks or French mendiants

I also used the macaron mat for making French chouquettes (mini choux buns topped with pearl sugar.) It was interesting to see that they turned out slightly flatter compared to ones piped out onto my Silpat silicone baking mat. Incidentally, I have a whole recipe chapter on choux buns (profiteroles) and éclair pastry treats in my new book, Teatime in Paris.

using a macaron silicone mat to make chouquettes

Left: silicone macaron mat with circles (the subject of this post); Right: Plain silicone mat

Silicone Macaron Mat Review Verdict

The mat is an extra luxury; you don’t need it, especially if you already enjoy baking and have a few practises with the piping bag. First-time users with a piping bag can find it awkward at first and, although the mat provides extra confidence in piping out uniform rounds, you still need to practise piping out the rounds directly in the middle and just enough so that the batter doesn’t go over the raised rounds. The positive side is that you can fit more macarons on to the one sheet.

If you do prefer using the mat, I would encourage you to ensure you have a baking sheet that is large enough to hold the full mat, so check your sizes first as I recommend above.

I still prefer using good quality baking parchment for the best macaron shell results with a perfect foot.

chocolate macaron shells baked on baking parchment

Have you bought a macaron mat recently?  What do you think?

Bestselling Macaron Recipe

And if you’re wanting a macaron recipe that works, you need a copy of my book, Mad About Macarons!
Update
: Even BETTER VALUE (at the price of a box of macarons) is my second recipe book, Teatime in Paris! (published 2015), including step-by-step macaron recipes; 50 recipes of French teatime favourites such as Lemon & Passion Meringue Tart, coffee éclairs, Paris-Brest (macarons too!), vanilla millefeuille, raspberry financiers, honey madeleines with rose & green tea, hot chocolate like Angelina’s, almond tuiles, speculoos ice cream …and with a DIY guide thrown in of Paris’ best patisseries, chocolate shops, macarons and tea salons.

teatime in Paris pastry recipe book

50 favourite Parisian teatime recipes


Note: This is a personal review and not sponsored by anybody: Mastrad did not contact me. As I see them in so many shops and readers ask me if they should buy it, I bought the mat myself, curious to try. All ideas and opinions are my own in the interest of my macaron-making friends. If any company wishes to contact me to convince me otherwise, however, then I am totally open to doing a new review … Links are not affiliate links on this page. 

Giverny and Inspiration from Monet’s Gardens

Why is it when you live so close to something truly amazing and touristy, you avoid it? Antoine and I lived in rue Bosquet for 5 years, just a few minutes walk from the Eiffel Tower and yet we went up only after we moved out of Paris. Then last weekend – after 19 years of living here – we finally drove 45 minutes up the A13 to a summery Giverny, Claude Monet’s haven near the river Seine in Normandy.

The secret is to leave early and get there for opening time at 9.30am so that there’s not much of a bouchon (traffic jam) on Monet’s Japanese bridge. Last year there were 611,000 visitors so believe me, this is important. The house and gardens have been open to the public since 1980. It needed 10 years of renovation (with major donations from the USA) after the house and garden’s neglect after the Second World War.

Such a wet summer to date has been good for the lush greens of the gardens.  Most of the flowers are seen in the Clos Normand, in front of the house. What a lovely idea to have an avenue of nasturtiums up to the front door. Imagine how many summer salads you could decorate with these (and eat)?

summer flowers in Monet garden of Giverny France

Just a few snapshots of the hundreds of flowers and plants on show. Claude Monet set to planting and sowing seeds as soon as he arrived in 1883 and his house is filled with volume upon volume of plant encyclopaedias and Japanese prints. Giverny’s talented gardeners continue to succeed in showing different varieties all through the year, as the seasons change.

summer gardens Monet Giverny France

You can see why the master of the Impressionists lived in this idyllic spot for nearly 46 years (1883-1926.)  Seeing the water garden live for the first time, it was just as he had portrayed them in his works of art. Do you recognise them?

Sur le pont… de Monet

Unlike Japanese bridges painted in red, Monet painted his bridge in bright green. Everyone around the garden’s visitor route was transfixed on the lily pads and nymphéas, made so famous by his paintings of them started in 1897. My girls loved watching an cute ugly duckling hobbling from lily pad to the next.

There wasn’t much to visit in the house, to be honest, and there is a lack of information as to what you’re seeing. Unfortunately photos were prohibited inside. His living room was impressive and although it’s filled with replicas, it’s still incredible to think he would lie on his chaise longue, puffing on his pipe while looking up at his masterpieces. Photos of Monet are around the house. Do you love looking at old photographs?

Claude Monet house Giverny

Standing outside Monet’s kitchen window: somehow with lace curtains around the house or that check and shutters you can tell we’re in France. Just up the road, the Hotel Baudy welcomed guests – particularly many American painters who came to Giverny for inspiration and to meet Monet.

Hotel Baudy Giverny France

To see Monet’s lilypond paintings, visit L’Orangerie Museum, the Louvre and the Orsay Museum in Paris. For more of his paintings – including the original painting, Impression Sunrise, which gave Impressionism its name – visit the Marmottan Museum in the 16th Arrondissement. They even have his pipe, if you’re particularly sentimental like myself.

lily pond at Giverny Monet Gardens France

After our meander up to the church to pay our respects to the great artist as well as locals who didn’t make their return to the village after the World Wars, it was time for a picnic. A short drive further up the Seine, we found the perfect spot underneath a weeping willow tree with our toes dangling into the river. The ideal, idyllic summer spot in the shade, imagining Monet capturing the scene on his floating studio.

Monet hat at Giverny

The Giverny look this summer

He’s still making an impression on us in different ways: we can’t all sport white beards but the look in Giverny is this straw hat; we’re also spending a few days in New York City at the moment and this lily pond is following us around Manhattan through his water lily paintings! More on that later.

What impression do you have from Monet’s garden?

Apricot and Lavender Jam

Imagine my surprise back from holidays and seeing this last crate of blushing apricots just waiting to be pounced on. I thought the apricot season would be over but here they were, pride of place, looking up at me at the market with a sign announcing they were jam apricots. It didn’t take much convincing to make a batch of my all-time favourite apricot jam.

apricots for making jam

Blushing apricots: we’ve been picked for the next jamming session!

Buzzing merrily, bees are currently feasting on our lavender next to the back door. The aromas remind me of the heady lavender fields in Provence at this time of year.  My lucky daughters are seeing them soon enough when they stay with their French grandparents next week – there’s even a lavender distillery nearby.  As you can imagine, the girls are buzzing with excitement at the thought of hot, sticky days ahead of them.

When they return to school in September, they are all too familiar with the smell of lavender due to the occasional bout of nits (les poux!) that hit the primary school: by dabbing a drop of lavender oil behind their ears they smell of Provence but nits hate the ‘heady’ smell and leave my girlies alone.

A heady touch of lavender from the garden

I much prefer to use lavender from the garden to add a special touch to this apricot jam. It’s a real winter treat to open up a jar of golden sunshine and smother it on slices of brioche for breakfast. My girls have this theory that if they write the jam labels, they’re entitled to more of the jar’s contents.

As I prefer to use half the sugar of the classic recipe, the jam doesn’t last as long as the classic. In our house, this is never a problem as it’s is consumed pretty quickly on crêpes, waffles, warmed as a sauce on nougat ice cream, as a glaze or simply eaten by the spoon! The addition of butter is my mother-in-law’s little secret to avoid too much scum floating to the top during the jam-making process.

apricot lavender jam

Apricot and Lavender Jam

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Resting Time: 8-10 hours
Cooking Time: approx. 1 hour

1 kg apricots, washed and cut in 2 (stones removed)
500g granulated sugar with added pectin (jam-making sugar)
juice of a lemon
2 fresh lavender flowers (or 2 tsps dried lavender in a tea infuser)
knob of butter

  1. Mix together the above ingredients (except the butter) in a large bowl and leave to infuse overnight or 8-10 hours.
  2. Remove the full lavender flowers or the tea strainer with the dried lavender.
  3. In a heavy high-sided pot (as I use induction heat, but traditionally – if you can – use a copper pot), bring the ingredients to a slow boil over a moderate heat for at least 45 minutes. Stir occasionally using a wooden spoon and add the knob of butter.
  4. Meanwhile, chill a saucer in the fridge to quicken the setting process.
  5. Turn down the heat and leave to simmer for another 15 minutes until thickened. Test the jam on the chilled saucer. If it wrinkles, it’s set. If not, then continue to boil the jam and try again.
  6. Pour into warmed, sterilised jars. Cover with a disc of waxed paper – or parchment paper – and when cooled, tightly close the lids.

Store in a cool place for up to a year. Once opened, store in the fridge.

apricot lavender jam

Plus it goes without saying (ça va sans dire – love that phrase!) that you could fill orange (or purple) shells to make apricot and lavender macarons. The beauty with macarons is that you can make any flavour of your imagination. Be inspired from the recipes in the book and add your own personal touch.  Here, I used the filling recipe on page 74 for the liquorice macarons, replacing the 30g of liquorice for the jam.

So here’s my gift to you for all your comments and support over the last few months. Merci beaucoup, my macaronivore friends! Help yourselves; they’re now at room temperature so perfect for eating.

Apricot-lavender macarons

How would you use this jam?  Have you tried it warmed and poured over candied fruit ice cream?

Finding the Romans, Macaroons and Macarons in England

We’re just back from holiday. It’s the first time we have driven around England with the children and as buckets of rain were thrown upon us, we can safely say that we now know a few museums. Avoiding the traffic of London’s Olympics live (we couldn’t get tickets, sniff) we still enjoyed the festive buzz around the country, as each town was proudly strutting their flag and the Best of British in many shop windows.

British flags English Bakery

Windows tempted us with giant scones, carrot cakes, STP (Sticky Toffee Pudding), Bakewell tart, apple turnovers, Victoria Sponge, treacle tarts, Bath buns, giant cookies, peanut brittle, jam tarts…. the list goes on. But if anyone really knows me, I don’t eat the heavier cakes. Since moving to France, it’s something I try to avoid; I’m converted to eating lighter sweet treats and that is why the macaron is one of my perfect sweet afternoon treats: they’re gluten free, not high in calories and above all, they come in so many different flavours.

Beatrix Potter Cake Stands

So where were the macarons? We were definitely looking in the wrong places outside of London. There are many French pâtisseries in England but some didn’t even have macarons. Quoi? There were, however, macaroons…

Macaroons in England

Macaroons but where are the macarons?

This is the reason why I prefer to call ‘macaroons’ macarons. When I say ‘macarons’, it’s not to be all French chic and snooty; it’s simply so that we don’t confuse the traditional coconut based macaroon (and in this case it looks like there’s no coconut but an almond biscuit more like a giant amaretti) with the Parisian macaron with it’s fondant filling between two almond-based meringue shells with its characteristic ruffled foot.

When I met with my publisher during the trip, they explained that a couple of outlets didn’t take on the book simply since ‘macaron’ was on the cover and not ‘macaroon’.  What would you say to that?

Taking a break from it all meanwhile, we were in awe discovering the crafty engineering work left behind by the Romans, thanks to talented archeologists around Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland. At Vindolanda, nearly 4000 shoes were excavated (some of which are still high fashion today) as well as hundreds of Roman coins, jewellery and even postcards with writing – unbelievable seeing face-to-face an invitation to a party from an Officer’s wife.

Roman Ruins England

The Romans’ central heating system (left) and clever foundations of the granary (right)

Can you imagine the fortresses that lined Hadrian’s Wall – built south of the border to keep out the ‘rogue’ Scots – with many of their foundations intact which give us an insight as to how they lived? This image perhaps doesn’t look much but when you realise that these pillar stones were built underneath the stone floors, the Romans were clever engineers; on the left, this is their central heating system, as fires would be lit around these pillars to have warm floors above; on the right, this airing below the granary’s floor would ensure that rats or any other stray unwanted creatures that would threaten their food stocks were chased away easily. They also had communal latrines, complete with communal wiping brushes (if you wanted your own, you had to carry it around all day.) Luckily things have progressed since then.

Thermal Springs Bath England

The Thermal Springs at Bath

The Romans also used this crafty heating system as a sauna and steam room around the thermal springs at Bath. The actual thermal springs pool (naturally at 46°C) was sacred and only used by bathers who threw notes to the Goddess Sulis Minerva, who had healing powers. More worshipping would go on in the Temple next door, then self-body worshipping via spa treatment rooms with mud rubs, a plunge pool and a final dip in the thermally heated grand pool. Not bad for 2000 years ago, eh? We were so inspired that we couldn’t resist a day’s pampering ourselves at Titanic Spa further north.  Highly recommended for boosting your batteries.

Talking of revamping, as we followed the Romans, somehow a sweet treat or 4 o’clock goûter would always enter into our plans.

Pub Stratford England

Antoine started to stop in his tracks at the word, Pâtisserie. I love using him as an excuse. In Stratford-Upon-Avon, it was much ado about Shakespeare. A brief look at Hobson’s Pâtisserie confirmed alas there were no macarons.

Then in a just as crowded York, there was an even greedier line forming outside its celebrated institution, Betty’s Tea Rooms. Eye spy my little eye – look what was in the window!

Macarons at Betty's Tea Room York

The queue was so long and as we had a walking tour of the Secret York, we didn’t have any time to spare and join in line. After discovering some hidden churches, being drenched in the Shambles (watching a couple of ladies being filmed for a documentary), spotting sculptures of cats on some buildings to scare away the pigeons, I found more macarons at Pâtisserie Valerie.

York

Filming under the rain in the Shambles, York and a reigning macaron.

The coffee macaron caught my attention and before it could say try me, disappointment struck. Humbugs! It was more like a dry – really dry – cookie. No wonder some people say they’ve tried a macaron and they didn’t like it.  Gosh, these poor folks need to try a good one and see what all the fuss is about.

What do you think? Perhaps they need to make them at home instead (hint, hint.)

So my British macaronivore friends, I’m still hunting down macarons outside of London. Where did I miss? And be totally honest now: do you call them macaroons or macarons?


Update: See my article on Macarons vs Macaroons

Colouring and Pistachio Macarons

When I found myself preparing photos for Mad About Macarons within a short deadline, I wanted something a bit different for a pistachio macaron shot. Tossing in my sleep one hot night I hit on an idea: ice cream? I rushed first thing next morning to our local Gelateria Amareno in St Germain-en-Laye, asked the owner if I could borrow an ice cream cone stand and ran off with it – leaving him with a cheque just to prove I’d return it.  He thought I was NUTS. Little did he know I was almond and pistachio nuts and definitely mad about them in macaron form.

Pistachio and pistachio-white chocolate-wasabi macarons from the book

As many friends, family and colleagues would tell me they couldn’t even attempt to make macarons as they were difficult, I was on a mission to help combat their macaron stumbling block.  The aim of the book is therefore aimed at beginners to get perfect macarons with simple instructions. This means keeping the recipe straight forward too. For the pistachio recipe, the pistachios are all in the filling: the ganache or cream rests in the shells for at least 24 hours before eating them so that it permeates into the shell, making the whole macaron take on the flavours and take on a wonderful fondant finish inside.

Tip: Almonds are the least oily of nuts and easier to work with for making macarons. As pistachios – like other nuts – can be oily, I would recommend if you’re going to use ground (unsalted) pistachios in the shells, to substitute a third of the ground almonds for pistachios (or other nuts.)

Arnaud Lahrer’s pistachio and cherry macarons, finished with food colouring spray

It never ceases to amaze me in pâtisseries in Paris just how different pistachio macaron colourings can vary. Call me a snob, but I prefer to have pistachio macarons the colour of ground pistachios.  Gerard Mulot in Paris, for example, does fabulous pistachio macarons in flavour but just look at the colour…

Here, Café Pouchkine and Acide Macaron have a pistachio macaron with orange flower water. Both delicious perfection and different colouring ideas.

Acide and Pouchkine’s pistachio macarons

Not completely pistachio, but if you’ve tried Hermé’s Mosaïc macaron, you get the pistachio in between cinnamon shells and with a black cherry that winks at you. Great for cinnamon lovers, since it stands out plus the pistachio colour is pistachio.

So what colouring do I use? I prefer powdered colourings, as a tiny amount is needed in comparison to liquid colourings, which can affect the meringue if you add too much liquid.  For pistachio, use a good pinch of green colouring with a tiny pinch of brown or caramel to soften the green. (I say a pinch, as so little is needed. You’ll see for yourself: if you use a teaspoon or even half, it’s too much.) 3 parts green to 1 part brown or caramel colouring.

Previously, I ordered powdered colourings at meilleurduchef.com and at MORA in rue Montmartre in Paris – until I discovered Déco Relief just across the road from Mora.  The staff are delightful and eager to please, which in my book deserves customers.  So, my friends, I recommend you pop in to see Djamel at Déco Relief, 6 rue Montmartre, and tell him I sent you. His colleague is a great fan of Glasgow in Scotland! Yes, like the Scots, they are chatty.

As Antoine isn’t a fan of cinnamon, he asked just for plain pistachio macarons the other day.  Nothing fancy but they were delicious. Sitting back, looking at the summer rain with an espresso and contemplating our driving holiday in a just as wet and cool England.  There’s nothing else for it but to eat and drink, don’t you think?

Cheers! So did you get the answer in the previous post about the Mosaïc macaron?