Seems pretty straight forward putting a stick into a macaron and getting a macaron pop, but it isn’t always that simple. Runny, oozy macaron fillings aren’t good for regular macarons and could totally wreck an adventurous attempt to make macaron pops. French macaron makers know that humidity is the enemy of the macaron shell, and this is also true for macaron fillings if you are wanting to make them into lollipops. Softer buttercream fillings or jams that haven’t been thickened up enough could end up making your pops look more like flops. At the end of the day, it’s important to control the moisture content of a macaron filling so that you are providing a tacky mixture for the lollipop sticks to grab on to. Here are a few tips for filling your macarons if you plan on having them look beautiful and stay vertical.
Depending on your sweet-o-meter or taste preference, add some more confectioners’ sugar or even cornstarch to a buttercream mixture to stiffen it up. My preference is always cornstarch because it adds thickness without adding sweetness. In my experience, it is very common for frosting recipes to recommend powdered sugar as the solution for thickening, but I must admit, I have ruined many a dessert this way. More sugar is not always better especially for something already sweet like a macaron. Italian buttercreams also make great fillings because they are stiffened up with cooked egg whites. Another option is to use non-hydrogenated shortening to replace a portion of butter in a recipe. With this substitute, the buttercream is more stable and less apt to soften at room temperature.
2. Fruit Jams
If you are making your own jam, use some more pectin than the recipe calls for. For instance, if the recipe calls for a tablespoon, add a tablespoon and a half. If you are going with store-bought jam, place an amount into a saucepan and cook down on low heat for 5-10 minutes to reduce some of the water content.
3. Nut Butters and Cookie Spreads
As with buttercreams, you can add some extra confectioners’ sugar or cornstarch to tighten up the nut butter. You can also add some of the same type of ground nuts. For instance, you can add ground hazelnuts to Nutella or some peanut powder to natural peanut butter if you are making PB&J macarons. Probably a mixture of both the ground nuts and the cornstarch (or powdered sugar) will work best. If you are using cookie spread or speculoos as a filling, add ground cookies of a similar flavor to thicken up the spread. These tips come in handy when nut butters are natural and don’t have any hydrogenated fats added to keep them solid at room temperature.
4. Citrus Curds
If you are making something like a fresh lemon curd to fill your macarons with you want to add an extra yolk or whole egg to stiffen up the curd. Alternatively, you could slightly lessen the amount of butter added to the curd by a tablespoon or so. If you are using a store-bought curd you can reheat it on a very low heat over the stove top and mix in some bloomed gelatin.
Ganache is so simple to make and is easily the most delicious no brainer macaron filling out there. It’s so easy to infuse ganaches with all sorts of fancy flavors like framboise (raspberry), cassis (currant), Kahlua (coffee), Frangelico (hazelnut), or Chambord (cherry) liquors. If you are planning to spike a ganache with liquor you must take this into account before you start making the ganache. What this means is that you need to lessen the amount of cream you are adding to the chocolate, so that even after you add the liquor the ganache will still be on the thicker side. If you’ve went too far and the ganache is too thin, add some more pure melted chocolate into the ganache and mix it in well.
If you are filling your macs with caramel, then you definitely want to decrease the amount of cream added. Seek out a recipe for soft caramel candies (not caramel sauce) and add a tad more cream so that the resulting caramel will be a soft solid at room temperature.
7. Bonus Tip
The process of “aging,” or allowing a macaron to mature, is a very important last step in making French macarons. For macaron pops, it especially important. Plan to make and fill your macaron shells at least day or two before you plan on serving them, making sure to place the lollipop stick only half way through the diameter of the macaron shell. Macaron shells act as sponges and absorb a bit of moisture from fillings, so the aging process not only helps to develop flavor and texture but also allows for the cookie and the stick to bond together.
Macaron pops are a cute twist on the French classic, and are really fun to make as long as the fillings are cooperative. Getting a macaron filling right is just as important as getting the shell part right, so hopefully these tips will make the process just a bit more simple for you. Fillings are the finishing touch of this delicate cookie and ultimately make a macaron memorable, so a bit of extra attention to detail will go a long way.
And for some tips on making macaron shells, look here.