PS: This is a 4 mile long post. So if you don't feel like reading the entire post, feel free to skip the write up and go straight to the recipe. There are a few tips and links to understand macaron procedure better, at the last two paragraphs..
Many had warned, making this French Cookie as well as eating them can be addictive. I’m not sure on the first because, it is just too much work from grinding, powdering, whisking, mixing and the like. Definitely not for me… but for the 'never tiring', may be. As for eating them, yes! I warn you… it can actually be addictive. David Lebovitz says, “It is not safe to be home alone with a dozen macarons”. Actually, it is not safer even if your kids are around ;)
I started making it from scratch. Many had thought, the store bought almond powder can be a pain in the A**. So I decided to make my own, right from blanching the almonds. The wannabe Chef explains how to have perfect blanched almonds. I got fairly fine powder from it after grinding in the food processor and sifting. I think making your own almond powder is better as it is cheaper and more good. I aged my egg whites and beat it to the right consistency, and went with the macaronage (the process of incorporating almond powder with beaten egg whites) quite well, or so I thought. So the batch came out with feet, though not very pretty (They protruded out. Not a quality for good feet). Yet, feet was feet. After reading many blogs of even professionals,I had found that finding feet was not an easy affair; and here I am with a batch of macarons with real feet!!
Ahm! I felt myself taller and stretched a bit on 'my own feet'.
I can simply understand the emotions of those people who jumped in glee saying 'feet', 'feet', when it actually happened to them. But I didn't do such silly things as there was none to witness my joyous enrapture. But didn't seize to peep into the oven every now and then to see if the subject of talk has actually made its divine appearance. And when it did I simply sighed and murmured.."You silly brat! why couldn't u appear half a dozen batches before. It would have saved my precious time and a couple of kilos of expensive almonds" (joking here ! you cannot say such things to a macaron feet. It may just disappear after you take it out of the oven. So better give your utmost respect :) )
Actually my first batch of macarons had feet.. No No No.. before you say Wow! let me explain fully. Yes, they had feet, but the shell was too fragile. So each one cracked while I tried to lift them out. Oops! I think I took them out of the oven too soon ( such an impatient crook like me, you know!). But well, MY FIRST EVER BATCH HAD FEET and that made me a little over confident. I thought those words of cautions and such elaborately expressed apprehensions were mere exaggerations of some whimsical vanity bakers. After all it was just a bit of whisking and folding..
'How wrong I was!'
I just kept on mumbling after 7 batches of utter macawrongs (as ugly as feet less crabs!!). After the first disaster, making macarons (or macawrongs) became a routine affair every alternate days, just to perfect the recipe, to the extend that my son started asking every morning "Did you make macarons, mom?" like I ask him, "Did you brush your teeth?"
Even if they were feetless they tasted the same, just sooo delicious. So there is actually no issues of wasting the cookies. You can enjoy them yourself or give them to unsuspecting guests.So, yes. I began to find my feet after 7 batches (or may be 8). I have learned one or two things about these flimsy cookies too...
Here are a few things I found from my own experience...
- Never make your batter, too thin. Even if your batter be a little too thick,(due to a higher quantity of almond flour or due to under folding) don't worry. You will probably have more success with it than with a runny batter. You can keep a little bit of almond sugar mixture in excess so that you can add it if you feel your batter is thin.
- Just like adequate resting time does good to the macarons, too much resting makes them brittle. From my experience, if your batter is thicker, you need very less resting time or none at all and you can bake them right away. But if your batter is on the thinner side, you better keep it to dry out a bit (from 15 minutes to 1 hour)
- While folding the almond flour mixture into the beaten egg whites, combine them as quickly as possible. Many trouble shooting guides say not to over fold (average 50 to 55 folds is adequate), but they have never mentioned to do the folding quickly. In my earlier batches, I used to fold my batter, counting to fifty but too slowly so as not to hurt the egg whites and at the end I had runny batter as the egg whites would be all deflated by the end.
- Sift the almond flour with the icing sugar even if you have fine powder. This helps to aerate the batter.
- If you have pointed domes, after the batter is squeezed to tray, just flatten them using a wet finger to have a smooth dome to your macarons.
- And yes !I learned something about ovens. Baking macarons in a fan assisted convection oven helps to make the shell stronger compared to a conventional oven. I have a convection oven with fan and a Range cooker oven with the heating element underneath. You can see the difference of dome in my Lemon macarons ( which is a bit fragile and uneven, as you can see ) which was baked in the conventional range cooker oven and the peach coloured macarons, baked in my fan assisted convection oven(which has a stronger shell). Check out my Sunshine macarons baked exclusively in fan assisted convection oven.
- Age your egg whites (from 2 to 5 days).This helps to make the shells less fragile. But if you are aging it for more than two days, keep it in fridge lightly covered with a paper towel. If you age it for more than 5 days, the egg white would have thickened and hence the volume reduced. So even if you find the weight of egg white same, you will have to take more amount to reach the required volume.
- Last but not least, It is better to slightly over cook your macarons rather than under cook them, so as to make the cookie less fragile. The dome should be firm to touch when well cooked, but not browned.
* Ms. Humble of Not So humble Pie, answered many of my intriguing questions in her post, to the extend that every time my macarons flopped, I ran to the computer to see what went wrong.
*Duncan Markham of Syrup and Tang helped me understand my oven better. You can go through the site to know all about oven temperatures and their effect on macarons.
* Macaron Mythbusters from Brave Tart helped eradicating some of the myths surrounding macarons and most importantly, gave the message that any one can make them with a little practice.
* Food nouveau gives a detailed illustrated account of the process quite clearly.
*Rose of Magpies explains her experience in the macaron baking class.
Basic Macaron Recipe I followed:
Ingredients for shell:
65 g ground almonds
100 g icing sugar
50 g aged egg whites (about two egg whites)
25g granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
(For Lemon Macarons I added 1 tablespoon of lemon zest and a pinch of yellow powdered food colour)
White Chocolate Ganache Filing
100g white chocolate
100 ml thick cream
For the shell:
- Firstly age the egg whites: Place egg whites in a clean bowl and cover lightly with a kitchen towel or tissue paper. It should not have any streaks of yolk in it. Keep it in your kitchen counter for 24 to 48 hours or up to 5 days in the fridge. Aging egg whites help to reduce its water content which is turn makes firmer shells for cookies.
- Pulse the almond powder and icing sugar in the food processor or blender until fine and sift it into a large bowl to break lumps and aerate it. Discard any lumps or almond pieces. Keep it aside.
- Whisk egg whites in a squeaky clean stainless steel bowl with no traces of fat in it, using an electric beater(medium speed) adding a pinch of salt.When the egg whites become foamy( like bubble bath) start adding granulated sugar slowly and beat on high until stiff glossy peaks. Add food colour (if using) and fold gently until combined.
- Fold in the dry mixture to the meringue( beaten egg white) in two batches with a flexible spatula until well combined and no dry mixture is visible in the batter (it takes about 50 to 55 folds). Add he lemon zest (if adding) and fold until combined.At this stage your batter should be smooth, thick and shiny which slowly and ruggedly drips off your spatula when you lift it. Do not over mix once you have reached that thick batter stage.
- Line your baking sheet with baking paper or parchment paper. Fit your piping bag with a round tip nozzle, clamp the bag with a cloth peg or clip just above the nozzle and scoop the batter into the piping bag keeping it in a tall glass to help with the filling. Now remove any air bubbles in the batter by squeezing it towards the nozzle by keeping the icing bag on a flat surface. Twist the ends and remove the cloth peg. Pipe out small rounds of about 2 and 1/2 cm diameter on to the baking paper leaving two inches in between them. Rap the baking sheet on a flat surface, a few times to flatten the batter and to remove any air bubbles, trapped in.
- Let the batter sit to dry as long as it leaves no indentation once touched, lightly. DO NOT keep it too long to dry.This resting time vary from place to place depending on weather and humidity. It may take from 10 minutes to 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven (conventional) to 160 degree C. While keeping the baking sheet, reduce the temperature to 140 degree C and keep the oven door slightly ajar with a wooden spoon while baking. In fan forced convection oven, preheat to 180 degreeC and then reduce to 160 degree while baking and bake the macarons for 15 to 20 minutes until completely done.
- Take them out and let cool on a wire wrack along with baking paper for 15 to 20 minutes. Peel them out carefully with an offset spatula and sort them out with same size shells. Fill them with filling and keep in fridge to mature for a day or two for the flavours to blend. Unfilled shells can be frozen.
For white chocolate ganache filling:
Bring thick cream to simmering point in a heavy bottomed pan. Once small bubbles start to appear along the sides, turn the heat off and add chopped chocolate to it. Stir well with a spatula and add vanilla essence. Leave for a couple of minutes and stir until everything is combined and smooth. Leave aside until firm enough to pipe.
Take two shells of same size, invert one and pipe a small dollop of cream or jam( as I did in the peach coloured macarons) on to the base. Gently press the other shell over it to sandwich the filling in between. Do like this for the rest of the shells and keep in fridge to mature before you eat it (this is the hardest part of all).
Enjoy the fruit of your labour taking time to savour each bite. Yum!!