Archive for January 2013
I’ve been dreaming about making French Macarons for over a year now. I get excited everytime I spot a picture of the colorful delicate sandwich cookie on pinterest or in one of my cookbooks, especially I Heart Macarons by Hisako Ogita.
Or when I got to work with the owner of Laduree at Jazz at Lincoln Center as we scrambled to find refridgerator space for the hundreds of Macaron filled gift boxes for a wedding. Or whenever I felt fancy enough to part with $15 or so dollars and saunter down to Bouchon at the Shops of Columbus Circle and and dive into 2 or more (their Macarons are huge) crunchy, gooey cookies.
I truly heart Macarons…except when it came to my prowess in executing them in my own kitchen. They delicate cookie can be an absolute Bear to make. Anyone whose made anything containing stiffened egg whites has probably had a few faux pas in the kitchen. I wasted and ruined more than a dozen egg whites and pounds of butter when I first endeavoured to make Swiss Merignue buttercream Frosting. And I won’t get back those hours of standing over a double boiler whipping egg whites and sugar to 200+ degrees only to find an hour later once 2 pounds of butter had been warmed to room temp and sliced and slowly incorporated that the thin and goopey syrup I rendered would never be the light whipped delicious frosting I’d intended. BUT I presevered and experimented and found that Italian Meringue Buttercream took slightly less time, less arm work and eventually I figured out just how to nail everytime.
Macarons apparently need the same finesse at least in my kitchen so after 3 attempts that resulted in the same milky goo and not a thick Macaronage (the proper name of perfectly mixed batter) I was PISSED!! Macarons are delicious beacause they are delicate with a smooth crunchy surface and a gooey center– not to mention the endless possiblities for filling, but the process is just a “delicate”. By that I mean Preparing them can be as finiky as working with a total diva celebrity even after I thought I could eye ball any meringue. So I poured over the internet on blog posts, youtube videos and tried to no avail to make the recipes in I heart Macarons work.
The anatomy of a macaron: domed, but not too rounded top, a smooth surface with a bit of sheen, no wrinkles or grease marks or cracks. The bottom of the cookie has a “pied” or foot. Its distinct and only perfectly made Macs have them. Heat, humidy and general weather conditions can mess your mac up big time…all that said they are worth the trouble.
After research heres the recipe I combined that ended up working for me:
3/4 c Almond flour– It cost like $12/ pound and you can make your own by grinding slivered (and peeled) almonds in a food processor
1 c powdered sugar– make sure its simply sugar, and does not contain corn starch– WHOLE FOODS powdered sugar does– there is just no reason for that
2 egg whites
5 tbsp granulated
2 tbsp water
First pre-heat your oven to 325. I like to get mine going early because it takes forever to adequately preheat. I’ve also met chefs who insist the success of macarons depends on the oven. Some people insist on preheating the oven for a full hour. Everyone’s oven is wildly different from the next so I’d say make sure its adequately preheated.
Sift almond Flour with a strainer Twice! Make sure to measure that you still have 3/4 cup! Sift powedered sugar– mostly to break up lumps, again measure your quantity after its sifted. Stir to combine. Set aside.
Begin to whip egg whites NOW: egg whites are “easier” to separate when they are cold. Most recipes I’ve read and researched insist the egg whites be 1. days old, and 2. room temperature.– Both conditions make for quick and easy whipping. I agree with all these statements but I let the eggs sit out for about 20-30 minutes before I started whipping and everything worked out just fine.
Heat granulated sugar and water to reach 235 degrees F. Soft ball stage. Typcially I do so in a pan on the stove but I opted this time to go for the microwave. Again everyone microwave is different if you go this route. I’d start with a minute and stir to make sure the water and sugar is combined. Then heat for 3-4 minutes. Check the temp and don’t over cook– once your sugar surpasses the soft ball stage a whole other chemical reaction will take place and letting it cool will not get the consistency back you are looking for.
Meanwhile start whipping your egg whites. When they reach a soft peak stage pour hot sugar in, in a slow steady stream. Continue to whip until the batter is cool and is at the stiff peak stage! It is essential the egg whites are properly whipped as if they are too soft they cannot support the almond flour. I find egg whites, espceially cool egg whites can take 8-10 minutes to reach the stiff glossy peaks. Older egg whites whip in about 4 minutes. If you choose to dye your cookies add the food coloring : gel or powder, right at the end.
Pour in about 1/2 of the flour mixture and delicately fold FOLD together. Folding means you preserve the air in the egg white and if you stir in a circular fashion all bets are off.
At this point I find that scooping the egg white mixture into the flour bowl and remaining flour is best because with only 2 egg whites whipping some of the sugar syrup sticks to the side of the bowl and you don’t want hardened sugar in the batter. Again delicately fold the mixture. I heart Macarons mentions Macaronage and Macaroner as methods of stirring intregal to making the perfect batter– but each time I interpretted the directions I always over mixed the batter and ended up with slop. Fold until just combined.
Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat non stick sheet. For the most round and uniform macarons scope the batter into a large 14″-16″ pastry bag. I find a large circular tip is great. for smaller macarons use a #12 tip. Pipe onto the baking sheet. A great tip is to actual stack 2 baking sheets on snuggly on top of the other. This prevents overcooking– it works for cake too! If you are worried your cake will burn on the bottom set it on a baking sheet. The extra insulation prevents burning.
Right before you place your macs in the oven turn the temperature down to 300 degrees. about 8 minutes in, spin the baking sheet around so that all cookies cook evenly. I also recommend placing your baking sheet in the bottom 3rd of your oven. After 12 -16 minutes they should be perfect. remove from the oven and Cool. eat as they are or fill with buttercream, ganache jam whatever tickles your fancy.
1 comment January 31, 2013