Saturday, January 30, 2010

My Macaron Mission: Stage One

I don't often check Bakarella's Blog . Don't get me wrong she has cute stuff, but I'm afraid it ends there; it's just cute and it's never to inventive or challenging taste wise. However I did check her blog last week and was disappointed that she beat me to the punch on my next blog, rather, my next blog series. I was waiting for my San Francisco series to be done, which it now is btw, to begin a series of posts on my mission to make great tasting French Macarons. But you know what... I'm not Bakarella so I won't let her get me down. I'm an amateur baker and blogger with a lot of Sass, so I hope that my series can be more accessible and real.

As usual, we begin with a little history... Although predominately a French confection, there has been much debate about its origins. It has been cited that the macaron was first introduced in Venice during the Renaissance. Some have traced its French debut back to the arrival of Catherine de Medici's Italian pastry chefs whom she brought with her in 1533 upon marrying Henry II. Pierre Desfontaines of Laduree is credited for the modern interpretation of the macaron as a sandwich cookie, whereby two biscuits enclose either a buttercream, jam, or ganache filling.

Thanks Catherine!

My personal love affair with macarons began about 5 years ago when I went to visit my friend Allyse in Paris who was studying abroad there. The first place she took me the night I arrived was Laduree where I had my first macaron, well first 4 or 5, and ever since then I have been obsessed, as any sane person should be... they are magnificent! Lets take a look at their resume... They have great flavor and texture: almondy and light with limitless flavor possibilities for the buttercream or ganache filling. They come in many different fun colors and they are beautiful to look at! I'd hire them for any job! Especially the job of pleasing my senses.
All macarons are made using a combination of the following: egg whites, almond meal, sugar and confectioners sugar. With so few ingredients they would seem easy to make right? Wrong. There are so many different theories of how much of each ingredient to use, how to age the egg whites properly, how long to whip the meringue, what oven temperature is best and how long to cook them. 

Needless to say, my first attempt was a F-A-I-L, fail. I say that without exclamation because it is a well known fact that it could take 8 or 9 times before you end up with a great tasting macaron.

My first attempt was a plain vanilla macaroon which I dyed pink. It started out ok, but then it turned into this. One big melted together mess.

Turns out your supposed to use powder food coloring instead of liquid and I don't think my meringue peaks were stiff enough. I disagree with the recipe's direction to whip the meringue to medium peaks, I think they need to be pretty firm. The funny thing is, they tasted fantastic! I even scarped quite a bit off the parchment to snack on. But alas, I could not fill these since they were the consistency of filling themselves.

So I decided to switch to chocolate macarons for my second attempt since I found a recipe that had some good reviews. It is from one of the blogs I follow, David Lebovitz: Sweet Life in Paris. The difference, besides the obvious addition of cocoa powder, was no food coloring, stiffer peaks and a higher oven temp. The result, yummy!

Chocolate Macaron Ingredients:
adapted from David Lebovitz 
1 cup (100 gr) powdered sugar
½ cup almond meal (about 2 ounces, 50 gr, sliced almonds, pulverized)
*You can by almond meal at Trader Joe's or pulverize sliced almonds as suggested
3 tablespoons (25 gr) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 large egg whites, at room temperature aged for at least 24 hours
*Aged means leave the egg whites in a bowl loosely covered in the coolest part of your kitchen)
5 tablespoons (65 gr) granulated sugar

Chocolate Macaron Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350º F (180º C).

2. Line two baking sheets with a silicon baking mat or 2 sheets of parchment paper and have a pastry bag with a plain tip (about 1/2-inch, 2 cm) ready.

3. Grind together the powdered sugar with the almond powder and cocoa so there are no lumps; use a blender or food processor since almond meal that you buy isn't quite fine enough.

4. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they begin to rise and hold their shape. While whipping, beat in the granulated sugar until very stiff and firm, about 2 minutes.

5. Carefully fold the dry ingredients, in three batches, into the beaten egg whites with a flexible rubber spatula. When the mixture is just smooth and there are no streaks of egg white, stop folding and scrape the batter into the pastry bag (standing the bag in a tall glass helps if you're alone).

6. Pipe the batter on the lined baking sheets in 1-inch (3 cm) circles (about 1 tablespoon each of batter), evenly spaced one-inch (3 cm) apart.

7. Rap the baking sheet a few times firmly on the counter top to flatten the macarons, then bake them for 11-13 minutes. Let cool completely then remove from baking sheet.

They looked perfect! See the border of air pockets on the bottom, that's the foot. It's supposed to be there.

Chocolate Filling Ingredients:
½ cup (125 ml) heavy cream
2 teaspoons light corn syrup

4 ounces (120 gr) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tablespoon (15 gr) butter, cut into small pieces

Chocolate Filling Directions:
Heat the cream in a small saucepan with the corn syrup. When the cream just begins to boil at the edges, remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let sit one minute, then stir until smooth. Stir in the pieces of butter. Let cool completely before using.

Spread a bit of filling on the inside of the macarons then sandwich them together. They have to sit in the refrigerator for at least 2 days for the flavors to mesh. Ughh! I was so impatient! But it was worth it. It really softened the cookie up and set the flavors. Store in the fridge for up to 5 days, or freeze for later, but make sure to defrost in the unopened to container to prevent sogginess.

Stay posted for more on my Macaron Mission!

1 comment:

  1. Looks yummy! Will have to give it a go sometime! Maybe when you get down here you can give me a live demo!