I’ve never had a macaron before in my life and you could say that I was somewhat intrigued by the beautiful pictures that I’ve seen posted on a number of blogs I’ve visited. Especially so are the delicious looking pictures that seem to reach out to me from Helen of Tartelette. Her pictures are amazing as well as the perfection she has created!
It was this intrigue that led me to research further on these French desserts. From what I’ve read there are 2 methods of making macarons i.e. the Italian or the French method. However the few rules of thumb that keep surfacing was: use day old egg whites, process the almonds or any other nuts and powdered sugar finely, do not overbeat, do not under-beat, sit the macaroons before baking, oven cannot be too hot, temperature must be right, must have feet. For someone who has never made macarons before, let alone eaten one, you can imagine what I was thinking by then. The more I read, the more confused I was! And what the hell is feet ….??? Why is there so much DO’s and DON’Ts for a recipe that calls for only 4 ingredients? I decided that I’d shelf the idea of journeying down macaron- land, it was too troublesome. But somehow the macaron genie doesn’t want to go away, it keeps taunting back at me. It’s exactly like telling someone not to touch something, and lo and behold what do they do, they go ahead and touch. Well, that’s exactly what happened and how I got sucked in!
My first attempt was using the Italian method. This method calls for a hot syrup that’s slowly poured into stiff egg whites being beaten on medium speed. One thing that I didn’t do (and I’ve learnt from this) in my first attempt was to process the almonds and powdered sugar. I did a “lazy man” trick by just shifting ground almonds and powdered sugar two times – I thought this would suffice at that time. I even went as far as drawing circles on the parchment paper just to ensure uniformity in each piped macaron. The macarons were sat for about 20 minutes and by this time, they had spread further into bigger blobs. (2nd mistake which I now know is attributed to over-mixing the batter). I placed the tray into a pre-heated oven of 180C for about 15 minutes (3rd mistake here, as the oven should preferably be 160C and should be baked for about 10 minutes). I eagerly peered through the oven window as the macarons baked. I was excited when I saw the little feet forming but that excitement was short-lived as the tops of the macarons started to crack. By the time they had done their turn in the oven, majority had cracked tops and crevices. But they tasted great though! I made a simple lemon curd which was used to sandwich my somewhat dejected looking macarons. Here’s what my 1st attempt looked like.
It was about a month and half before I decided to attempt macarons again. This time round I deligently processed my ground almonds with the powdered sugar. I sat the macarons for an hour plus baked them in a preheated oven of 160C. Again the little feet started appearing and this time, yeah no cracks! However I should have piped my macarons a bit smaller … (next time). Being somewhat of a slight perfectionist, I am still not satisfied and I do understand that it takes lots of practice to come out with perfectly round and smooth macarons. I sandwiched these little creations with a bittersweet chocolate ganache.
If you are planning to add this to your list of “to do’s”, check out "Making French Macarons - Instructions and Recipes" (with links to other blogs) by David Lebovitz.
Macarons With Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache:
(Recipe from Tartellete)
For the Macarons:
3 egg whites (use 1 day old egg white)
50g granulated sugar
200g powdered sugar
110g ground almonds
2 Tb powdered food coloring
For the whites: the day before (24hrs), separate your eggs and store the whites at room temperature on a covered container.
1) In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry and your macaroons won't work.
2) Combine the ground almonds and powdered sugar in a food processor and give them a quick pulse. It will break the powdered sugar lumps and combine your almonds with it evenly.
3) Add them to the meringue in 2 batches, give it a quick fold after each addition. Add 2 Tb food coloring and fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that flows like magma or a thick ribbon.
4) Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns.
5) Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip with the batter and pipe small rounds (about 1" to 1.5" in diameter depending on your size preference) onto parchment paper baking sheets.
6) Preheat the oven to 160C. Let the macarons sit out for an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 8-10 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool.
7) If you have trouble removing the shells, pour a couple of drops of water under the parchment paper while the sheet is still a bit warm and the macarons will lift up more easily do to the moisture. Don't let them sit there in it too long or they will become soggy. Pipe or spoon some ganache on one shell and sandwich with another one. (If you are using silicon paper, I've noticed that the macaroons can be easily removed without using any moisture at all)
Note: If you use fresh whites, zap them up in the microwave on medium high for 20 seconds.
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup bittersweet chocolate
In a heavy saucepan set over medium heat, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the stove and add the chocolate to it. Let stand 2 minutes and then stir until fully combined. Let cool in the fridge until firm enough to put in a small piping bag.