Wednesday, May 09, 2007
If Everyone Else was Jumping Off of a Cliff, Would You? (or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Macaron)
Well, the answer to that is a resounding "no". I'm not usually one to jump on bandwagons or follow fads. I enjoy watching these from the sidelines and figuring that the fad will pass and everything will return to normal (well, not really normal, because, what is normal anyway?).
I will say though that in the past few months I've noticed an awful lot of people blogging about macarons and even more people posting photos of them on flickr. I am intrigued. With a little prompting from another Jen on flickr (who has told me it is the macarons over at Mad Baker that have piqued her curiosity...and I agree that Mad Baker's macarons are a sight to behold), I am, in fact, interested enough to try them out myself. Strangely enough, with all the years of my life spent baking, I have never made this particular cookie. I think I know why....they are not as easy as they look. So far I have tried three times with one recipe from a book of mine, and had no success. The first macarons turned out too puffy, no frilly feet. The second two batches turned out flat as pancakes, cracked all over and no feet. I tried changing a few things with each failed batch to no avail. I decided to change my tactics and try out a different recipe entirely. I did some research online and found a recipe that uses an Italian meringue (which is a cooked sugar poured into whipping egg whites) which promised better results. The recipe that works best for me was found at Tartelette a beautiful blog that I think everyone should check out, and check out often. The first batch of these (fourth batch total, for those of you keeping count) showed much more promise, there were little "feet" showing and the tops were smooth with no cracks. I decided to give it one more try, and finally, at last I had macarons that I could feel proud of. Here is the recipe (I did change the amount of espresso powder in these. But, you can change the flavorings however you like and add different colors, etc.....which I will be doing in a follow up post)
120 gr. egg whites, divided (this ends up being 4 egg whites total)
35 gr. sugar
150 gr. almond meal
150 gr. powdered sugar
2 tsp. espresso powder (I used 3 Tbsp, and without the espresso powder this is a great base recipe for any flavors you wish to incorporate)
For the syrup:
150 gr. sugar and 50 gr. water
-Prepare 3 sheet pans by lining them with parchment paper.
Have a piping bag with a 1/2" round tip ready to go (I had to make parchment paper cones, as my piping bag still hasn't been located after our move a year ago. Doing this 5 times now has convinced me I really need to invest in a nice sturdy Ateco bag, although
I have gotten really really really good at making parchment cones).
-Sift together the almond meal, powdered sugar and espresso powder. Mix together with 60 grams of egg whites (2 egg whites) until well blended and set aside.
-In a stand mixer, whip the remaining 60 grams of egg whites with the 35 grams of sugar to medium-soft peaks, turn the mixer to low speed to keep the whites moving while you prepare your sugar syrup.
-In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, bring the 150 grams of sugar and 50 grams of water to about 230f.
-Turn your mixer back up to medium speed and slowly pour in the hot syrup (carefully) not worrying about any that sticks to the sides of the bowl. Whip the egg white and syrup mixture until the whites are cooled and you have a very pretty shiny meringue.
-Gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture.
-Pipe the mixture into 1" circles onto the prepared sheet pans leaving at least 1" of space between each (I leave a bit more, but I'm sometimes overly cautious). Let the pans sit out for about half hour to an hour to allow a "skin" to form on top (basically when you touch your finger to the surface, no batter will come off).
-Preheat oven to 300f (I found 320f to be too hot for mine, they exploded at this temperature...but then my oven runs hot). Bake the meringues, one sheet at a time (double sheet panned for insulation on the bottom) for about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool before filling.
6 1/2 ounces good quality semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate (I used Trader Joe's 73% cause I like it), chopped into about 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp corn syrup
1 Tbsp butter
-Heat cream, corn syrup and butter in a saucepan until it boils. Pour over the chocolate, making sure the chocolate is covered in the cream mixture. Let sit about 5 minutes and then whisk until the mixture is smooth and a pudding-like consistency.
-Pipe on bottoms of macarons, and top with another macaron.
-Let cookies sit until chocolate filling has set up.
Having to try making these 5 times just goes to show that not every recipe works well for everybody. I am very pleased with the final results, even if the score is not even yet.....Cookies: 4, BarmyJen: 1. I plan on evening out that score in the next week or so. I hope to make one more flavor with these in the next few days. In the meantime, don't get frustrated with yourself, keep trying and changing things until you find what works out for you! I believe the Italian meringue method works best because it's simply a much more stable meringue.