Monday, 4 June 2012

My macaron journey


I've been holding back the idea of blogging about my macaron adventures for the longest time. I hesitated writing this because somehow I felt that there's no end to this journey. That there's still so much more to explore and do. I finally made up my mind just because I want to share my mac photos with the rest of the world. 

It all started way back in 2007 when I was still in high school. Back then, macarons were only starting to be popular and not many knew how to make these expensive gems. I still remember my first attempt. It was.. one gigantic mess. To think I actually spent hours researching on how to make the perfect macaron; I noted down every tip and tricks I found on the net and followed every one of them to the t. In the end, my batter was way too runny and it turned out nothing like a macaron. My 2nd attempt was much more successful. I still remember staring into the oven for the entire 20 min watching my macarons rise and develop feets and then going crazy in the kitchen.
My 2nd attempt
My 3rd,4th,5th,6th,7th and 8th attempt all done in 2 days.

After my successful 2nd attempt, I decided to challenge myself and make 18 macarons with 6 different fillings for a friend's 18th. And boy was it a challenge. Every batch came out different and it was then that I understood why macs were such a temperamental bunch. No matter how hard I tried to follow the recipe, every batch was different. Some had feet and while others didn't. It was also my first time making a buttercream filling and it was an omg moment when I realised just how much butter went into the pistachio buttercream. It was after making 6 batches consecutively that I finally got the hang of macaronage (the art of making macarons)
Chocolate
So what makes a perfect macaron? In my opinion, there are 4 things to look out for:
1. Appearance wise - nice and round with a prominent feet
2. Crisp outer layer
3. Chewy centre
4. Tasty filling

I'm not one who likes spending 3 bucks on a macaron but when I do, I usually am disappointed. There hasn't been many places I've tried where their macs fulfilled all my criteria. Most of them lack the chewiness and some of them so soft, I'm sure it was at least a week old. I know that macarons taste heaps better after letting it age in the fridge for a day or two. But when it starts going mushy, you know that it's way pass its prime.
Hamburger macs
There are now a gazillion posts about macarons all over the food blogging community and so I shall just summarise the steps that I follow. Do note that I'm using the French method and it works perfectly on all occasion. I've never tried the Italian method just because it's so much more troublesome. The recipe below is one that I've used countless of times and have memorised it by heart. It hasn't failed me yet. 

- Blend your almond and icing sugar together in a food processor so that you don't have to sift them (Sifting's a bitch. When I first started, half the time was spent on sifting the almond meal) 

- Age your egg whites (1-2 days at least. If you've forgotten, microwave in 5-8 sec bursts)

- The meringue should be stiff such that if you flip the bowl over, it stays put.

- When it comes to folding the dry ingredient into the meringue, do not be afraid. You do not have to be gentle for the first few strokes. 

- Stop folding once you reach the ribbon stage (To check, lift your spatula and the batter should fall in a steady stream forming folds once it hits the bowl) -> This is the most important step 

- Allow the macaron to form a skin after piping. It'll be ready if it doesn't stick to your finger when you touch it. 

- Baking time differs for different ovens. This is the most tricky part I've yet to master. But what you want is a convection oven (fan) and a high temp at the beginning so that the feet will form. Once the feets are formed you might want to lower the temp so that the top doesn't get burnt. However, too low a temperature and you'll risk having that air bubble in the shell. So what's the magic number? I'm not too sure myself. For my oven at home, after much trial and errors, I've come up with 160C for 5min and 140C for 10-15min. 
Ispahan

Macaron shells by Tartelette
(Makes 20-25 macs)

Ingredients 
90 gr egg whites (use eggs whites that have been preferably left 3-5 days in the fridge)
25 gr granulated sugar
200 gr powdered sugar
110 gr almonds (slivered, blanched, sliced, whatever you like)

Instructions

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, (think bubble bath foam) gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue (think shaving cream). Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry.

Place the powdered sugar and almonds in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. 

Add them to the meringue, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that falls back on itself after counting to 10. 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.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper or silicone mats lined baking sheets. 

Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 140C.

When ready, bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool. 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. Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store them in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer. 
Salted Caramel

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the tips! Do you have a recipe for the salted caramel filling?

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    Replies
    1. Hello, I got my salted caramel recipe here - http://chubbyhubby.net/blog/?p=494
      You might want to half the recipe if you plan to use the macaron shell recipe I've posted

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