Thursday, October 27, 2011

French Macarons

BreadLab goes epic

The macaron is a puzzling piece of confectionery. It can either be a good day for it or not. Some days, macarons are just in the air, those egg whites all ready to be whipped to the ceiling and back. But not any dull old day will do for the dainty lady to make her appearance.
She prefers a dry and sunny day over humid dampness, and, however unfair it seems at times, that is her prerogative. She'll only get off her feet and grant you a glance at how her skirt falls perfect over her calves when she is ready and feels like it.

Even if the French method of making her is said to be superior, nothing beats the Italian embrace when it comes to the meringue; little danger of beating your beloved confectionery to death. And with the added bonus of a nice chewy macaron at the end of the roller coaster ride that is called 'macaronage'.

Here we go. BreadLab goes epic recipe



The Recipe

Ingredients for a 'standard batch' of macarons;

200 gr. almond powder
200 gr. confectionery sugar
2 x 80 gr. egg whites
200 gr. fine table sugar
about 5 TBS water.

Put the fine table sugar in a pan with 5½ TBS of water. Use a thermometer to prevent the sugar going over 110̊C. Resist the urge to stir the water/sugar mixture for the best result.

At the same time, start making the meringue; whip two egg whites (80 gr.) to the point where it has soft peaks (see video for a visual). Have your sugar-syrup ready at this stage, and add it to the meringue on high speed.

Keep mixing on high speed until the meringue has cooled back to about 45̊ to 50̊ C. This can take quite some time; don't worry, you can't really over beat Italian meringue.

While the meringue is cooling, combine the almond/sugar mix with the other 2 egg whites (=80 gr.). When making colored or spiced macarons, incorporate them now without having to worry about deflating your meringue too much.

Tip: Split the eggs up to a day before you whip them up. Just split them and leave them (covered) out of the fridge. Eggs on room temp always do a better meringue than stone cold ones.

If you are going out of your way to use fresh eggs for macarons; DON'T! 'old' eggs work better. If you live somewhere with high humidity, chances are you won't produce a meringue as enthusiastic as in dry and sunny places. And of course; always make sure you work with properly washed and thus grease free utensils for the best result.

When the egg whites are incorporated in the 'flour' and the meringue has cooled sufficiently, work in the meringue in two halves. This is what is called 'macaronage'. You will loose some volume. Don't worry too much about that, it's logic. Just try and be as consistent as you can in working in the almond paste with the meringue.

This is the most difficult part to get right in making macarons; mix too little and the macarons won't be shiny, look quite coarse, and probably won't 'ooze' into the right shape. Mix it too long and you will loose too much air in your mix and the batter will become too runny and will produce flat macarons.

Practice makes perfect! Use a flexible rubber spatula to mix without loosing too much of your volume. Look at the video again and get the basic movement right; you go around the bowl, and then, with the flat end of your spatula, 'smear' what you have accumulated onto the center.

You are just about done when the mixture gets a bit of a gloss to it and the sugar and almonds are completely incorporated . When folded back onto itself, the mix should keep its shape. If it immediately disappears into the rest of the mix, you have gone too far and your mix might be too runny to produce a macaron that will look like what you are dreaming of.

Remember that, after putting the mix into the piping bag, the last macarons you squeeze out of the bag tend to be more runny than when you started; this is because you have been squeezing out some of the air in the process of piping. Nothing to worry about; just realize it when you are piping your macarons, and try to be gentle. If your batter is a little too thick, tap the baking sheet on the table to force the macarons into shape.

Pipe the macarons onto a quality silicone baking sheet. Make 3 cm dollops about 2 cm apart. Try to be as consistent as you can, but don't worry too much about getting it right; when baked you will pair up 'matching' halves to make perfect macarons. Baking paper can be used as well, but a silicone is worth investing in if you don't want to bother with a hundred ways to keep your macarons from sticking, and they WILL stick on paper. Another advantage of silicone is that it 'holds' the batter in shape much better than paper. Your macarons will be rounder and won't ooze out as much as on paper.

If you are baking on silicone there is a nice trick to see if your macarons are ready after baking; Take the macarons out of the oven; if you can pick them off the baking sheet really easy you have either produced the perfect macaron, or you have over baked them. When they still stick when you give them a careful quart twist on the baking mat, put them back in the oven for a few more minutes.

After piping you need to be patient. In order to get the elusive 'feet' on your macaron, leave them to dry, uncovered. The skin of your macaron should be dry to the touch before they can go into the oven. It can take anywhere between 30 minutes and a few hours, depending on humidity and general conditions in your kitchen. On a dry and sunny summer day, it will go the fastest, on dreary damp days, or when it is really humid, you might have to be patient for what seems like an eternity. Only when there has formed a proper 'skin' on your macaron, will it produce the characteristic 'feet' while baking.

Preheat the oven to 145̊ C. Bake the macarons for about 13 to 15 minutes with convection if possible.

Let them cool on a rack after baking, make the filling of your choice (there is hundreds of them!), pipe it onto one half, and carefully put the other macaron half in place.

They keep for quite some time. Some people like to eat them after at least one night of refrigeration, others prefer to eat them as fresh as possible.

Enjoy!

You can really do me a big favor by endorsing the BreadLab initiative. Every 'like' will get us closer to funding a 6 episode documentary on 'the best bread in the world'. Thank you in advance!

The BreadLab

4 comments:

  1. This video recipe of French macaron is indeed "epic" and may very well go viral. I'm tweeting about it.
    I recommend using aged egg whites by storing them on the kitchen counter for 2 days in a towel-covered bowl to get rid of excess humidity.

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  2. Thank you so much. That would be nice, if it would go viral. Any help in spreading greatly appreciated, so please tweet as much as you want :-)

    And thanks for the tip! Now I know why that is done; humidity yet again! Do you also dry the almond flour? I started grinding my own to get it finer than what I get in the stores.

    Thanks again for your feedback, I really appreciate it

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  3. It's such a lovely wet day here. Naturally, a perfect day for macaron! ::sigh:: But my boss/partner says I must. SO, here we go. I never refrigerate my eggs so maybe that will be sufficient? Let's hope. Store bought eggs here in the states have their natural protective coating removed before they are sent to the store. Hopefully that will allow them to dry a bit in shell.

    I am also fascinated by the addition of part of the whites to the flour and part being turned to meringue. VERY clever trick!

    When would you add the flavors and colors? Also, would you use this same method for chocolate macaron?

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    Replies
    1. Hey Jo!

      If they r "unfridged", they will work!

      in general It's a good idea to "relax" the egg whites up to 48 hours before you are going to use them. It basically just entails separating the eggs and leave em out. You prob. know this, but the egg whites will literally lose elasticity and start to relax into something a little "snottier" (pardonnez moi mon francais) that will form into a perfect meringue. If you feel uncomfartable leaving the eggs at room temp, you can also put them in the fridge, but they will take longer to relax. Make sure they are at room temp when whipping them up, but you know that as well.

      Another tip, although the effect is not as dramatic as relaxing the egg whites, is to start whisking at low speed. You would think it doesn't do too much at first, but look again; on low speed, tiny bubbles for, and you want tiny bubbles, for they are stronger in the meringue (makes sense, doesn't it; a small air pocket is harder to kill than a big one) When there are more tiny pockets forming, glide up the speed bit by bit, until you are at top speed when the sugar syrup is ready to be added.

      I immensely enjoy toying around the sugar syrup and the meringue until they are both ready to be fused at the same moment. In the video I use a lower temp for the sugar syrup to avoid people burning their sugar, but if you feel comfortable with it, you can go all the way up to 118° Celcius.

      Humidity is indeed a b****. Try and make up for it in humid conditions in the mixing: if you are making your own almond flour (I always do it, because it is so much cheaper, and I have more control over the fineness of the sugar-almond flour), you can dry the flour in a lo temp oven, which will shorten your "drying time dramatically in humid conditions. I usually ground my

      I also tend to put in a tad less egg white in the almond-sugar flour when its pouring cats and dogs out there.

      As to adding the whites to the almonds-sugar; just dump it and don't stir it in until you start working in the meringue. I don't have an explanation, but it mixes together easier, somehow!

      Glad to help, and let me know if you need more :-)

      Flavor and color I add to.... the part of the egg whites that goes into the almonds. I almost never color the meringue.

      Flavors infused to the shell; depending on what it is you can either infuse the sugar (cinnamon, jasmine, tea, whatever!) that is used for the meringue or use essence, which will have a slight effect on moisture, although minor if you're essence is good.

      Most of the taste comes from the filling though, of course.

      Chocolate macarons are easy; just add coacoa powder to the almonds. I put a treacle of 100% cacao pâte (by valrhona)for the richer choc macarons.

      Glad to be of help busy bee, and if you need more, let me know ;-)

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