Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Crazy For Macarons!


It has taken me a few months of intensive blog reading to decipher what in the heck the hubbub was all about. So I finally made them.

And made them.

And made them.

And now I know why everyone is crazy for them. They have rendered me almost speechless. Wait. Let me have another bite and I'll try and explain them to you.

Macarons are not to be confused with Macaroons.

These are Macarons.

This is a Macaroon.

Let's break for a brief phonics review. We all know how to pronounce the word Macaroon. It's easy. The sound rhymes with so many words. "Hey! If you're looking for me soon, I'll be in the saloon, singin' a tune, lookin' at the moon, eatin' a Macaroon. (Dang, I feel like a goon.)

Whereas the word Macaron is slightly different. It's pronounced like the word macaroni......only without the "i". Wait, maybe this rhyme will help. "Please leave me alone , I'm on the phone, eating my Macaron.

There seems to be a frenzied craze lately about these lovely little cookies. Trust me when I say that they are simply delicious, but more importantly is the fact that they are technically challenging to make. That was all I needed to hear. After scouring the internet for baking tips, I decided to head for Barnes & Nobles to purchase a book on Macarons. Note that it is named appropriately.

The book provided tips, pointers, recipes and beautiful photography.....and you all know what a pushover I am for a beautiful cookbook. I just couldn't help myself.

I ended up making this Macaron recipe a total of three times over the weekend. They are not easy to make. Everything has to be perfectly measured, in fact, most recipes suggest using a kitchen scale to weigh the ingredients. Macarons have only five ingredients. That's it.

3 egg whites that have been aged for 24 hours

2/3 cup ground almonds

1.5 cups confectioner's sugar

5 Tablespoons of Sugar

1 Teaspoon of Vanilla
Combine ground almonds and powdered sugar, sifted in a bowl. Put egg whites in the mixer and beat until foamy, then add granulated sugar and beat until it is stiff. Add vanilla and beat until just blended. Add almond/sugar to egg whites and fold to blend. Pipe batter onto parchment lined cookie sheets (or just use a Silpat), rap cookie sheet on the counter to settle batter then let sit on the counter for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put cookie sheet in oven and bake for 12-18 minutes (depending on your oven) Remove and completely cool before filling.

I can hear what you're saying. "What are "aged" egg whites?" They're egg whites that have been sitting in a covered container on your counter for 24 hours. The room temperature increases the elasticity of the protein in the egg whites, so they whip faster and higher.

I don't have a food processor so I ground up the almonds in a coffee grinder. Yes....I cleaned it out completely before I used it.

Combine the ground almonds with the confectioner's sugar.

Blend together gently with a wire whisk.

Then sift the mixture together. I love this old sifter. My Nana had one just like it when I was a child. My sister Kathy bought this one for me several years ago and I use it all the time.

See what's at the bottom? Almond carnage.

Set your sifted bowl aside. Now would be the time to add a powdered food coloring to the almond/sugar mix. I didn't have powdered color, so I used a bit of color food gel mixed with a tiny bit of water and mixed it into the meringue mixture. Sigh. It didn't work quite the way I wanted it to. You'll see what I mean in a second.

Whip the egg whites on high until they are foamy, then gradually add the granulated sugar. Turn the mixer on high and beat the daylights out of it until it's about as thick as shaving cream. When you remove the beater, the meringue should stand up straight.

Isn't this lovely? Now add the almond/sugar mix to the egg whites.

Using a large spatula, first slowly blend the mix together making sure to incorporate the dry with the wet. Once that is done, begin scooping and turning the mix in the bowl about 15 times.

Ahh.....lovely macaronnage.

I put a large metal decorating tip inside of a 14 inch pastry bag and then put it into a medium-sized container...in this case, an 8-cup measuring cup. When you turn the pastry bag outside of the cup, it makes it as easy as pie to fill with Macaron batter.

Using the large end of a decorating tip, I traced 1-inch circles onto paper and slipped it underneath the silpat on the baking sheet.

This was used as a guide for piping the Macarons.

These were actually a tad too big, but that was because this particular batch was too runny. Why?? Because I decided to challenge the recipe and use Color Gels instead of Powdered Food Color as I was directed. They ended up tasting great, but it was back to the drawing board.

Of course that didn't stop me from whipping up a chocolate ganache to sandwich in between those crunchy meringue layers.

For the next batch I used Matcha Powder. These.....came out perfectly.

Don't they look beautiful?? After they were piped, I slapped the bottom of the pan on the counter a couple of times to help settle the batter....not because I'm insane, but because most recipes tell you that this sharp movement is what gives the Macaron it's initial structure to develop "feet'. The piped batter should then sit out on the counter for 30 minutes before baking.

This batch made it all worth the effort. They didn't raise up quite as high as I would have liked, but since this was my third attempt in one day, I wanted to kiss each and every one of them......but don't worry......I didn't.

The ruffled bottom edge on each Macaron shell is called a "foot"....or in Francais, un pied. If you don't get the feet....it's not a Macaron.

Dark Chocolate Ganache. Heat heavy cream in a double boiler until the milk starts to hiss, then turn off the heat. Add semi-sweet chocolate chips and stir until melted. Allow to cool to thicken. Any questions?

I peeled this little guy off of the Silpat too quickly and he left some of his guts behind. I hate when that happens. Poor little dude. Tragic......but nothing a little Chocolate Ganache can't hide.

I was so embarrassed about showing you my "unmanicured blacksmith man-hands" all the time, so I Photoshopped myself a hotpink manicure. Sigh. If only all things in life were this easy. Isn't technology grand?
Now if only if I could Photoshop myself into a Size 2.

Aren't they pretty?

Matcha Macarons with Cocoa Ganache filling.

I used bright yellow food coloring for this batch. Um. I wouldn't advise it. The liquid food coloring upsets the balance of the recipe. The batter is too runny and the Macaron didn't rise. It still tasted great but it really didn't have very good Macaron characteristics.

But I filled them up with lemon buttercream and brought them into work anyway.
One, two, three.......GONE!

The Cocoa Macarons were my favorite.
They all puffed up perfectly and they all had "feet".
I filled them with a nice rich peanut butter cream.

Then I put all the batches out on the table together so they could mingle.
And secretly whisper in French to each other.
And so I could sit for just a moment and stare at them....and bask in their glory.........and photograph them........and stare at them again while humming the French National Anthem and really just felt pretty darn smug about my first French pastry accomplishment.
Class dismissed.


Anonymous said...

Oh Mon! Ceux-là semblent délicieux! Merci pour la leçon.

Amour, Marg. :-)

EDNurseasauras said...

Mon Dieu! Je suis à colorier oeufs de Pâques avec un Sharpie et le lait de chèvre!
l'amour et de baisers!

Aunt Grace said...

Well holla down the tube at me, sure getting fancy thar. Italy is the place for Macaroons....really. How about going to a cooking school when we are over there, all we need is four hours, your a quick learner, and I can hold the fudge. They look amazing, and the egg whites, I am going to get some chickens.

Prism said...

And why the heck would we want you to be a size 2?

Phahh--I like eating too much for that ever to happen!

Susan said...

speak French so I'll just say . . . Mmmmmm! These look heavenly. I'll try one anytime!


The Amazing Trips said...

Margaret is such a show off!!!!

I'm so glad you explained the difference between macarons and macaroons. I was totally thinking macaROONS when I started reading this post and oh, I love those!!

So, when we're a mere 500 miles away, promise you'll drive down and make us some?? :)

One of many cuzzins! said...

All I want to know is what are you bringing to Marian's on Saturday?

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for the wonderful recipe. I made these and my kids loved them. They are really addicting to me. Keep up the great work with your articles and please stop by my health blog sometime. The web address is http://healthy-nutrition-facts.blogspot.com/.

Sarah-Jane - SiliconeMoulds.com said...

Just found your blog and love it.

Made macarons before - but didn't know about the powdered food colour. I need to have another go :-)

I've got too many eggs at this time of year as all our chickens are laying - so a perfect excuse if there ever was one !

thanks for posting this in such detail


Anonymous said...

Thank you for putting together such a detailed recipe w/ pic for macarons!!! I can't wait to try it out someday!

-mamamia- said...

i love reading the way you describe each process. i would definitely go out and buy the ingredients and follow them exactly. first, i need to buy an oven. i never bake, so this should be my first baking experience at 40! hope it turns out nice.

Netty said...

Hello from 'Down Under' yes we LOVE macarons here too!! Just made a batch, my first for several months, to take to an afternoon tea tomorrow. A real disaster. As you mentioned, liquid colour certainly does affect the consistency and I am looking at them spread all over their pans!!! Oh well, will fill and eat them anyway!!! Thanks so much for your very entertaining and informative info.