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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

French Chocolate Macarons

Macarons are pretty, haina? I have always wanted to make macarons. I tried some yesterday. Macarons look so delicate and elegant that I thought it would be very hard to make them.

Macarons are very technical. Making macarons involves whipping up egg whites to the right stiffness, removing any clumps from the dry ingredients, then folding the dry ingredients with a very light hand and achieving the right consistency of the batter.




A good macaron has beautiful feet, and is crunchy on the outside. Macarons aren't just cooked, but are actually dehydrated to form a beautiful cookie.

There are some guidlelines to follow when making macarons. The macarons, after piping on the parchment paper, need to be rested for some time. I made some immediately after piping and some after resting, it didn't make too much of a difference. I used egg whites at room temperature, from eggs which I had separated a day before.

For filling I used a French buttercream recipe, only because I had 2 egg yolks left over from the macaron recipe. More on that after the recipe :)

Macarons should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight box. One of the reasons is the filling tends to melt at room temperature.

I used the macaron recipe by David Lebovitz. I also pulverized the almonds to make almond flour. I used the filling recipe from Macaron Fetish by Kim H Lim - Chodkowski. Kim made a coffee flavored buttercream, I used it to make a chocolate flavored one. I also twice the amounts listed in the recipe, because I had 2 free egg yolks.

For the first time, macarons turned out pretty good. some of them even stood on their pretty little feet as macarons are supposed to do. I will definitely be trying other variations of this amazing classic recipe. 




Recipe

Ingredients

Macarons

1 cup powdered sugar (not icing sugar)
1/2 cup almond flour (or 50 gm of almonds ground to a thin powder)
3 tbsp cocoa powder
2 large egg whites
5 tbsp granulated sugar


Filling

1 egg yolk
3 tbsp (40 gm) butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp water

Method

Macarons

Preheat oven to 350 F/ 175 C.

Blend together powdered sugar, almond flour and cocoa powder to remove any lumps. Beat egg whites . When soft peaks begin to form, add 5 tbsp of sugar in small amounts, and beat the egg whites until stiff. (I prefer to grind these 5 tbsp of sugar too).

Fold in the dry ingredients with alight hand. A good rule of thumb is 50 strokes and nothing more than that. These should be enough to combine all the ingredients together without over beating the mixture. 

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Pipe 1inch rounds of batter, with 1 inch distance between them. Tap the cookie sheet a few times on the counter. Bake for 15 - 18 minutes. A cooked macaron will have feet, and will slide off easily from the parchment paper. That said, keep in mind that the macarons keep cooking even after removed from the oven.

Remove from oven and let them cool down. Store cooled and unfilled macaron shells in an airtight container. If consuming the same day, put the filling on one shell and cover with another shell. Store filled macarons in the refrigerator in an airtight container. They will last for 4 - 5 days in the refrigerator.

Filling

Combine the sugar in a saucepan. Allow it to boil to 230 F. Start beating egg tolks while the temperature of the sugar syrup reaches around 250 F. This is the softball stage, which can be identified by putting a drop of syrup in cold water and it turns into a soft ball. Pour the syrup in the yolk by dripping it on the side of the bowl. This helps cook the egg yolk. Beat for further 5 minutes. The mixture should form a ribbon that dissolves in 30 seconds when the beater is lifted out of it.

When the mixture has cooled down, start beating in the butter which is at room temperature. Beat in and incorporate 1 tbsp of butter at one. When all butter is incorporated, and the cream look sshiny anf fluffy, add around 2 tbsp of cocoa powder to make a chocolate flavored filling. 



Tips

1. Do not pulverize almonds too much as they release their oil, thus changing the consistency of whatever they will be used in.

2. To make powdered sugar, grind some of the regular sugar in a grinder. Then measure 1 cup out of it. Measuring before grinding changes the amount of sugar , hence it is necessary to first grind the sugar to a powder and then measure it.


Observations

1. I think 350F / 175C was too high, so I reduced the heat to around 160C. The second batch came out much better than the first one. In the first one the bottoms browned too quickly, imparting a slightly burnt taste, while the second batch cooked at a lower temperature came out better cooked and better shaped.

2. Resting the macarons had a little impact, so if you are in a hurry or think that you will forget the macarons on the counter top, you can bake them immediately after piping and taping the cookie sheet.


Problems

French butter cream is tough. I did all kinds of mistakes with the recipe. I didn't beat egg yolks properly before adding sugar syrup because the instruction weren't really clear. 

I didn't have a candy thermometer and messed up the sugar syrup. Then I thought that the yolks didn't cook properly; therefore cooked the whole sugar syrup and yolk mixture over a water bath while constantly beating with an electric beater. 

Most probably I didn't cool it enough before adding the butter, and got a buttercream soup instead of a silky buttercream frosting. I put it in the freezer for a while and then beat the frosting, it did somewhat look like frosting, but there was every chance it would melt again as soon as it came back to room temperature. 

To top it all, I used some salted butter, which doesn;t affect other frosting recipes much but made this one taste way too salty. I added some icing sugar to thicken up the frosting and also make it taste less sweet. 

The result was a good tasting filling for macarons, but it not only melted when I started piping, but the butter also started to separate from the filling. 

After all the problems I learnt not to use salted butter in French buttercream recipe, and not to add powdered sugar to a cooked frosting. It messes up big time. I piped it after hardening it up in the refrigerator and put macaron in the refrigerator too as soon as the were assembled.

It was ok because it was a test batch , but I think I will stick to good old ganache or tried and tested American buttercream when doing a batch for guests or clients.