Sunday, November 6, 2011

French Macarons for Beginners

French Macarons are so trendy right now.  It consists of two sweet, crispy and airy almond cookies that are sandwiched together by an even sweeter filling.  They are visually stunning but one bite into them results in a collapse of that beautiful structure, and the cookie quickly dissolves into your mouth like sugar in hot water.  

Look at those pretty feet, or pied as they're called in French.  The pied/feet
are the ruffled looking edges on the bottom sides of the cookies!
I will be the first to tell you that I am by no means a professional baker.  This blog post isn't supposed to tell you the rights and wrongs to baking your own batch of macarons.  I can tell you that I have read through dozens of sites from our fellow bloggers about these tricky cookies.  I read and seen photos from the failed attempts to the successful ones.  It was because of this research that I was successful with baking my first and only batch to date of these French cookies.  I want to tell you what I did and offer you a recipe that will hopefully help you to acheive the same results I have.  The absolutely wonderful thing about this recipe is that it's perfect for beginners in the sense that it will give you the right proportions you need but also it's scaled down so you can produce exactly six sandwiched macarons, which means that if you should happen to fail, you didn't waste that much in ingredients!  And thereby making this a great recipe as a starting point, and once you've mastered the techniques you can venture off into the wild with more adventurous flavors and combinations!

It's generally recommended that you refrigerate these cookies before
consuming so it doesn't break apart like this when you bite into them!
Rather than provide you with a list a rules on how to bake up a batch of macarons (as many other bloggers may tell you), I'm just going to tell you what I did if you would like to practice re-creating these six sandwich cookies yourself!
  1. I used a digital baking scale.  Macarons are so finicky that everything has to be precise.  The exact ratio of each ingredient is needed for a successful batch otherwise it's anyone's guessing game.
  2. I prepared my own almond flour by grinding silvered almonds.  I did it with a food processor so the almonds were fine enough to pass through a sieve.  Macarons are such delicate and dainty cookies that they cannot handle large and sharp bits of almond, which will inevitably create large cracks through the shell.  I wanted smooth and shiny cookie tops!
  3. I used egg whites that were aged for 10 days in the refrigerator, which were placed in a tupperware container with a lid on.  The reason why I waited 10 days wasn't particular; it just happened to be 10 days when I was finally ready to bake a batch.  But it's important to have aged egg whites because the whites lose their elasticity upon aging so they're  to easier whip to soft peaks without turning grainy.
  4. Macarons are incredibly sweet.  Unfortunately that's just the way it is.  This exact ratio of sweetness is prudent because there is a relationship between sugar itself and egg whites.  In order to maintain the stability in our egg white meringue, I needed the sugar to aid in holding up its shape, which is crucial for the classic macaron appearance!
  5. I constantly scraped the sides of the bowl during "macaronage."  That's just hoity-toity talk for the stage at which all ingredients are incorporated.  When I folded all ingredients together with a silicone spatula I made sure that all the batter was combined.  Any portion that wasn't will destroy the ingredient ratio and result in ugly cookies.  Remember, the macarons are all about appearances.
  6. After piping the cookies on parchment paper, I allowed them to settle on the counter for 60 minutes.  That is, after tapping the sheet multiple times on the counter to release any air bubbles floating throughout the batter.  I tapped so the no air bubbles will rise during baking and break that flat top on the cookies.  And I rested them on the counter after piping so the cookies can form a strong and sturdy crust/skin before baking.  So tap baking sheet first, then let them rest.
  7. I allowed the macarons to mature after baking and filling, but before consuming.  (Ok, that's not true as seen the second photograph of this entry.  I had to have a taste.)  Generally, you should mature them for 24 hours and you'll get crispy cookies with chewy filling. 
See how this cookie maintained its shape after it was bitten into?
That's because it was allowed a maturation period in the fridge!
Basic Recipe for French Macarons
Recipe from CakeJournal
Ingredients for 6 whole (2.5 - 3 inches in diameter) sandwiched macarons
50 grams ground almonds
50-55 grams egg whites (approximately 1 1/2 egg whites that were aged in the refirgerator)
100 grams powdered sugar
2 tbsp granulated white sugar

Directions
1) Grind the almonds in a food processor. Sift to get rid of any large pieces or lumps.
2) Mix the powdered sugar together with the ground almonds in a food processor.
3) In a large bowl, whip the egg whites with a hand- or stand mixer. As the egg whites start foaming, add the sugar one tablespoon at a time and continue whipping until the mixture is glossy and stiff. You should be able to hold the bowl upside down without the meringue sliding out!
4) Fold the dry mixture into the meringue using a spatula. The mixture should flow like a ribbon when you hold up the spatula. Don’t overmix! If you want to test if the batter has good consistency, just dollop some batter on a piece of parchment paper. If the dollop slowly “flattens”, you’re good to go! If not, just keep folding.
5) Fill your piping bag and pipe the macarons onto baking sheets.  Remember that the shells will “flatten” once you’ve piped, so don’t make them too big.  About 1 inch is enough.  Let them set for 60 minutes to form a dry skin.

Remember that dry skins help to create flat tops!
6) Heat the oven to 150° C (300 degrees F). Bake for 10-12 minutes in the middle of the oven. Keep a close eye on them the last couple of minutes as they brown easily. You can test if they are done by touching the tip of a macaron, if it “wobbles” they are not done.  Let the shells cool completely before removing them from the baking sheets. If you have trouble removing them from the paper, put them back in the oven for a couple of minutes.  Pipe your filling of choice on a shell and sandwich together with another shell.  I used cherry jam, but you can certaintly use a buttercream.

They could probably use more filling! :)
Good luck to everyone who wants to try their hands at these delicate cookies!  I hope I provided you with the details you needed to be successful!  

4 comments:

  1. WAOUH! You broke a world record with 10 days old whites! I hear that they should be aged for 48h on the kitchen counter, stored in a towel-covered bowl. I guess the aging process needs more days if it happens in the fridge, since the aging is all about getting rid of excess humidity.

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  2. Wow! So pretty! I recently had macaroons for the first time at a fancy-schmancy place here in Monterrey. They had different colors and flavors. I loved it! I want to try yours!

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  3. Thomas Trevethan Pastry and Confections Las Vegas
    Chef Thomas Trevethan Secrete to the French macaroon!!!

    It all starts with the filling - butter cream can be traditional, but by far not the best flavor it's dense and firm enough to stick the two cookie halves, but the result you will get is a French Macaroon that is to sweet to eat.
    There are another two options, Pate De Fruit or a thickened fruit jelly, or a cocoa butter based ganache which gets our vote as being the best combination of sweetness from the cookie and acidy from the fruit.

    Basic Macaroon Cookie
    Based on Chef Thomas Trevethan recipe we recommend that you mix the egg whites and almond mixture together gently until it 'soft as silk', or until a peak in the batter will slowly sink back down into the rest of the mix.

    1 1/3 cups icing/powdered sugar
    5 oz (1 cup) almond flour or finely ground almonds
    2 large egg whites
    pinch of salt
    1/4 cup granulated sugar
    1/2 teaspoon extract of choice: almond, vanilla, orange, lemon, pistachio... (optional)
    few drops food coloring (optional)

    Directions
    On four pieces of parchment, trace 1-inch (2.5 cm) circles about 1 inch apart. Flip each sheet over and place under your baking paper.
    Sift almond flour and icing sugar together into a bowl. In a clean, dry bowl whip the egg whites with salt on medium speed to stiff peaks. The whites should be firm stiff and shiny.
    With a soft spatula, fold in the icing sugar mixture into the egg whites until completely incorporated together.
    Fit up a piping bag with a 1.1 cm round tip, pipe in spiral shaped circles and then let sit for 2 hours until a shell forms on the French Macaroons.
    Heat the oven to 165C/335F and bake for 9 to 10 minutes, or until set and firm on top. Rotate the baking sheets after 5 minutes for even baking.
    Remove the French macaroons from oven and transfer parchment to a cooling rack. When cool, slide a metal offset spatula or pairing knife underneath the French macaroon to remove from parchment.

    Match up your same size French Macaroons and pipe your favorite filling then enjoy.

    Thank you for reading from Thomas Trevethan Pastry and Confections, it is our hope that you will return soon, see more of our Macaroons at www.ttpclv.com

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