20130701

French Macarons




I am thoroughly obsessed with macarons. {read: macaron, not  a macaroon. No coconut to be found in this cookie. It bothers me to no end when people incorrectly name it. now you know.}
Its no secret, really.
I discovered them long before they were the "it" thing, the new cupcake or something like that. I am always ahead of the curve you know.

Anyway, I made them for the first time some million years ago, long before this blog was in existence and they were a complete failure. 



Macarons you see, only require 4 ingredients. One of which is almond flour, another that is egg whites. The egg whites have to be aged, then after you make the cookies they are better after a few days. The French like to eat food thats old it seems, or aged to perfection as the fancy would say.

But back to my story about the first attempt at macarons: I tried to make a chocolate variety spontaneously, with fresh from the fridge eggs, and almond meal. I didn't know any better. Actually I did, I just thought that "aging" egg whites was a ridiculous feat. Ain't nobody got time for that! So in my laziness, I found another lazy soul who unintentionally assured me that their quick way would work out just fine.



It didn't. 
It was a big chocolate mess.
I was not the egg white connoisseur that I am nowadays, and I didn't use the proper flour (they are both  ground almonds though, right?!) so no shell formed, no chewy insides created. Just a big sloppy mess that was way overcooked, and tasted like dirt. 


Since then, I have been wanting to try making them again-but it just hasn't ever happened.
Almond flour is expensive, you have to plan ahead on the egg white and you have to do a lot of waiting.
Planning ahead and being patient are not my strengths.


But as we now all know, I decided to make them for my sisters bridal shower a few weeks ago to go in with the french theme. 
Even though I'm still not convinced Belle is french. Where is her accent at, huh? Where are the accents of any human characters? If I go to France, will only the clocks and candlesticks have accents? Does the clock even have an accent in the movie?
These are all questions for another day.
Basically, this event was just an excuse for me to finally make some macarons.


In preparing to make macarons, I read a boatload of information about them. I made myself a self-proclaimed expert on the subject before I started my adventure. Everywhere I looked people where saying how hard macarons are to make, what attitudes they have and all that jazz.
It made me a little scared. 
How would I know if my batter was over mixed? or if my oven was too hot? 
How would I know how to fix things if I didn't know how to know if they were wrong??
But armed with all my research I started on my first batch. 



To make macarons, you must measure the ingredients with a food scale. This is mandatory. (another thing I didn't do that first time...)
So go get one if you don't already have on.
Because you have to measure the ingredients exactly, you can only make one batch at a time; no doubling or halving!
One batch made about 40 cookies, which equals 20 complete macarons.
I made several batches, and was able to make each one a little better than the one before. The first batch looked absolutely amazing! It had perfect little feet, and a nice round shape. But when I tried them they  had too much air in the middle and were a little too crunchy, so I lessened the oven temp for the next round. It made them less crunchy, but the air pocket was still there, so I knew to let them rest for a shorter time. The next batch was perfect!

It really wasn't all that difficult, as everyone says. 
You freaked me out for no reason internet. rude.


I'll go ahead and give you a quick breakdown:


You want to start by whisking together your powder sugar and almond flour in a large bowl. Set it aside for a second, while you whip your egg whites.
To whip up your aged egg white, use your whisk attachment on high and bring it to a foam. Once it has started to foam up like a bubble bath, gradually add in the sugar until its glossy. You can use any of the 25-50 grams of sugar, I ended up using all 50 because it worked out for me that way. Let it keep whipping on high, until stiff peaks form. Two easy ways of checking if its done, are to hold the whisk up, with the meringue on it; If the tips fall over its not done, if they stay up it's done! The other way to tell is by holding the bowl upside down, it should stay put if its done, if its not; your whites might end up on the floor. 

Next, you will add your flour/sugar mix to the meringue and fold until mixed well. You will know if its mixed properly by inserting a knife through the middle. If the line disappears by the count to ten its done. If it doesn't keep folding. Somebody somewhere on the web described the finished batter as "lava". I don't know what lave looks like, but if that helps you out-good for you.


Then you want to pipe the batter out into circles with a round tip. (to make them all the same, you can draw circles out on a piece of paper, and slip it under the parchment paper. Then fill the circles in with your piping bag.) If the cookies have tips on the top, it needs a couple more folds. Tap the pan on the counter a couple times to get out any air bubbles.
Let rest for 20-40 minutes, depending on the size of your circles. This makes the tops harden a bit, and creates that signature macaron foot.

To make colored macarons, you must use gel or powder food coloring. No liquid. Where do you find powdered food coloring? I sure don't know. Let me know if you find some.
If you have powder, add it in along with the flour/sugar and it will blend as you are folding. You can add the gel at that time also, but I found it didn't blend properly when I put it in at that time. So I added it to the egg whites when they were almost to a stiff peak, and the mixer blended in the color for me.

To make chocolate macarons:
after measuring the powdered sugar out, remove 2 tablespoons worth and replace it with 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder. Then you can follow the recipe as normal.

Heres the recipe:



The perfect macaron should be slightly chewy inside with a crisp outer shell. There should not be an air bubble in the middle, and the cookie should come cleanly off the parchment paper.
Errors can be caused by a number of things, like too hot of an oven, too much sugar or over whipped egg whites. You just have to keep learning what works for you through trial and error.

For a great troubleshooting guide, click on over here to a post by foodnouveau.



For a filling you can use chocolate ganache, lemon curd, raspberry curd, strawberry jam, or buttercream frosting.
When I made macarons for the bridal shower, I mixed buttercream together with curd, for the dairy eaters, and just curd for the non-dairyers. 



 So my friends, you can make my favorite obsession yourself now!
Good luck!

You can also check out my macaron guest post on Rudi's Organic bakery blog.

Enjoy!!

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