It is clear that we are in the midst of a macaron craze. Everywhere I look people are blogging about them, talking about them, eating them, making them, swooning (or frustrated) over "feet"... The whole buzz has made me a little nervous about trying them myself.
One thing is for certain, they are pretty. I love the dainty frill (or foot) around the edge of the cookie and the colorful display is perfect for joyful celebrations. The time and effort put forth in baking them makes them truly special for gift-giving. I've seen beautiful and elaborate packaging that appears to hold a diamond necklace or something of great value, but instead encases snugly packed macarons.
"I want that." I said to myself.
And so began my study.
I think I can confidently say that I have read nearly everything, everywhere (er, online) about the delicate process of macaron making. I've been to the trusty Giver's Log and read the beginner's tutorial. I've also been to David Liebovitz's page containing a valuable cache of links on the subject. Delving further into the madness, I visited the visually stunning Tartelette, tartelette, tartelette with so vast a macaron knowledge that there's a macaron echo in here.
I used the recipe on MarthaStewart.com, and had success, but only because of the reading I did in others' blogs. The key is in folding the batter. I folded mine until I could pick up a large portion of the batter with my spatula, and it would run off in a thick ribbon into the bowl. With less batter on your spatula it will glop off, rather than ribbon. I did a ribbon test, and then a glop test (I apologize for my obvious lack of technical baking jargon). As for the recipe, I followed each step in a very deliberate manner, double checking myself on each step.
These were my first. I literally had my nose pressed to the oven glass the entire time they baked. While I watched I had this constant interal dialogue- "Is that a foot? Hmm, no. Are they going to rise? Do macarons rise? That's a foot, I think. Oh my gosh a foot! That's a big foot. Can a macaron foot be too big?" The shameless geeking out went on and on.
Just to make sure it wasn't beginner's luck or some fluke that these turned out so well, I made another batch this morning. I followed the recipe (again) very deliberately, with the same ribbon/glop test, same sifting, same temp reduction/increase etc...
This is my second batch. I feel better knowing that I'm not giving you tips from my one and only batch ever. The new batch is exactly the same as my last. Wanting to concentrate on the shells, I didn't make my own filling. Instead I used a French black raspberry jelly from the market, and an apple jelly that my mother had made.
Notes & Tips:
- Your egg whites need to be room temperature, and some say aged. Mine were aged 3 days inside the eggshell.
- I did not make my own almond flour. I bought Hodgson Mill's at my local grocers.
- Follow the recipe very carefully and exercise each step very deliberately.
- At first, use short strokes to fold in the almond flour mixture to the eggwhites. Your batter will be very thick. (thicker than I expected!) Use bigger folds once incorporated. Your mixture will begin to loosen.
- Once mixed and in a pastry bag, your batter should just start to slowly come out of the tip. If it doesn't, squeeze it back into your bowl and fold a few more times. If it runs then I'm sorry to say... back to square 1. (This valuable tip courtesy of Giver's Log)
- If you're curious about the flourish atop of the apple filled macarons, that's just food coloring diluted in a little water and painted with a small, clean paintbrush. Let dry 10 minutes before serving.
This is a good recipe that requires full presence of mind. I was definitely intimidated, and with good reason. Bakers with skills that far exceed my talents have had macaron misfortune. I'm so glad to be able to share my experience with you, and hope that I may be able to help in some way.
I enjoyed this, and maybe one day a macaron tutorial will be in SB's future. But still, I know I have a long way to go, and you have to walk before you can run.