My last macaron post was on August 15th, so the clock was ticking for another batch of these babies I am still obsessed with. Keep in mind I have two more batches ready to blog about. so if you are also a macaron-lover, stick around. Once again, I used my default recipe from Craftsy although I’ve been playing with the formula from Philip (at Baking Fanatic) that has calls for less sugar. For this batch I used a lavender gel color, and something called Egyptian gold dust, which I talked about before. I also added a little bit of yellow color in the elderflower buttercream, to have a nice effect with the gold details. Very happy with this batch, which we enjoyed while my stepson Alex was visiting us from New York.
(adapted from Craftsy.com)
for the shells:
198 g powdered sugar
113 g almond meal
113 g egg whites at room temperature
a pinch of cream of tartar
100 g granulated sugar
Purple Gel color from AmeriColor
2 drops vanilla extract
for the filling:
120 g softened butter
200 g confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon elderflower syrup
tiny amount of yellow gel food coloring
gold dust (optional)
Line 2 or 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered sugar and almond meal in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like fine meal, about 15 seconds. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a small bowl. Set aside.
Place the egg whites and pinch of cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Make sure that the bowl and the whisk are impeccably clean. Starting on medium speed, whip the whites with the cream of tartar until they look like light foam. The whites should not appear liquid. The foam will be light and should not have any structure.
Slowly rain in the granulated sugar, trying to aim the stream between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Turn the speed up to medium-high. Continue to whip the meringue until it is soft and shiny. It should look like marshmallow creme. Add the gel color and the vanilla. Staying at medium-high speed, whip the egg whites until the mixture begins to dull and the lines of the whisk are visible on the surface of the meringue. Check the peak. It should be firm. Transfer the whites to a medium bowl.
Fold in the almond meal mixture in three increments. Paint the mixture halfway up the side of the bowl, using the flat side of a spatula. Scrape the mixture down to the center of the bowl. Repeat two or three times, then check to see if the mixture slides slowly down the side of the bowl. Put the mixture in a piping bag fitted with one of the tips listed above. Pipe on the prepared baking sheets.
Slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter. Then fist bump each end of the sheet’s underside twice. Let the unbaked macarons dry until they look dull but not overly dry. Drying time depends on humidity. Ina dry climate, the macarons can dry in 15 to 20 minutes; in a humid climate, it can take 35 to 40 minutes. If using edible gold powder, sprinkle a little with a brush and use a hand-held fan to spread it over like dust.
While the macarons are drying, heat the oven to 330 F (170 C/gas mark 3). Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack. Check in 11 minutes. If the tops slide, then bake for 2 to 3 more minutes. The macarons should release without sticking. Check one or two. If they stick, put them back in the oven for 1 to 2 more minutes. Let the macaroons cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.
Make the filling: Cream the butter with the powdered sugar in a KitchenAid type mixer until it reaches the correct consistency for piping. Add the elderflower syrup and beat for a few seconds longer to incorporate.
Assemble the macarons: find two macarons similar in size and add a good amount of filling to the bottom of one of them. Place the other on top and squeeze gently to take the filling all the way to the edge. Store in the fridge for 24 hours for perfect texture.
to print the recipe, click here
Comments: I had two goals with this recipe. First, to make a filling using elderflower flavor because the thought of it made me dream. Elderflower… even the name is musical! Second goal, to use a gold dust powder that I featured back in July in my In My Kitchen post. Small problem. I do not have an air-brush thingie, so decided to search for improvised ways to turn the powder into dust. A small, hand-held fan could potentially work, but we do not own one. Then I remembered the air-compressed can that we sometimes use to clean computer keyboards and small crevices in all sorts of gadgets and equipments. Here it is, in case you don’t know what I’m talking about.
I don’t know if you can read the name of my file by clicking on it, but it doesn’t matter. I will tell you right now. I called it not_the_right_tool. Yeap. Capisci? It is way too strong, even if you try to maneuver very delicately the little gun, it will spray air with too much enthusiasm. Which led to Sally having golden eyebrows two months before Halloween. Quite inappropriate. I don’t see an air-brush thingie in my future (pretty expensive little gadget), so I might search for a more well-behaved hand-held fan before I attempt using the powder dust again. The effect is pretty nice, once you get it correctly. Live and learn. Even if my decorative effect did not have the exact look intended, the macarons were delicious. The elderflower buttercream worked very well, and I imagine it would be perfect to ice cupcakes too.
And now, I share a few thoughts on macarons, probably one of the most-feared concoctions by bakers everywhere. So many things can go wrong when you prepare the batter and then bake them. All recipes involve three basic ingredients, egg whites, almond flour, and sugar (usually in two different forms). Basically egg whites are beaten to form a stable meringue that is next mixed with almond flour and, if desired, food coloring and flavoring agents. The method to form the meringue will range from French (egg whites are beaten with sugar at room temperature), Swiss (sugar is dissolved in egg whites gently warmed up and then whipped into meringue), to Italian (most stable meringue, formed by beating a simple syrup at the exact right temperature into egg whites).
The fact that macarons are so finicky would make one think that the proportions of ingredients are set in stone. Any variation, and you are doomed for failure. Well, that’s really not the case. In the table below, I offer you a few formulas, the first uses a Swiss meringue, all others are for the basic French method. You will immediately notice that the variation is not trivial. Particularly the amount of total sugar left me a bit surprised. Each of these recipes have many people who swear by them. They are often described as ‘my default recipe’ because “it never fails.” I’ve tested two of them, Craftsy and Philip’s, and yes they both worked great. I like Philip’s formula because the shells are less sweet, and complement better some fillings like caramel and chocolate ganache.
The take-home lesson is: focus on technique. The ingredients are a lot more forgiving than we would think. As to aging the egg whites, trust me on this: you can bake a perfect batch of macarons with egg whites brought to room temperature without any need for aging. I did the experiment myself, and others did too. I know many experts will swear it makes a difference. I would love to have them do a blind experiment baking a batch with aged whites another with room temperature eggs, no aging, and tell me which is which. If you want to bake a batch of macarons on a whim, go for it. Technique trumps everything else for these finicky babies. Watch videos showing proper macaronnage, and you will be on your way to success. And, of course use a scale so that you know how many grams of egg whites you are starting with, and adjust the proportions accordingly.
From my friend G.P.E. (Gary Patissier Extraordinaire) I got this nice lesson on macaron basics:
The important ratio in macarons is the sugar to egg ratio. At a 1:1 sugar/egg ratio, the meringue will bake up soft – think lemon meringue pie topping. At a 2:1 ratio, the meringue will bake up crisp – think meringue cookies. So for macarons, you are looking at a 2:1 ratio. Extra sugar ( > 2:1) will make the surface shinier and crisper and, of course, sweeter. Note how there are two separate additions of sugar – one combined with the eggs and the other combined with the almond flour. That is intentional. Sugar stabilizes the meringue which is good. Stabilizing also means it inhibits formation of the foam. So to optimize stability versus volume, the maximum amount of sugar you want to add with the eggs is 1:1. Furthermore, you add the sugar late in the whipping process; I was taught to gently add the sugar when the egg whites are 75% done. Once you finish whipping the eggs, additional sugar (in this case, that mixed with the almond flour) can be added without affecting volume.
So there you have it, mine and Gary’s little musings on a subject very dear to my heart: French Macarons… love making them, love thinking about making them, imagining colors and flavors together. Love bringing them to our department when maybe they make it easier to face that experiment that refuses to work, the upcoming exam, the preparation of that grant proposal…
…or sharing with a very handsome (and very tall) stepson!
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