ELDERFLOWER MACARONS AND MUSINGS ON THE SUBJECT

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.

ELDERFLOWER MACARONS
(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

to decorate:
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.

ENJOY!

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.

All amounts given in grams.Original sources for above formulas, keep in mind my table normalized them all to 100 g egg whites:

Broma: Broma Bakery Craftsy: Craftsy online  tutorial Philip: Baking Fanatic Mimi: Indulge with Mimi Sue: You can do it… at home!  J.O.B. Joy of Baking Tiffany Macarons by Tiffany

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!

ONE YEAR AGO: A Duet of Sorbets

TWO YEARS AGO: Sobering Peach Sorbet

THREE YEARS AGO: Spiralizer Fun

FOUR YEARS AGO: Beer-Marinated Grilled Skirt Steak

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Secret Recipe Club: Corn Chowda

SIX YEARS AGO: Page-A-Day Calendar (Pits and Chief 5 minutes of fame…)

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Home Sweet Home (our beloved Pits in one of his last photos)

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Marbled Rye

 

 

 

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COFFEE MACARONS DRESSED UP TO PARTY

As I debate with myself the feasibility of changing my blog name to The Bewitching Macaron, I am here to share one more take on the French delicacies I am so in love with. Once again I used my basic recipe that works quite well, with a minor change. I dried the almond flour-powdered sugar mixture for a couple of days before using. That was a tip I found somewhere and decided to try. The filling is a slight modification from Nadiya, a contestant from the Great British Baking Show. Excellent, I highly recommend you give it a try if you are a coffee lover. If you are not a coffee lover, there is always the opportunity to become one. I am showing you the path of caffeine enlightenment. Grab my hand and walk with me…

COFFEE MACARONS
(adapted from a basic recipe from Craftsy)

Yield: About 72 shells; 36 assembled macarons

for the shells:
198 g powdered sugar
113 g almond meal
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee
113 g egg whites (I aged mine for three days)
1 g or a pinch of cream of tartar
100 g granulated sugar
Brown Gel color from AmeriColor
2 drops vanilla extract
for the filling:
100g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
2 egg yolks
50g dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 ½ teaspoons fine instant espresso powder
150g unsalted butter, softened
to decorate:
gold sprinkles (optional)

Line 2 or 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered sugar, almond meal and instant coffee in a food processor or mini 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. When the skin forms, top with gold sprinkles, if you so desire.

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:  Melt the chocolate in the microwave and leave to cool. Place the egg yolks in a heatproof bowl, and set aside. Put the sugar, water and espresso powder in a small pan, and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Add the mixture to the egg yolks, whisking constantly.  Set the mixture over a pan of simmering water and continue to whisk gently until the mixture thickens. That should happen in less than 5 minutes, make sure the water is just at a gentle boil. Take the mixture off the heat and continue to whisk. Gradually add the butter, and keep whisking. Fold in the melted chocolate then set the mixture aside to firm up. Do not refrigerate, just keep it at room temperature until it is firm enough to pipe.

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.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I wish I could say to you that this was a perfect batch, but it was not. Half of my macarons were “hollows”, which in macaron lingo means they have big air pockets inside, sometimes separating the cookie in two layers, making it impossible to use them.  I guess they could make nice crumbs over ice cream, or a layer for a trifle type dessert, but that’s about it. I don’t think drying the almond flour mixture for a couple of days explains the outcome, though. Macarons are finicky creatures and two batches made exactly the same way a few days apart might behave in completely different ways. Just a little too stiff the meringue, or too much energy in folding the batter, oven too hot, not enough drying time to form the skin.. and you can go from perfect macarons to a full-blown disaster. No feet, cracked, lumpy, hollows, the list of boo-boos can be intimidating. Still, even if I am not quite sure why I had problems this time, half of them were perfect, and I had enough to share with our group in a lab meeting. Not enough to share with the department, which is usually my goal. Oh, well. There is always next time. In fact,  I’ve got not one but two more macaron recipes to share. Told ya. Obsession. Although I prefer the word passion.

The taste was spot on, though. Just that small amount of instant coffee in the shells gave them a subtle coffee flavor, then the filling… oh, the filling… superb! I can see that used to frost cupcakes… maybe not appropriate to offer to that hyper-active 6 year-old… Made me think of this sign we saw hanging in a coffee shop in Frisco, CO.

😉

Pinning is sharing, sharing is loving!

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Blogging Hiatus

TWO YEARS AGO: Tomato Tatin

THREE YEARS AGO: Headed to Colorado!   

FOUR YEARS AGO: Farofa Brasileira

FIVE  YEARS AGO: Thai-Inspired Pork Tenderloin

SIX YEARS AGO: A yummy Brazilian cake: Bolo de Fuba’

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Summer’s Tomatoes

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Leaving on a jet plane… 

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KALEIDOSCOPIC MACARONS

One more take on my ongoing obsession… But first, a relevant question: how far can we stretch the boundaries of these adorable cookies and still be comfortable calling them macarons? Apparently the boundaries are very blurry. From colors, types of fillings, decorations on top of the shells, we see endless variations. I cannot call myself a purist, as I am often taking liberties with classics, but I think my standards would be: macarons must be prepared with almond flour as the main component.  If other ground nuts are added, let them be a very minor player. Must contain a meringue incorporated with the flour by the macaronage method. Must have discernible feet. Other than those three requirements, I’ll accept anything. Savory fillings, neon-like colors, cute alternative shapes. For this batch, I experimented with a color effect. Some newbie errors took place, but I still performed better than I do at the golf course. Much, much better.

KALEIDOSCOPIC MACARONS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, slightly adapted from Craftsy.com

Yield: About 72 shells; 36 assembled macarons

for the shells:
198 g powdered sugar
113 g almond meal
1/8 teaspoon dried lavender
113 g egg whites (I aged mine for three days)
1 g or a pinch of cream of tartar
100 g granulated sugar
Purple Gel color from AmeriColor
2 drops vanilla extract
for the filling:
chocolate ganache with finely chopped hazelnuts
recipe in this post

Line 2 or 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered sugar, almond meal and lavender in a food processor or mini 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. Bet until firm peaks form. 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. Open a plastic wrap on the counter, paint three lines of gel color of your choice separated by one inch. Pour the dough on top, wrap the plastic around, and insert the whole thing in a piping bag, making sure to have an opening in the wrap connected to the piping tip. Pipe shells 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.

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.

Assemble the macarons: find two macarons similar in size and add a good amount of ganache 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.  Ideally, store in the fridge for 24 hours for best texture.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I know it’s hard to believe but I used three different colors for the shells, the green is barely noticeable, only in a few of them. Many of the shells got zero color. Puzzling? Read on, and the mystery will be solved. There are essentially two types of strategies to get more than one color in the macaron shell. You can make the dough, divide it in two (or three) portions, color each one separately, add them to the piping bag and allow them to mix during piping. I decided not to do it, because I was a bit insecure as to when to divide the dough, and maybe deflate it too much when mixing with the colors. I normally add the color very early in the process.  That brings me to method number two, which gives a very interesting marbled effect, when done correctly. You start by opening a plastic wrap over your counter. Then, you paint two or three solid lines of gel color over the plastic. Pour your dough with the optimal lava consistency over the plastic, wrap it around, and insert the whole thing inside a piping bag. See the photo below.

I realize it’s hard to see the lines of gel color on the first picture, but trust me, they are there. To my disappointment, the first 20 or so shells I piped were totally white! The reason is, when painting the lines they must go all the way to the icing tip, otherwise obviously you’ll get no color until the dough moves through and gets in touch with the gel.  Alternatively, you can use a long brush and paint the inside of the piping bag itself, making sure to reach down all the way to the tip. I must re-visit this technique and get the effect I was hoping for. It was quite frustrating to keep piping shell after shell, with no color, and then a little bit here and there. But hopefully practice makes perfect, and I will succeed next time.

As I mentioned before, the parallels between making macarons and golf are truly amazing! Once you take that golf club back, it’s over. For macarons, a little misjudgment and you don’t get what you want. The Macaron Gods are not very forgiving. And I’ve probably been extra naughty lately. You’d think?

Almond flour: $9.99

12 eggs: $3.50

Powdered sugar: $2.50

Matching outfit to macarons: Priceless!

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ONE YEAR AGO: Zucchini Noodles with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

TWO YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, July 2015

THREE YEARS AGO: Sous-vide Pork Chops with Roasted Poblano Butter

FOUR YEARS AGO: Roasted Strawberry-Buttermilk Sherbet

FIVE YEARS AGO: Amazing Ribs for the 4th of July!

SIX YEARS AGO: Baby Back Ribs on the 4th of July

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Blueberry Muffins

EIGHT YEARS AGO: A Pie for your 4th of July

 

 

 

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FIRST MONDAY FAVORITE: MAY 2017

Could someone tell 2017 that it is NOT a race to get to December?
Thanks.

Anyway, today is the First Monday of the month, so it’s time to showcase my favorite post of April. Easy job for me, very very easy, I do have a favorite, and it should not come as a surprise.

BLACK SESAME MACARONS!

Loved to design them, loved to make them, loved to share them with our departmental colleagues.  If you’d like to see the full recipe, click here

Thank you Sid, for organizing the First Monday Favorite!  
If you are a food blogger and would like to participate, drop Sid a line.

To see the contributions from my virtual friends, click on the link below

(comments are shutdown for this post)

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BLACK SESAME MACARONS

My macaron obsession goes on and on. I would love to bake a batch each weekend, but must keep in mind that even the most understanding departmental colleagues might say enough is enough. Plus, if I only make macarons…  brownies, cakes, and cookies will get jealous. So here I am to share with you a batch I am quite proud of: Black Sesame Macarons. Because, although I’m addicted to colors, we all know that black is beautiful…

 

BLACK SESAME MACARONS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the shells:
198 g powdered sugar
100 g almond meal
15 g black sesame powder (or you can grind black sesame seeds to a powder)
113 g egg whites (aged for three days)
1 g or a pinch of cream of tartar
100 g granulated sugar
Black Gel color  (about 1/2 teaspoon, add 1/4 to start and adjust as you mix)
for the filling:
8oz (227g) cream cheese
⅔ cup (134g) brown sugar
1 tsp (5g) vanilla extract
½ cup (122g) heavy whipping cream

Line 2 or 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered sugar, almond meal and black sesame powder in a food processor or mini 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. 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. In a dry climate, the macarons can dry in 15 to 20 minutes; in a humid climate, it can take 35 to 40 minutes.

While the macarons are drying, heat the oven to 330 F (170 C). 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:Whip the cream in a clean bowl till stiff peaks. In another bowl, whip the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract.   Gently fold in the whipped cream into the bowl until well combined. Reserve.

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.  Ideally, store in the fridge for 24 hours before digging in…

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

 

Comments:  I am definitely not the first person to bake black macarons. A quick google expedition will show you a few other examples. Some recipes go to extent of using exclusively powdered sesame seeds as you would use almond meal for the shells. I did not want to do that, fearing that the change would be too much of a departure from the classic. So I used a small amount of black sesame powder (15 g in 115 g total seed/nut component). We could definitely taste it in the final product and I thought it was just right. More could have been overpowering.  My intention was to use a white chocolate filling, but I ran into problems and my filling never set enough to use. White chocolate is a temperamental creature. So I quickly whipped up (literally) a vanilla cream cheese filling and used it instead. It complemented well the sesame flavor of the shells, and the slight hint of caramel color given by the brown sugar looked good with the black surrounding it.

I was very happy with the way these turned out. Not a single shell cracked during baking, and the surface was for the most part pretty smooth. Beautiful, well-formed feet, and the black food coloring rose to the challenge. I am almost to the point of trying the Italian  meringue method, but want to tackle this simpler version a few more times. You know, build confidence first before facing the combination of hot syrup with egg whites.

 

I have yet another macaron post for you, shockingly green…  Stay tuned!

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ONE YEAR AGO: Fine Tuning Thomas Keller

TWO YEARS AGO: Cauliflower Tortillas

THREE YEARS AGO: Majestic Sedona, Take Two

FOUR YEARS AGO: Secret Ingredient Turkey Meatballs

FIVE YEARS AGO: Swedish Meatballs and Egg Noodles

SIX YEARS AGO: Italian Easter Pie

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Black Olive Bialy

MACARONS: MUCH BETTER WITH A FRIEND!

Making macarons has been on my list of culinary projects for a very long time! They are quite intimidating, because small details in the preparation can ruin them. Even experienced bakers often share stories involving feet-less macarons  (can you imagine the horror?), cracked macarons, and many other types of monstrosities. Even though I did not list cooking projects for 2014, I was set on not letting another year pass by without attempting them.  Then, the perfect opportunity shaped up: our friend Cindy came up for a visit with her husband, and we decided to tackle this challenge together.  We had so much fun, I highly recommend that you consider inviting a friend over and doing the same. I’d been collecting recipes, tips, advice, and after consulting with my expert patissier friend Gary, we focused our efforts in two sites: Gwen’s Kitchen Creations and Joanne’s Eats Well With Others. They both definitely know their ways around the tricky Parisian macarons.

FrenchMacarons

SNICKERDOODLE MACARONS
(adapted from Gwen & Joanne)

for the shells:
3 large egg whites, (95-100g), aged overnight
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar (50g)
pinch of salt
2 cups powdered sugar (200g)
1 cup almond flour  (120g)
.
for the filling:

(makes a lot, you can reduce the amount, if you prefer)
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
¼ cup heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
salt, to taste
1 tbsp cinnamon, plus more for dusting

 .
 Sift the salt, powdered sugar, and almond flour into a large container. Discard any clumps in the sieve. Using a whisk attachment, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until foamy. Add sugar in 3 batches. Continue beating until stiff peaks form. Add gel food coloring, if desired, whisk again.
.
Add 1/3 of the almond mixture into the egg whites. Fold until incorporated – about 15-20 turns. Then add another 1/3. Fold again. Repeat one last time. It will take about 65 folds for the right consistency.
.
Draw circles with a pencil on a sheet of parchment paper, then place the sheet with the drawing side down on a baking sheet, so that you can see the lines through. Pipe small circles using a pastry bag, making sure your hand is vertical, at 90 degrees over the center of the circle.
.
Let rest until a skin forms. It should no longer be sticky. 30-60 minutes.
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Bake at 275F for 17 minutes. Let the shells cool completely before attempting to peel them off.

Make the filling: in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and powdered sugar, mixing on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add in the cream and vanilla and beat on medium-high for 3 minutes. Mix in the cinnamon until completely combined, as well as salt to taste.

Pipe the buttercream onto the flat side of half of the macarons and then top them with a second, similarly sized macaron. Refrigerate in an airtight container overnight. Dust with cinnamon before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

piping

Comments: Very few culinary projects will confuse you as much as macarons. If you read cookbooks or advice online, you will find conflicting info almost for every step. Do not over-beat the egg whites… It’s impossible to over-beat the egg whites, beat a couple of minutes longer after you think they are done… don’t over-dry the shells…. it’s impossible to over-dry the shells….  sift the flour at room temperature…. roast the flour to dry it completely…  don’t even think of making macarons with regular meringue…  Mind blowing, my friends, mind-blowing.  At some point you will have to settle on a recipe for your first time, take a deep breath, and see how it goes. I think for a first time we did pretty good, actually.  Aren’t they cute?

closeup
From what I gathered around the many sources, it is VERY important to age the egg whites, so make sure to do that. Crack the eggs the day before, separating the whites and let them sit over the countertop overnight.

Since this was such an involved process, I’d like to share a few photos of our adventure…

Sifting… it was by far the most painful and boring step of the whole recipe. We took turns, but sifting the almond flour took a loooong time. Cindy did a much better job than me, she is patient and thorough. Moi? Not so much… (sigh)
sifting

We made a nice template for the shells, using the top of shot glasses….
template

Egg whites were beaten until shiny, smooth-looking peaks formed…
eggwghites

Here are the results of our labor of love, shells piped and drying….
drying

Here are our baby-shells after baking, most with nice little feet…..
baked

All in all, we had a great time, and learned a lot that day… We assembled the best looking ones, and some of the ugly ducklings were consumed right away by our partners in the name of aesthetics.
ready

The advice to wait to savor them next day is also spot-on: there is a definite improvement in texture, so these are perfect to make in advance and show-off your baking abilities at a get together.

Next time I will try Dorie Greenspan’s recipe, that uses an Italian-type meringue, in which the sugar-egg white mixture is stabilized by heat. I thought it was too involved for our first time, but from what I’ve been reading, it might be a better approach.

Cindy, thanks for joining me in this challenge,
I definitely could not have done it without you!

ONE YEAR AGO: Our Mexican Holiday Dinner 

TWO YEARS AGO: The Ultimate Cranberry Sauce

THREE YEARS AGO: Edamame Dip

FOUR YEARS AGO: Gougeres

FIVE YEARS AGO: Beef Wellington on a Special Night