MINNIE MACARONS: A FUN PROJECT WITH A HAPPY ENDING

It all started with a very innocent email from my daughter-in-law. Inside a simple phrase and a single picture… The phrase: Something for you to try… The picture: a gorgeous Minnie Macaron sold at Disney. Miss G, our grand-daughter is crazy about all things Minnie. Basically, the universe conspired to make me  bake a batch.

MINNIE MACARONS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

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
Pink Gel color from AmeriColor
2 drops vanilla extract

for the filling:

280 g strawberries, stems removed
140 g sugar
1 lemon, juiced
250 g white chocolate, chopped fine
1/3 cup heavy cream (about 80g)
1 tablespoon butter

to decorate:
pink bows (melted Candy Melts with a drop of pink gel color)
gold and pink sparkling sugar

Make the filling:  Prepare fresh strawberry jam by mixing strawberries, sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Cook for 30 minutes, mixing every once in a while. After 30 minutes cool and refrigerate. Reserve (you will not need the full amount). You can also use store-bough strawberry jam, if more convenient. Make a white chocolate ganache by mixing very hot heavy cream with the white chocolate cut into small pieces. Mix until fully dissolved. To that, add 1/4 cup of the strawberry jam prepared before, and the butter. Mix well and refrigerate until it’s time to fill the macarons. If too thick, bring to room temperature for an hour or so, whisking a few times.

Make the pink bows: Melt about 1/3 cup candy melts in the  microwave. Whisk until smooth, add a tiny drop of pink gel color. Place in a silicone mold and freeze until solid. Un-mold the decorations, make another batch until you have enough. I made 14 Minnie macarons with this batch, and 16 regular round macarons that did not need the bow on top.

Make the shells: 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 low-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. Divide the mixture (eyeballing is fine) in two piping bags, one fitted with a 1/2 inch piping tip, the other fitted with a 1/4 inch tip. Pipe macaron rounds using the bigger tip, filling one full tray. Pipe small rounds as ears on each round using the smaller tip. Finish one full tray before starting another one.

Slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter. Then fist bump each end of the sheet’s underside twice. If using sparkling sugar, sprinkle over the macarons. 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 300 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 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.  Glue to each macaron one little pink bow using melted white chocolate.

Store in the fridge for 24 hours for perfect texture.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The macarons sold at Disney seem quite large, I decided to make them smaller. As to the filling, I opted for strawberry and white chocolate ganache for two reasons. First, Miss G. loves strawberries, it is one of her favorite fruits. Second, a ganache probably stands shipping better than buttercream. I used a lower proportion of heavy cream to make sure the ganache would set, especially considering the added strawberry jam.  I think a little bit of red food color to the filling would have been nice, but I only thought about that when I was done assembling them. Oh, well…

I got a pretty cute silicone mold at amazon.com to make the bows. You can use fondant, real chocolate, or candy melts, whatever you prefer. I have a bit of fondant-phobia, and never worked with it, so Candy melts seemed like a safer option. Worked like a charm. The only problem is having to make several batches, but each needed only 10 minutes in the freezer to un-mold properly. I made the bows the day before and kept them all frozen in a little plastic bag. I know, so organized!  Who could imagine that?

I made half the batch as regular macarons (large image of the composite photo above), and half Minnie-shaped. Those who are very skilled with a piping tip might be able to get by piping the ears with the same size tip as the face. I decided to play it safe, and poured some of the batter in a piping bag fitted with a smaller tip. For the body of the macaron I used a Wilton 2A tip, for the ears, a Wilton 12. With a more complex shape, it is important that the macaronage step be performed correctly.

My tip for perfect macaronage:  when I think I am almost at the right point of deflating the almond-meringue mixture, I get a teaspoon of batter and drop it on parchment paper. I lift the teaspoon, and the little blob that forms must disappear in about 20 seconds. If it does, the batter is ready, if it is still visible, I fold a few more times. Remember that you can always fold a few more times, but if you go overboard, the batter will be ruined. The macarons will spread too much, spread too thinly and it will be impossible to keep the Minnie shape as piped. Plus, they won’t form nice feet.  At the very least you will need a box of Kleenex. If the situation persists, therapy might be your only option.

I cannot tell you how happy I was with this project! It was fun to plan, to get the tools for the job, to make it, and to imagine the look on Miss G’s face when she opened the box and found a bunch of Minnie cookies inside. The filling turned out just as I expected, sweet, but with the right amount of tartness given by the jam, which by the way, I made with a lot less sugar than store-bought versions.

AND FOR THAT HAPPY ENDING….

ONE YEAR AGO: Nigella Lawson in the Bewitching Kitchen

TWO YEARS AGO: Walnut-Raisin Bran Muffins

THREE YEARS AGO: Gingersnaps with White Chocolate Chips

FOUR YEARS AGO: Turkey Chili with Almond Butter

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SIX YEARS AGO: Secret Recipe Club; Triple Chocolate Brownies

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Shaved Asparagus Salad

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Indonesian Ginger Chicken

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BERGAMOT-CHERRY MACARONS

It was not intentional, but once I was done decorating my babies, I realized they would have been perfect for Mardi Gras, or as we call in Brazil, Carnaval. Made by the Italian meringue method, they were – full disclosure –   the second batch baked in a single day, after a macaron fiasco I intend to completely forget. It involved cocoa powder and despair. Enough said. Undeterred, I cleaned up all the kitchen, sat down, took many breaths in, as many breaths out, looked in the mirror and said “You’ve got this.”  Keep in mind the Winter Olympics were on, so I was contaminated by their unparalleled bravery. Did you watch those snowboarders in the half-pipe?  I mean, give me a batch or two of macarons to bake ANYTIME.

 

BERGAMOT-CHERRY MACARONS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by several sources)

for the shells:
150g almond flour (I used fine ground from Bob Mill’s)
150g powdered sugar
110g egg whites, divided (55g + 55g)
red food gel color (I used Americolor)
pinch of salt
150g granulated sugar
40 mL water  (a little over 2 +1/2 tablespoons)

for the filling:
200g white chocolate (I used Lindt)
60g heavy whipping cream
2 drops bergamot essential oil (see comments)
1/4 cup sour cherry preserves

for decoration:
white chocolate, melted
sugar crystal sprinkles, purple and pink

Prepare the filling. Place chocolate cut in small pieces in a large Pyrex measuring cup. Heat the cream to almost boiling and pour over the chocolate. Let it sit for a couple of minutes, then gently stir. When totally dissolved, add the bergamot oil, then the raspberry preserves. Place in a food processor and pulse a few times to homogenize.  If necessary, add a little more cream, but do not allow the mixture to be too liquid. Place in the fridge until needed.

Make the shells. Heat the oven to 300 F. Line two baking sheets with Silpat or parchment paper, and prepare a pastry bag with a plain tip with 1/2 inch opening, or slightly smaller.

Grind together the powdered sugar and almond powder, using a food processor, to obtain a fine powder. Sift through a sieve into large bowl. Mix the first portion (55g) egg whites with red food color, then add it to the sieved mixture of almond and sugar. It will form a paste, a bit thick. Try to incorporate the color homogeneously, keep in mind it will be lighter when you add the meringue to it. You want a light pink in the end.

Make the Italian meringue.  Place the other 55g egg whites and pinch of salt into the bowl of a Kitchen Aid type mixer.  Set aside while you prepare the sugar syrup. In a small saucepan combine granulated sugar with water and place on medium heat. Using a candy thermometer measure syrup temperature. When it reaches 230 F start whipping the egg whites. When the syrup reaches 244 F pour it over the whipped egg whites while mixing continuously. Continue beating until the bowl has cooled slightly, and glossy peaks have formed.

Add the whipped whites over the almonds mixture and using a rubber or silicone spatula gently fold in until combined and smooth. Make sure to “paint” the mixture on the walls of the bowl so that you get a smooth, lava-like consistency. Transfer the mixture to the piping bag fitted with a 1/2 inch (1 cm) plain tip. Pipe the batter to make macarons the size you like. Rap the baking sheet a few times firmly on the counter top to flatten the macarons and to remove air bubbles.  Let them sit at room temperature until a skin forms, about 30 minutes.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes. They are ready when the top doesn’t move freely when you hold them and twist gently. Let cool slightly before removing from baking sheet. Marry two by two of similar size, add the filling.  Melt white chocolate and add to a small bag. Cut a small opening with scissors and drizzle white chocolate on top of the filled macarons. White the chocolate is still warm, sprinkle the colored sugar on top.  Place in the fridge overnight before serving them, at room temperature.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Hard to believe I baked two batches of macs in the same day… The thing with macarons is that when they go bad, they don’t fool around, they go royally bad. And of course, you can try to figure out the reasons, but more often than not, it is a collection of small things and they get together to create the perfect storm. At any rate, I am glad I regained my composure and made my colorful Mardi Gras creatures.  I think the filling worked very well because the shells tend to be so sweet, having a sour note is a must.  Our colleagues seemed to enjoy this batch quite a bit, I got compliments not only on the taste of the filling, but the texture of the shells. No hollows at all, very smooth surface, and reasonably sexy feet. I might be biased, though… they are my babies, after all…

If you do not have bergamot oil, use 1 teaspoon of freshly grated orange zest. I imagine a little bit of orange liquor could go well too, but you might have to play with amounts, as anything could get the delicate white chocolate ganache in trouble. And you definitely want to stay away from trouble whenever macarons are involved. 

Make my day, grab a pin!

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TIRAMISU MACARONS


I cannot say I’ve been in macaron withdrawal syndrome, because I’ve been baking them quite regularly. But the blog has not featured a mac post in a while, so here I am to fix the problem with a batch of my obsession in almond form. Let’s suppose you love coffee, and maybe tiramisu is one of your favorite desserts. It’s settled then, you need these in your life. However, if you’re afraid of baking such temperamental creatures, please consider at least making the roasted coffee butter.  Please.  You can thank Philip later. He came up not only with the filling but the whole design of these lovely cookies.

TIRAMISU MACARONS
(from Baking Fanatic)

for the shells:
125g ground almonds
125g icing sugar
100g granulated, superfine sugar
100g egg whites at room temperature
about 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee powder

for the filling:
60g mascarpone cheese
70g roasted coffee butter, softened (or use unsalted butter with coffee extract to taste)
50g icing sugar
2 tablespoons Marsala wine (optional)

for the roasted coffee butter:
250g unsalted butter
50g roasted coffee beans, ground to a coarse texture

Make the shells: Put the confectioner sugar, almonds and instant coffee into a food processor and pulse for about 10 seconds until perfectly uniform. Sift into a large bowl. If only a few large bits remain in the sieve you can discard them, or you can add them back to the processor and grind them again.

In a clean, dry bowl whisk the egg whites and the superfine sugar until you get a thick, glossy meringue. With an electric hand whisk this usually takes about 3 minutes. The meringue should have soft peaks so when you lift the whisk out of it, the peaks just holds their shape. Avoid stiff peaks or you’ll get hollow shells later.

Add the meringue to the dry almond/icing sugar mixture. Stir together gently, patting down the meringue into the dry mixture against the side of the bowl as you go, stopping as soon as most of dry mixture is no longer visible. The mixture will feel a little stiff at this point. Continue to fold and pat the mixture together gently until the mixture starts to loosen up. This macaronage stage is a critical part of the process and you don’t want to over-loosen the mixture so that it feels too runny and at all liquid. To test it is ready, lift up the spatula and let some of the mixture on the spatula drops back into the bowl, leaving a trail or ribbon on the surface. This trail should gently merge back into the mixture, disappearing within about 30 seconds. Pour the mixture into a piping back fitted with a round tip maximum 1/2 inch in diameter.

Pipe macarons onto Silpat or parchment paper, aiming at similar sizes. Lift each baking sheet a few inches off the work surface and drop this flat onto the work surface several times, keeping the tin as flat as possible as you drop it. Leave the macarons to rest at room temperature for about an hour or so, until a very thin skin forms on the surface and the surface does not stick to your finger. During this time preheat the oven to 300 F.

Bake the macarons for about 12-14 minutes, depending on the size, turning the trays around after 7 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes on the trays before carefully lifting them to a rack for matching and filling when completely cool.

Make the filling: To make the filling, start by making the roasted coffee butter (you can make it in advance). Put the butter and the coffee beans in a pan and heat gently until the butter has melted. Bring to a simmer and let the mixture simmer very gently for about a minute. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for about 30 minutes. Strain it through a fine sieve into a bowl and press as much butter out of the sieve as you can. Refrigerate until set and use what you need in a recipe. You will have some of the grounds in the bottom of the coffee butter but keep them there. If you want to distribute them more evenly, give the butter a mix when it has started to set.

Finalize the filling by beating the mascarpone, roasted coffee butter and powdered sugar together to give a smooth mixture. Beat in the Marsala, a little at a time. Spoon or pipe it onto the macaron shells and dust with cocoa powder. Place in an airtight container in the fridge ideally at least overnight for them to “mature”: the filling.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I’ve been following food blogs for more than a decade, I subscribe to more feeds than I have time to read. So don’t take my next statement lightly: Philip’s site – Baking Fanatic – is THE best food blog for all things baking. Period. When I grow up, I want to be like him. Wait, I am old enough to be his Mom? Bummer. Still, the sentiment holds. Everything he bakes is picture-perfect, worthy of the window of the best patisseries in Paris. Or London, New York, Saint Petersburg, Vienna. But what’s even more amazing, he tells you exactly how to make every one of his delicacies, so once you visit his site you get this feeling of “maybe I can do that too.”  I know, who am I fooling? But still… his instructions make it all seem approachable. That is the mark of a great baking teacher. He will not scare you, he will tease you into baking along.  If you’ve never visited his blog, I urge you to do so.  For starters, take a look at his tutorial for making macarons with a click here. Then, just to be a bit more amazed, see how he tackled for the first time one very challenging recipe for an Italian classic, sfogliatelle. I was in complete awe! Have been dreaming about attempting those ever since that post was published. Did you know sfogliatelle was a technical challenge at the Great British Bake Off?  

Back to macarons. I would like to share with you a bit of meringue wisdom coming from my friend Gary, Pâtissier Extraordinaire.

Egg whites from a freshly laid egg are very difficult to whip into a foam – a problem if whipping by hand. As the egg white ages, it tends to thin out as the main protein, ovalbumin, is altered to S-ovalbumin (if interested in some heavy scientific info about it, click HERE) which makes the egg whites less viscous. This process is greatly accelerated at room temperature. As a result of these chemical changes, aged egg whites are easier to whip into a foam, however, the S-ovalbumin diminishes the foam stability.

Interestingly, the volume of egg white can be increased by adding up to 40% additional water before whipping without reducing the foam stability. So much for the old wives tale of aging egg whites to dehydrate them; it’s really for the chemical composition changes which makes them easier to whip by hand. In today’s world, the eggs you buy in a store have already aged enough to make it easy to whip the egg whites into a foam. Moreover, the use of an electric mixer makes this a moot point anyway.

So there you have a clear explanation why you can grab your eggs from the fridge, separate the whites, let them equilibrate to room temperature and go have fun making macarons. Not need for aging. No excuses. You can bake macarons on a whim! 

And yes, I made this batch on a serious whim. Just 24 hours after I finalized a batch of these.  It turns out that Alex was with us and was supposed to fly to meet his brothers and respective wives in California a couple of days later. So I had this crazy idea of sending a box of macarons with him. And that’s what happened. I don’t know how the decoration held, it was probably not the best choice for macarons that were packed inside a suitcase. If you make them, sprinkle with the cocoa right before serving, just to be safe. The taste of the coffee buttercream is simply amazing. Obviously, both Phil and I tasted one before taking Alex to the airport. For quality control. There are no limits to the level of my self-sacrifice in the name of food blogging.

Philip, thanks for all your help, advice, and encouragement over the net… On a side note, I just got a certain square cake ring… See what you did?

😉

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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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