HAPPY SWIRLS TONKA MACARONS

Remember when I shared the video that was going to be used for a bake-along in the Great British Bake Off Fan page? Well, that happened this past weekend. I did not know exactly what to expect, but I can tell you this was one of the most rewarding experiences ever for me!  Many, many bakers took the challenge of baking French macarons, most doing it for the first time, and I kept following their pictures and questions as they did it. I know macarons are finicky, I have bakes that turn into epic disasters, but everybody seemed to have fun and made some pretty awesome-looking macs! Of course, seeing so  many macarons popping on my screen, made me itchy to bake some. I wanted them to be colorful, fun, with a happy aura, because happy is how I still feel about the bake-along. Thank you to all who participated, thank you Caroline and Christine for making it happen… I am still in awe.

HAPPY SWIRLS TONKA MACARONS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

For the shells:
200g  Icing/powdered sugar (1 ⅔ cups)
115 g Ground Almonds/Almond Meal (1 + scant ¼ cup)
115 g egg whites at room temperature (approx. 4 eggs)
1/8 tsp of cream of tartar (optional)
100 g granulated sugar (½ cup)
¼ tsp vanilla paste or extract
pink, blue, and yellow gel food color

Line 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment/baking paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered/icing sugar and ground almonds/almond meal  in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like fine meal, about 12 pulses. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a small bowl or to a sheet of parchment/baking paper. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and 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 in five additions, trying to aim the stream between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Turn the speed up to high. Continue to whip the meringue until it is soft and shiny. It should look like marshmallow creme (marshmallow fluff). Add the vanilla. 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 ground almond/almond meal mixture in two increments. Paint the mixture halfway up the side of the bowl, using the flat side of a spatula. When the mixture is starting to get incorporated but still looks a bit rough, divide in three equal amounts in small bowls (eyeballing is fine). Add color to each bowl and proceed to finalize the macaronage with the color mixed in. With such a small portion, they get to the smooth stage quickly, so be careful, the moment you can do a figure 8 as you pour the batter from the spatula, stop folding it.

Put the mixtures in three different small piping bags.  Prepare a large piping bag with a large round piping tip (WILTON 1A) and place the three smaller bags inside after cutting them open.   Pipe shells, I like to count numbers in my head and use the same count for each shell so they end up similar in size.

I pipe inside the circles to about 1 ¾ inches/4.5cm but you can go to 1 ½ inches (3.8cm) & the macarons will spread & fill the circle while drying.

Slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter/worktop. 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 300 F (150 C/130C Fan oven/Gas Mark 2). Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack. Check in 11 minutes. If the tops slide or move (independently of the ‘feet’ when you gently twist the top), then bake for 2 to 3 more minutes. Check one or two. If they move when gently touched, put them back in the oven for 1 to 2 more minutes until they don’t move when touched.   Let the macaroons cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.  The macarons should release without sticking.

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.

for the filling: use the tonka bean whipped ganache as described in this post.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I am still debating whether I like the additional decoration of the silver “splash.”  Sometimes less is more, right? But I wanted to take them into the “galaxy environment.  Basically you mix pearl dust powder with alcohol, and use a brush or a toothbrush to flicker little spots on the shells, after they are cold. Keep in mind that it is going to be messy, so I advise you cover your working surface with some plastic wrap and then space the shells a bit to work on each one independently.

I think that the splashing effect is better with a solid color or maybe with two colors only.  Still, it was fun to do it.  The tonka bean ganache was hanging around in the fridge since my last adventure with it (remember the bonbons?) so I just used it all up for this little project.


One more thing to keep in mind if you mix three colors. In my tutorial video I tell you to keep the piping bag vertical and just pipe the shells without moving it. Well, if you want to get a more swirled effect with the colors, you should VERY GENTLY make a circular movement with the tip as you pipe. Be gentle, it is a very subtle movement.  You can do that for some shells, pipe vertically for others, pretty soon you’ll realize how to get the effect you like.

Macarons are just so much fun! Everybody agrees….

If you did the bake-along and for some reason your macs did not turn out the way you wanted, don’t be discouraged. They are finicky creatures and often small details can make them fail. Just try to do another batch as soon as possible, while you have all the boo-boos fresh in your mind. Send me an email if you need help at sallybr2008 at gmail dot com.

Before I leave you, I would like to share a photo of macarons made by Amanda, who participated of the bake-along. The reason I picked her photo when there were so many wonderful ones made in the group?  She failed at her first attempt, they did not turn out good. She went back next day, after going over the video and the recipe again, and made these babies, that would make Pierre Herme’ proud.

 

They are delicate, perfectly shaped, elegant, with perfectly piped filling.  I swear she made me do a Super Extended Version of the Very Happy Dance.

Again, thank you to all who participated, I had no idea it would be so exciting to be the hostess of a bake-along.  I might have to come up with another tutorial at some point. Just let me make one thing clear. Gingerbread sculptures are OUT of the question!

ONE YEAR AGO: Chocolate Tartlets with Honey-Caramel Filling

TWO YEAR AGO: Zucchini Soup with Tahini

THREE YEARS AGO: Black Sesame Macarons

FOUR YEARS AGO: Fine Tuning Thomas Keller

FIVE YEARS AGO: Cauliflower Tortillas

SIX YEARS AGO: Majestic Sedona, Take Two

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Secret Ingredient Turkey Meatballs

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Swedish Meatballs and Egg Noodles

NINE YEARS AGO: Italian Easter Pie

TEN YEARS AGO: Black Olive Bialy

SPRINGTIME MACARONS BAKE-ALONG


If ten years ago someone would tell me I would be hosting a video tutorial on how to make French macarons, I would roll on the floor laughing. Literally. Somehow, that is actually happening. Mind-blown. Here’s the full story behind it. Back in June last year I joined a Facebook group called Great British Bake Off Fans“, hosted by Christine and Caroline. The group currently has about 20 thousand members, and every once in a while opens to accept new participants, by invitation only. They often host “bake-alongs.”  One baker posts a detailed video of a recipe, and members can bake from Friday through Sunday, posting their results and asking questions if they run into trouble.  Much to my surprise (and with the obvious hyperventilation starting right after I said yes), they asked me to host a macaron-baking video. The big party will take place this Friday. My video (which includes unfortunate footage of yours truly with meringue glued to her chin), is available right now on youtube, thanks to the hard work of Caroline, who edited my 10 short videos, added text, music, and a few well-deserved jokes here and there.

Some steps are omitted from the video, for instance the time the shells rest after piping. I cannot imagine me trying to entertain you with short stories for 30 minutes. And for that I am sure you are grateful. I should warn you that the sound could have been a bit louder. It was my first time doing it, and I now believe a microphone of some kind would be appropriate. I had to place the cell phone a bit far away to get good coverage of a larger area and that compromised the sound a bit. But thanks to Caroline adding text to the video, I think you can get by. Just set your volume to the highest and I hope it will work for you.

SPRINGTIME MACARONS
(adapted from Colette Christian’s recipe)

For the shells:
200g  Icing/powdered sugar (1 ⅔ cups)
115 g Ground Almonds/Almond Meal (1 + scant ¼ cup)
115 g egg whites at room temperature (approx. 4 eggs)
1/8 tsp of cream of tartar (optional)
100 g granulated sugar (½ cup)
¼ tsp vanilla paste or extract
drops of gel food color of your choice (optional)

Line 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment/baking paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered/icing sugar and ground almonds/almond meal  in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like fine meal, about 12 pulses. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a small bowl or to a sheet of parchment/baking paper. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and 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 in five additions, trying to aim the stream between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Turn the speed up to high. Continue to whip the meringue until it is soft and shiny. It should look like marshmallow creme (marshmallow fluff). Add the vanilla. 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 ground almond/almond meal mixture in two 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. Add drops of gel color and mix them briefly with a toothpick. Put the mixture in a piping bag fitted with your choice of piping tip (round, ¼ or ½ inch in diameter or 6 – 12 mm).   If you don’t have a macaron mat, draw circles on baking/parchment paper about 2inches/5cm in diameter & turn the paper over before placing on the baking sheets.  Pipe shells, I like to count numbers in my head and use the same count for each shell so they end up similar in size.

I pipe inside the circles to about 1 ¾ inches/4.5cm but you can go to 1 ½ inches (3.8cm) & the macarons will spread & fill the circle while drying.

Slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter/worktop. 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 300 F (150 C/130C Fan oven/Gas Mark 2). Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack. Check in 11 minutes. If the tops slide or move (independently of the ‘feet’ when you gently twist the top), then bake for 2 to 3 more minutes. Check one or two. If they move when gently touched, put them back in the oven for 1 to 2 more minutes until they don’t move when touched.   Let the macaroons cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.  The macarons should release without sticking.

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

A FEW IMPORTANT NOTES BEFORE YOU START

  1. If you want to add solid color instead of the swirls, add GEL FOOD DYE about 1 minute after you finished incorporating all the granulated sugar in the meringue, at the same time that you add the vanilla extract (or other flavoring of your choice). Stop the machine, lift the whisk and add the color right at the bottom of the whisk, this way it goes smoothly into the batter and will not get splashed everywhere.
  2. If you have almond flour that has been laying around for a while, it is a good idea to dry it in a very low oven before using. You can do that the day before. Just add the flour to a baking sheet (over parchment paper) and place in a 250F oven for 20 to 30 minutes. Let it cool completely and use. Humidity is a big enemy of macarons, so if my almond flour has been open for more than a month, I do that just as added precaution.
  3. Hollows. DO NOT worry about them. For the most part they will “fill” once you add the filling and place in the fridge. Particularly in your first batches, don’t worry about perfection. They happen, and they almost always go away through maturation.
  4. Every oven is different. It took me many batches of macarons to figure out the best placement of the rack and the temperature of the oven. Once you are comfortable making the batter, you can play with all the conditions and figure out the perfect environment to bake yours. In my case it is 300F with the rack slightly under the center of the oven. One tray at a time. No convection. Your oven might behave in a different way. You can make several small trays and tweak the baking as you go, writing down your results. Just like in a lab!
  5. Contrary to many other baking goodies, macarons will not be hurt if you open the oven to check on them. In fact, Pierre Hermé, the Macaron King, recommends opening the door of the oven to allow some steam (therefore moisture) to be released. I sometimes open the oven at around 6 minutes to look at the little feet forming. And then again at the 11 or so minute mark to check for doneness.
  6. For different ideas to decorate the macs, I invite you look at a few of my posts. I love doing drizzles with candy melts and adding sprinkles (see this post). If you have an air-brush system and stencils, you can have a ton of fun with it (see this post). You can keep it simple and just add sprinkles to the shells right after piping (see this post). You can dye different colors of batter to the piping bag for a nice effect, although I would do that only after you are more comfortable with making them (see Coffee Caramel macarons in this post). You can cut shapes using candy melts and glue to the shells (see this post).  For a very elegant and incredibly simple effect, use a fan brush and pearl dust with vodka or lemon extract (see this post)
  7. Fillings. Over the years I’ve published many posts on macarons using all kinds of fillings. I suggest you go to my  INDEX PAGE  and look at the Macaron category for ideas. If you want to keep it super simple for your first time, open a jar of your favorite store-bought jam and use it. Absolutely nothing wrong with it.

I will be ready to answer your questions during the bake-along, and I hope you will have fun in your kitchen!  See you then….

Caroline, thank you so so much for all the work you put into editing the video, and Christine, you know how much I love the site that you created and turned into a cozy, friendly, wonderful spot in the blogosphere.

ONE YEAR AGO: Macarons for a Little Princess

TWO YEARS AGO: Gilding the Sourdough Loaf

THREE YEARS AGO: Lolita Joins the Bewitching Kitchen

FOUR YEARS AGO: Cashew Cream Sauce

FIVE YEARS AGO: Blood Orange Margaritas

SIX YEARS AGO: Smoked Salmon Appetizer

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Clementine Cake

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Springtime Spinach Risotto

NINE YEARS AGO: The end of green bean cruelty

TEN YEARS AGO: Torta di Limone e Mandorle