Friday, January 11, 2013

kitchen project: macaron (take one)

The macaron has long been a beast I have desired to tame. It's been an elusive beast and I haven't had too many chances to get going on this. To make things worse, I'd been making a million excuses to put off trying. So I'm done putting off the attempt and I will just keep at the macarons until I get to making them perfectly.

I haven't always had the easiest time with meringues in general and while in the past I'd intended to to master the meringue before I moved on to the macaron. For so many reasons this just isn't the way to go for me. See I don't even really like a plan meringue, and there's just no sense beating myself into a tizzy trying to make something I'm not crazy about just as a self imposed stepping stone to what I really want to do.

So I've thrown in the towel and I'm just going to go straight to the macaron, and I have even made my first attempt. There's some simplicity and method to how I'm going about this. Rules, you see. Until I can fairly consistently come up with a macaron I like I'm going to stick to the same sets of guideline.
  1. Use the same recipe every time
  2. I can use a different filling/glue for each batch (to keep things fun and yummy)
  3. No food colourings or heavy flavour additives until I get the base right
  4. Never adjust more than one ingredient or process at a time
I've chosen a recipe from Anna Olsen to start with, because I find her directions simple and her accuracy pretty consistent. Plus it turned out not-terribly on my first shot, so I'm going to keep going with it.

Right now the biggest lessons I've learned are that 1) metal bowls do help when it comes to making the meringue and 2) the texture of the ground almonds probably is super important. Using my mom's mixing bowls which are all metal I came up with some pretty wicked stiff peaks, so I've solved at least one of my main meringue issues. What somewhat screwed things up though were the almonds. I ground them myself in the food processor, or maybe I just didn't use enough (what I had on hand didn't match what was called for so I kind of winged it).

I'm surprised how well it came out, all told. It wasn't perfect by any means, and there were no little feet, but they had this amazing chewy texture to the cookie itself that I'm looking forward to recreating and improving upon.

1 comment:

  1. I also had been wanting to make macarons for a long time. I made them during the holidays (post with photos coming in February or maybe I'll sneak it during the weekend) and they came out perfect. Look!. I did a lot of research, I read lots of blog posts, I actually studied a book I got in France 2 years ago, and then I tried. Here's what I have learnt:

    -you are right metal bowls do help. In addition, cleaning your bowl with a bit of lemon or vinegar and then drying it is a meringue life saver. There should not be any oil / grease, or else your meringue won't be as stiff.

    -the ground almonds are definitely crucial. If your almond meal is not fine enough the "graininess" will cause your shells to crack. What I did was sift the almond meal together with the powder sugar twice. The bits that did not go through the sieve went back to the processor until they all went in.

    -weighing your ingredients is important. All your ingredients (even the egg whites) have to be weighed before using, we invested in a small digital scale and it is making me super happy, I feel like I am in the lab, and I can finally bake with precision.

    -you should tap your baking trays (I did twice on each side) when your macarons have been piped, any bubble of air left in air will go up when baking and crack the shells).

    -you should leave your macarons to rest until they are dry (you should be able to touch them without the paste sticking to your finger). About 30 min. I think the longer they rest the better. This process is called croûtage. I had read that some people skip this step and it works for them. When I did it every single macaron shell cracked. For the ones that were properly dried not one cracked and they all had feet.

    I think your strategy of only altering 1 variable at a time is very scientific.

    Also take into account that macarons are made for eating and they are delicious anyway (too bad if at first they don't look perfect).

    I also made "natural" ones for the first try, so no flavor or color added. I am going to try that next.

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