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Monday, October 17, 2011

Macaron Back to Basics

I've always been in love with sweets especially cupcakes and cake pops. But I've never really been obsessed, yes, obsessed with any of it until my first encounter with Macaron. So what is macaron? According to Wikipedia, macaron is a sweet confectionery made with egg whites, icing sugar, granulated sugar, almond powder and food coloring and is commonly filled with buttercream or jam filling. It is very different than the American macaron which is made of mostly coconut. Macaron is pronounced as Mah-ca-Rohn.

Macaron originated from Italy and was brought to France in early 1533. During the French revolution in 1792, two nuns sold macarons to support themselves and gained fame as the "macaron sisters". The macaron shells were sold just by themselves, with no fillings. In the 1900s, Pierre Desfontanines of Parisian pastry shop and cafe Ladurée decided to fill the macaron shells with ganache. Laduree continues to become one of the most famous macaron boutique in Paris. People and tourists flock the store just to get a taste of this amazing cookie.

Whilst I haven't had the opportunity to taste the famous Ladurée macarons, I was lucky to find macaron at Starbucks when I visited Romania in summer of 2011. It is really hard to find decent macarons in Michigan so I was super excited when I saw it. It's coffee flavored, ofcourse, and I took a snapshot of it before devouring the whole thing.

When I return to US, a girlfriend bought me some frozen macarons from Plum's and Trader Joe's. It's really good but they are so small that I finished them in a second. I decided that maybe I should make them myself. Then I can have as many as I want. Oh boy, when they say that this cookie requires a lot of skill and patience to make it, they really meant it.

I did some research on the internet and found several different recipes. I tweak them here and there to get a less sweet version and this recipe came up :). 

Approximately 35 macarons 

140g almond meal (Almond flour, finely ground)
200g confectioners sugar
3 egg whites (aged- separated from the yolk and left refrigrated for 4-5 days covered with a saran wrap)
20g granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
Pinch of egg white powder
A drop of coloring gel

1) Put the almond flour and confectioners sugar in a food processor. Mix them slightly with a butter knife especially at the bottom before starting the food processor (this will avoid the almond or sugar becomes sticky). If you use the almond flour directly from the bag without grounding them, you will end up with shells looking like they have pimples. Eww, you don't want that.

2) Line 3 aluminum baking trays with parchment paper(Tray sizes approximately 13 x18x1). I usually use about 2 1/4 of trays for this batch.

3) Prep a piping bag with a round glass. I use Wilton #12. I like my macarons a little smaller because I can just eat it with one bite. It's a preference thing. For bigger macarons, you can use a larger tip. Fold the bag somewhere near the tip so that the tip is facing upward and place the bag into a tall drinking glass to avoid the batter from spilling out when you pour them in. Cuff the bag opening over the top to make it easier to fill.

4) Place the eggs into a large mixing bowl (I use glass bowl). Microwave the egg whites at high temperature for 15 seconds. This process further age the eggs. The eggs should look clear and thick. (As every microwave is different, find the right cooking time so that your egg white doesn't cook).

5) Add a pinch of salt. You may use a teaspoon cream of tartar or few drops of lemon juice to give body to the egg whites.

6) Begin beating the eggs on low speed. Add egg white. Wait till it turns foamy before adding sugar gradually. 

7) Beat the meringue to soft glossy peaks.
8) Add the food coloring and continue to mix until you get between soft & stiff peak. It should also look glossy.
9) Add the almond-sugar mixture and start folding them. You have to be a little patient here, you don't want to mix them like crazy as this will create bubbles in the batter.
10) Pour the batter into the piping bag. Twist the bag where the batter ends and pipe rows of batter onto the baking sheets about an inch apart.

12) If you see bubbles forming, touch them with toothpick. You can also tap the pan (to tap the pan, lift it about 1" from the counter top and release it. Make sure that it is even so that the batter doesn't go out of shape)
13) Let them rest for 30-60 min until a thin skin forms. When it is ready, you can touch it and it shouldn't stick to your finger.
14) Place the oven rack at the lowest level and heat at 315F. Place a tray on the top rack to avoid browning the cookies. 
15) Bake for 15 minutes.
16) Let it cool and refrigerate the macarons for 24 hrs before serving. They are best after maturation. You can store up to 1 month in the freezer.

Chocolate Mousse filling:
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
4oz of chocolate melt

1) Microwave the chocolate melt until it turn liquid
2) Whip the cream until a little stiff and pour in the chocolate melt. Continue to whip until it becomes fluffy
3) Place the mixture into the piping bag and pipe on the macaron.

This variation is slightly different than most chocolate ganache filling because it is softer and lighter. I hope you enjoy it.

Chocolate ganache filling:

1) Microwave the chocolate melt
2) Pour in 1/2 cup of heavy cream (you can usually find this at the grocerries where the milk and creamer is)
3) Mix the mixture and let it sit until it becomes thick. You can store in the refrigerator to speed up this process.
4) Pour in a piping bag and pipe them on the macaron shells.

Printable Recipe

I have been making A LOT of macarons and each time I make it, it comes out slightly different. There are various reasons to having unsuccessful macarons. 

There are some awesome blogs that I refer to for troubleshooting:


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