Saturday, March 6, 2010

Lesson: Basic Macarons

Remember a couple weeks ago when I couldn't stop blabbing about how much I love macarons?  After being assigned the task of making macarons at the restaurant, I fell deeply in love with creating, eating, researching and dreaming about macarons.

And it turns out, I'm not alone.

Since then, I have received several requests from people, trying to perfect the art of macaron-ing, to give step-by-step instructions for making macarons.

Let's begin with a few important notes.  Pour yourself a cup of coffee and join me.

First and absolutely most importantly - you need to muster up every ounce of patience possible as you practice creating these treats.  There is a lot of room for error and some things, like humidity in the air, are completely out of your control.

Did you just get home from a stressful day at work?  Do you feel fed up and at the end of your rope for the day?  Today is not the time to try making macarons for the first time.  Seriously.  Pour yourself a glass of wine, relax and try it some other time.

When you are feeling as though you have some patience to spare, make sure you also allot yourself enough time to read the instructions thoroughly, prepare everything and slowly and carefully go through all the steps.

Macarons are not the easiest of desserts, but once you become comfortable with the techniques, the creation process is actually quite enjoyable.

Feeling patient?  Have some free time?  Me too.  Tie on an apron and join me in the kitchen!


Let's begin with the meringue.  All meringue consist of only two ingredients: egg whites and sugar.  The egg whites for macarons need to be "aged", meaning they need to be left at room temperature for 24 hours.

This aging process helps extract the moisture from the egg whites, which creates a 'foot' of you macaron in equal width to the rest of the macaron.

Let's prepare our mise-en-place for the meringue: kitchen scale, aged egg whites, granulated sugar, KitchenAid bowl and whisk attachment.  Be sure the KitchenAid bowl is extremely clean.


Measure the aged egg whites of two large eggs (68 grams) into the KitchenAid bowl.



In a separate bowl, measure 34 grams of granulated sugar.


Now we need to prepare our mise-en-place for the mixture which will later be folded into the meringue.  Kitchen scale, blanched almonds (whole, sliced or slivered), confectioner's sugar, mini (or regular sized) food processor, medium sieve and mixing bowl.


Measure 75 grams of the blanched almonds and place in the bowl of the food processor.


Now measure 136 grams of confectioner's sugar.


Pour the confectioner's sugar on top of the blanched almonds in the food processor.  If the almonds were processed without the confectioner's sugar, they would yield a consistency close to almond butter.  Including the confectioner's sugar helps absorb the oils from the nuts and allows them to be finely ground into a dry mixture.

Process the blanched almonds and confectioner's sugar until you can no longer distinguish between the two substances.  The mixture should also feel smooth to the touch without a lot of large almond chunks.


Pour the mixture out of the food processor and into a sieve with medium openings.  I actually use a small, mesh collander, which I find works perfectly.  You just want to keep any large chunks of almond out of the mixture.





Now that we have our flour ready, it's time to prepare the meringue.  With the whisk attachment, turn the mixer to a low-medium speed.

You want to whisk your egg whites until they are frothy, meaning you should see lots of tiny bubbles, but no liquid egg white on the bottom.

When you have frothy egg whites, you can begin adding the granulated sugar - in stages and very slowly.

I add about a half teaspoon of sugar at a time.  Allow the sugar to fully incorporate before adding more sugar.

When all the sugar has been added, I increase the speed to medium and whisk to stiff peak.

You have achieved stiff peak when the "bird's beak" can form on the end of the whisk.  It should be able stand by itself without the meringue moving or drooping.

Now we need to combine the two mixtures.  I place about half of the almond-sugar mixture into the bowl with the meringue.


This will be folded together - but rather roughly.  You need to release some of the air from the meringue so your macarons are not too puffy and then crack.  Fold until the two mixtures are fully combined - this takes me 10 to 15 folds.

Now I place half of the remaining almond-sugar mixture in the meringue.  I fold this in a little more gently, but still with some vigor.  Again, the mixtures should be fully combined -this takes me an extra 15 to 20 folds.

Finally, fold in the remaining almond-sugar mixture.  This time, the folding will be done very gently.  Fold until you cannot see any streaks of meringue in the mixtures - usually 5 to 10 folds.


Now we are ready to pipe the macarons.  Line a sheet tray with parchment paper or a SilPat.  Prepare your piping bag with a plain piping tip - I use Ateco no. 806.


When you piping bag is prepared, stuff some of the piping bag into the tip.  This creates a little dam so your macaron mixture does not immediately come oozing out of the end.

Next, create a cuff with the top of the bag.  You can either place the bag into a glass and dump in your mixture or place the cuff around one of your hands and scoop the mixture into the bag with the other.

With the mixture in the piping bag, hold the bag at a 90 degree angle to the sheet tray and pipe the macarons.  I usually pipe circles with a diameter of 1" to 1.5".  I prefer a bite-size macaron to the larger, cookie sizes because I can try lots of different flavors, if I want.  But the size of the macaron is, literally, in your hands.


You can tell the mixture was folded properly by the way the macrons settle after being piped.  The should hold their shape, but the tops should round out on their own.  If you have folded the mixture too much, it will spread too quickly and not retain any shape.  if you have folded the mixture too little, the mixture will still be firm after piping and the tops will not smooth out.

The piped maraons will spread a bit, so be sure not to pipe them too closely together.  When you have piped a sheet tray, give the tray a few, solid raps on the counter.  This helps even out any imperfections.

Now, allow the macarons to harden at room temperature for about one hour.  This helps develop the 'shell' of the macaron and distinguishes it from the 'foot' of the macaron.


Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.

Bake the macarons, one tray at a time, for 10 to 12 minutes.  They should take on just the slightest amount of color.



Allow the macarons to cool completely on the sheet trays.


When they are completely cool, you should be able to carefully remove them from the parchment or SilPat.

Choose whatever filling(s) you desire - ganache, buttercream, fruit preserves, nut butters.  Part of the fun of creating macarons is deciding how to fill them and what flavors you will thereby create.

I chose to use the Meyer lemon curd I whipped up earlier this week.  This combination was delectable!  Light, sweet, refreshing, sunny.


Basic Macarons
Download Recipe: PDF | Word

Ingredients
68 grams (two large eggs) egg whites, aged at room temperature for 24 hours
34 grams granulated sugar
75 grams blanched almonds
136 grams powdered sugar
Preparation Instructions
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk on low-medium speed until frothy.
Add the granulated sugar a little bit at a time. Allow the sugar to incorporate fully before making the next addition.

When all of the sugar has been added, increase the speed to medium and allow meringue to form stiff peaks. To test, remove the bowl from the mixer and turn upside down. There should be no movement in the meringue.

Combine the blanched almonds and powdered sugar in a food processor. Process until you cannot distinguish the almonds from the sugar, about 30 seconds.

Add half of the almond-sugar mixture to the meringue. Using a strong spatula, begin combining the two elements. During this first combination, you actually want to combine the two rather vigorously. Do not be gentle – you have to reduce the air in the meringue somewhat or your macarons will be too “puffy”. Continue for about 10 to 15 turns.

Add half of the remaining meringue and incorporate for 15 to 20 turns.  Fold in the remaining almond-sugar gently into the meringue.  Continue for no more than 10 turns, or until you can no longer distinguish between the two.

Fit a pastry bag with a #806 tip. Alternatively, you can use a Ziplock bag and cut a corner to your desired width. Fill the bag with the macaron mixture.

Pipe about 1”rounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a SilPat. Leave plenty of room between the macarons – they will expand!

Allow the macarons to sit 30 minutes to one hour to develop a shell.

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.

Bake macarons for 10 to 12 minutes, until shells are just slightly golden.

When shells are completely cool, pipe or spread a bit of your chosen filling on the flat side of one macaron and sandwich with another.

2 comments:

  1. I made these! I undermixed the first portion (as soon as I started piping them, I knew they were wrong), so I mixed the second portion a little more and I thought I overmixed that, but I got little feet! So excited right now! I'll definitely be attempting these again to try and get them 100% right! They're not as evil to make as I thought they'd be! Thanks for the basic and small -- I didn't want to make 50 macarons my first try! -- recipe!

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  2. Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. VeinoteJune 9, 2010 at 3:23 AM

    Congratulations Kristin! I also was very proud of myself when I saw little feet on my macarons! Enjoy playing around with lots of different flavor combinations now!

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