Friday, June 7, 2013

Macarons: what I've learnt


I have made a few batches of macarons (almond, chocolate, raspberry) and though I manage to get pretty good results, I am still not 100% there. I have been reading a lot on the subject: I've researched books, I've gone through troubleshooting posts, and I have tried both the Italian meringue technique (used at Pierre Hermé) and the French meringue technique. Italian meringue is more stable than French, as the sugar syrup is cooked, and leads to smoother, shinier, chewier macarons. To achieve perfect results you really need to know your oven, as the little crunchy, melt-in-your-mouth cookies are very sensitive to temperature. There should not be any currents / drafts in your oven, or you might get cracks. An oven thermometer might be a good investment.


For the French meringue macarons I used Brave Tart's recipe. For the Italian meringue macarons I used  Jose Marechal's basic recipe. If, like me, you are eager to know  the scientific explanation behind baking, his little book is worth every penny (and not so expensive either). It has a lot of photos and detailed reasoning behind the steps that are important in the process of macaron making. I promise to share the specific recipe soon. If you are a visual person though, you can see the process (at Pierre Hermé's kitchen, nonetheless)  here and below.


So here are a few tips I have learnt, tested and gathered from all over the place:

-Macarons need precision. A scale to weigh your ingredients (from the egg whites, to the icing sugar and ground almonds) is necessary. Changes in proportion (even minimal) can cause changes in texture.  I normally grind the almonds with the sugar together to make sure they are fine enough.

-It is very important to mix the icing sugar and ground almonds (le “tant pour tant”) until they are homogenous and  then sieve the mix several times. There should not be any big pieces left (or they will cause your macarons to be grainy, or worse, to crack whilst baking). A processor is a big help here. I don't have one, so I use a blender and a coffee grinder for the harder pieces.


-Your mix has to have the right consistency. When you make the batter, le macaronage, you are actually trying to beat the air out of the meringue, so circular and rubbing movements are needed. Your batter should pour in a ribbon-like manner (it's  often described as molten, or lava-like) and join the rest of the batter after a few seconds.


-Tapping the trays after piping your macarons is important not only to flatten them, but to break any bubbles of air. Air bubbles trapped during baking will find it’s way up and crack the shells.

-Having fully dried shells, letting a film or crust form (call this: “le croûtage” if you’re feeling fancy) is crucial. It allows macarons to stretch sideways while they are still out of the oven. If you omit this step the macarons will grow sideways AND upwards while baking, causing them to crack*. The air should escape only through the “feet” forming the ruffles on the bottom (instead of through the top of the shell which would cause them to break), hence the crust also prevents cracks. You should let your macarons rest after piping from 20 min to 1 hour (depending on the air humidity). When you touch them, they should not stick to your fingers.


-I used a silicon mat only once and it was disastrous. I've had a much better experience with waxed paper.  The macarons stuck to the silicon and it seemed that they did not cook properly even after more than half an hour (unusual). My guess is the silicon does not get as hot as the (thinner) paper.

-For the filling, ganaches are delicious. I used 200 ml whipping cream + 200 gr dark chocolate + 50 gr butter. Just warm up the cream until it is just about to boil (but it shouldn’t), pour it over the chopped chocolate and stir so it melts, then add the butter. Let it cool to form a cream. You can even make a fruit-ganache (replacing the cream with juices / jam). I have also used lemon curd and homemade jams. Buttercream, cream-cheese frosting, nutella can also work. Oh and don't eat them right away, macarons taste way better one or two days after resting in the fridge. The flavors blend and the crusts become moist in the interior.


Finally here are some pretty useful posts I  found:

-Marcela's take on macaron making.(I lost my fear because of her, and her post is full of pictures of each step, so you get an idea of how things should look);

-Brave Tart has a few interesting articles: first of all, read the Macaron Mythbusters (anyone who references Heisenberg's uncertainty principle has my trust), secondly, just to clarify, Macarons are for eating (even if your macarons don't look as if they should be showcased in a light-green French pâtisserie, they will still be delicious) and finally her Macaron's Ten commandments were very helpful and straight-forward. *She does say that for her, "le croûtage" (letting your macarons form a crust before baking) is not necessary, as she pops her macarons straight to the oven right after piping (and tapping the pans). I did that, and it didn't work for me. Moreover, the longer the macarons rested, the better they looked. So in my humble home-experience drying helps a lot.

Try this at home! Worst case scenario you'll have a bunch of crunchy almond cookies to munch on!  (And by the way, today I am over at Any Other Woman... talking about eating macarons (and ice-cream) at our wedding, do visit!)

22 comments:

  1. Uhm... I've only tried them once(bought some from a French cafe)and I can't say I'm a fan. The flavor itself was good but I wasn't convinced about the texture.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You did not like them? Hmmm maybe when you are over here we'll take you to places and see if you like them. But yeah, the crunchy-chewiness is very particular.

      Delete
  2. This sounds incredibly complicated, and I continue to be in awe of your baking abilities.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh I wanted people to feel they would be able to make this. Essentially you need a hand mixer to be able to whip up a stiff meringue, and a scale to weigh the ingredients. The rest is just a matter of trying, experimenting and doing certain things systematically. (If you want to try the Italian meringue technique, then you also need a sugar thermometer)

      One of the articles that made me lose my fear said something like, it's a cookie, not rocket science :)

      (And thanks, I just really really like to play around, and ever since I got a scale and a thermometer in December it really feels like I'm at the lab a bit).

      Delete
    2. I think your tips were wonderful! And very science-like, even, in their presentation. :) I'm sure that if I ever decided to make macarons, I would look up this post.

      It's just that I am terrified of baking in general, even more simple things. :) I think I'd have to start with something small and easy before I could work up the courage to even experiment with something like this! (It's just me, I know, and it's irrational, but there it is.)

      Delete
    3. Oh, then you can start with meringue kisses, which are quite easy, and then go from there. Or just with muffins or a swiss meringue buttercream (sounds fancy, but it is actually easy because you *know* when you have reached the good point just by rubbing the egg white-sugar mix between your fingers and feeling that there are no more sugar grains, it's nice and smooth. Like in this video. (For some reason videos give me confidence, because you actually see how things are done)

      Delete
  3. Te han quedado perfectos, me encantan, besos
    Sofía

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gracias! La primera vez que los hice (con merengue italiano) salieron casi todos perfectos, suerte de principiante. La segunda, se quebraron algunos, y la tercera (que lo intenté con merengue francés) también se rompieron unos cuantos(fotografié los más bonitos). Creo que mi horno calienta demasiado, por lo que he leído, ya que si se les forma el "pie" y están bien de textura y forma... a la próxima bajaré la temperatura y hornearé más lentamente, a ver si es eso. Lo bueno es que saben deliciosos igual.

      Delete
  4. ¡¡Largo camino tengo por delante con estas delicias!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lo tienes que intentar, es posible, lo único verdaderamente imprescindible es la batidora para hacer un buen merengue (a menos que tengas un super brazo), la báscula para pesar los ingredientes y si eso la licuadora (que es lo que yo usé) para moler las almendras con el azúcar.

      Delete
  5. Oh, good timing. I've been gearing up to give these another try and fresh tips are always wonderful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Let me know how yours turn out... they are still kind of mysterious in ways, no matter how careful about the technique and the details I am... I always get some cracked macarons, but not all. And some really look perfect. I am thinking my oven was too warm, I am going to try at lower temperature and bake a bit longer, slower.
      They are all delicious anyhow, so that's good.

      Delete
  6. oehw wauw ze zien er geweldig uit :) Ik ben de laatste tijd aan het experimenteren maar ik bak er niks van haha.

    xx

    liquoriceandpumps.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dank je wel :) Je moet proberen en proberen!

      Delete
  7. Te quedan súper bonitos, Amanda! Yo con los macarons no me atrevo aún. Además, parece que se necesitan varios intrumentos de cocina y como aquí nuestro depto. es miniatura, nos limitamos a un frigobar, una tetera eléctrica, estufa y ya está. Gracias por compartir lo que has aprendido, por si algun día tengo los aparatos necesarios y el valor de intentarlo. xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gracias, estos fueron los que salieron perfectos... los que se quebraron nos los comimos jaja.
      Lo que necesitas es la batidora (que puede ser perfectamente de mano) para hacer un buen merengue, y la báscula para pesar los ingredientes. Ya con eso puedes intentarlo (sobretodo si consigues el harina de almendras ya fina). Luego, si quieres intentar la técnica del merengue italiano, si se necesita un termómetro de azúcar, pero para la técnica francesa que en cierta forma es más fácil no es necesario.
      Inténtalo cuando puedas, de todas formas saben ricos :)

      Delete
  8. Thanks for the reference!
    I loved Stella's tips but didn't have success with her recipe. The best recipe for me is the one from Linda, from Call me cupcake. They turn out perfect, with tall feet and chewy insides. Delicious.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome :) I will try Linda's recipe next time, though I think I have to lower the temperature of my oven. I manage to get feet and domes, but some crack at random and I have read it can be because of drafts or too high temperatures.
      Delicious they are anyway...

      Delete
  9. Wauw, die zijn echt prachtig geworden! Ik wil ze al een hele tijd ook eens zelf maken, maar als ik elke keer hoor dat het zo moeilijk is houdt dat me toch een beetje tegen..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Je moet een keer proberen... als je een mixer heeft of een goede arm :) dan kan je de macarons maken. De basis van de macarons is een goede meringue.

      Delete
  10. These are gorgeous! I am very impressed....

    ReplyDelete

I love your comments, let's talk .

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...