Macarons Revisited

Macarons.  Those colorful, round discs made of meringue and filled with some kind of buttercream or ganache or other…so pretty to look at, so delicious to stick in your mouth and chew, so difficult to get right the first time.  With so many techniques and what-to-do’s and what-not-to-do’s, should-I-age-my-egg-whites, should-I-let-them-rest-before-baking…It’s enough to drive the average baker crazy!  You can easily spend hours reading on the right technique and end up psyching yourself out in favor of baking the safe, reliable, hard-to-mess-up chocolate chip cookies instead…

But not me.  I want to join the ranks of the baking elite who can master the macaron.  So today I made another attempt, three years after my last attempt.  If you care to read about my past attempts, read here — https://agirlbakesinnewyork.wordpress.com/tag/macarons/,  but who wants to dwell on the past?

Today’s attempt brought me this:

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My first few attempts were based on the Swiss meringue method, a method I learned from a workshop I attended a few years back.  Today I made these coffee flavored macarons using a French meringue method.  I didn’t want to fuss with boiling sugar, getting the right temp (as is required when you use the Swiss or Italian meringue methods), and all that.

They look okay on the outside, could be prettier, but this is the attempt I am most proud of to date.  I may have undermixed my batter because the shells were hollow.  I’ve already done the obsessive research required to try to prevent this next time, and will try to employ those changes on my next attempt.

They’re delicious, by the way.  The coffee flavor is distinct and the chocolate ganache filling complements it very nicely.  I got the recipe from The Spice Train, but I will copy it here:

Coffee Macarons (from The Spice Train blog)

*This recipe is only for the macarons, not the filling.  You can get the complete recipe here — The Spice Train.  My notes on this recipe are in parentheses.

Ingredients:

  • This recipe makes about 28 macaron shells (14 macarons). (It actually makes way more if you keep your piping to about 1″ diameter shells.)
  • 200 grams powdered sugar
  • 110 grams almond flour
  • ¾ teaspoon instant espresso powder (I increased this to a full teaspoon)
  • 90 grams egg whites (about 3 eggs)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 25 grams granulated sugar
 Instructions:
  1. Pulse powdered sugar, almond flour and espresso powder in a food processor until well combined. Set aside. (I just used a sieve to sift the almond flour and powdered sugar)
  2. Whip egg whites and vanilla to a nice bubbly foam.
  3. Gradually add the granulated sugar to the egg whites, continuing to beat until you have a glossy meringue that just barely holds stiff peaks.
  4. Fold the almond mix into the whipped egg whites until combined. (It’ll be a sticky, very slow-flowing, thick mass).
  5. Using a large round tip pipe the macaron onto two baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
  6. If your macarons keep a little tip in the center, get your finger wet with a little bit of cold water and push the tip down.
  7. Let the macarons sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
  8. Heat the oven to 280 degrees F. (I baked at 300F)
  9. Bake the macarons for 15 to 20 minutes, switching positions of the baking sheets halfway through. (I didn’t bother switching positions since I only had one baking sheet in at a time…I have a tiny oven)
  10. Once baked, leave the macarons in the oven, turn the oven off and open the oven door. After 15 minutes, take the macarons out. (didn’t bother with this since I had multiple batches)

Things I did this time around that were not mentioned in the instructions:

  • I aged my egg whites about 24 hours (for this recipe I used 3 egg whites).
  • I added two drops of brown food coloring to the whites along with the vanilla, pre-whipping.  Upon further research, I think maybe I should add it and the vanilla later, once the stiff peaks have formed, because that’s what all the sources I’ve checked out say.
  • I beat the meringue on high until the stiff peaks formed.  Next time I will beat on medium and wait a little longer, since the following video mentioned that beating on medium results in a sturdier meringue:
  • I added the dry ingredients to the meringue in two batches.  Next time I will add the meringue to the dry ingredients in three batches, like the video suggests.
  • My batter was blob-like in consistency, but still a little on the fluffy side.  Next time I will deflate it a little more, because I think this contributed to the shells being hollow.  Too much air.
  • I rested my macarons before baking for about 45 minutes.  I’m not sure if this was too much, but maybe next time I’ll try a little less.  I don’t know if resting time was a factor in the shells being hollow.
  • I baked a batch for 13 minutes at 300F and it seems to have had the best feet and were the most stable (meaning they weren’t still a bit raw…).  Next time I’ll try 15 minutes.
Baked at 300F for 13 minutes.
Baked at 300F for 13 minutes.
  • The ganache was a 1-1 ratio of chocolate to heavy cream.  3 oz. dark chocolate, 3 oz. heavy cream.  Let stand for a few hours until it’s stable enough to pipe onto the shells.  I will probably use this same filling next time.

You can go cross-eyed reading all the tips and tricks to get your macarons right and go mad in the process.  It’s such a finicky thing, the macaron, that techniques that work for one baker may not work for another.  Rather than drive myself nuts reading too many tips and tricks, I will take a little bit of this and a little bit of that, add those to my own common sense and experience, and find my own way.  It’s the closest thing to a scientific pursuit that I’ve come to in my baking journey.  Making macarons is not just baking…it’s pretty much a science that requires plenty of experimentation, note taking, adjusting and trial and error.  I’m probably going to make notes in a little notebook every time I make an attempt now.  And oh yes, I’m loving the opportunity to geek out here.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with the way these turned out.  The next mission is to eliminate hollow shells.  Stay tuned.

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