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Saturday, April 20, 2019

Fussy French Macarons


Seasonal Recipe of the Week
I have always heard that making French macarons is very difficult. Four simple ingredients, how complex can it be? Well it turns out to be true! I assumed the reason people failed was that they did not follow the instructions carefully enough. Being a pretty experienced baker who is very good at reading and following a recipe, I decided to give it a go last night. I prepared myself by watching 6 different videos on the "fool proof methods" people use to achieve the proper texture, surface, feet, and flavor we all know and love. Six recipes, six different methods, six times I was annoyed and confused. I decided to try 2 different recipes, one from the Tasty website and one from the ex-con herself, Martha Stewart. One took 2 hours to make (including the resting and drying time) one took 15 minutes to make, same ingredients, different results. In the end I have combined methods from all the recipes I read and created my own method using basically Martha's recipe but not her technique. One of the most important thing is to weigh out the ingredients in grams as it is much more accurate. I had just okay results (as you can see by the photos) but I learned so much each time I failed. I always say to master a new recipe you need to make it at least 3 times so I am going to do it again today and will post an update if it is noticeably better. One factor I need to mention is humidity, which greatly impacts the cooking of meringue which is what these cookies essentially are. Today it is 97% humidity and pouring, so I am factoring that into my potentially crappy results. All the recipe instructions agreed on one thing, after you fill them you have to refrigerate them for at least 24 hours before serving so it's too soon to say if all this fuss was worth it. I will keep you posted.


Ingredients
71 grams Almond flour (I used Trader Joe's)
117 grams confectioners sugar
1 pinch salt
2 large egg whites, room temperature (I used organic)
53 grams granulated sugar

Optional
2 drops gel food coloring of your choice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla or other extract or flavoring

Procedure
Preheat oven to 300 degrees with rack in lower third of oven. Take a piece of parchment the same size as your sheet pan and draw 3/4-inch circles in sharpie 1 inch apart. Turn it over so ink is on bottom and place on sheet pan.

Place almond flour and confectioners sugar in a food processor and pulse around 14 times to make a super fine texture. Pass the mixture through a fine mesh sieve to get out any big pieces. Whisk egg whites in electric mixer with a pinch of salt. Once foamy slowly sprinkle in the granulated sugar and whip till glossy and stiff peaks form. Add flavoring (extracts or flavored oils) and food coloring, if desired, and beat on highest for speed 30 seconds.

Add dry ingredients in three additions carefully folding from bottom over the top then turning the bowl. This will probably take about 40-45 folds. Then you need to press some of the air out of the batter by pushing it against the side of the bowl and turning. You know the batter is correctly mixed when you can let it fall off the spatula and it ribbons enough so you can make a figure eight with the batter which dissapears after 30 seconds. The batter should look like shiny flowing lava.

Transfer batter to pastry bag, remember it's pretty runny so it might come out of the bottom of the bag. My new trick is I fold up the bottom of the bag up and hold it with a bag clip until I am ready to start. Dab some batter (remaining in bowl) onto bottom corners of parchment so it does not lift when piping cookies.

Pipe batter onto rounds from the side so you don't end up with a nipple on the top (one of my mistakes). Tap sheets firmly against counter 2 or 3 times to release air bubbles. Then let sit for 60 minutes till a dull film forms over macaroons and when you touch them your finger does not stick.

Bake 1 sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until risen and just set, 13 minutes. Let cool on rack. Pipe or spread filling on flat sides of half of cookies; sandwich with remaining half. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. I don't know why but will know tomorrow! Below are some photos of my mistakes!

 
Left to right: rookie mistake, they are too close together; macarons are much too tall and they were piped incorrectly.

Some closing notes: It's very confusing figuring out which recipe and which techniques to trust. I always look for a recipe which comes from a well-known source and one which has been tested and the notes are added to the recipe. Remember weather will always be a factor, if it's crazy hot or crazy dry that affects time of cooking and possibly temperature. And finally I always give myself at least 3 tries to get it right. After that I just go to the movies!

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