Macaron

per·snick·et·y

pərˈsnikədē/

adjectiveNORTH AMERICANinformal

adjective: persnickety

  • requiring a particularly precise or careful approach.adjective: pernickety

not macaron

Let’s clear up something first.  Macaroons are coconut cookies shaped like a pyramid and sometimes dipped in chocolate.

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Macaron (emphasis on that “ron”, comprendre?) are almond meringue sandwich cookies usually color coded to their intense filling.  Perhaps you’ve eaten a few?

I wanted to write a post about my trials making macaron.  Macs are persnickety to produce, but when done correctly, are a symphony of taste and texture.  Like anything made poorly or without care, your success in producing them and your resulting taste response may be along the lines of “meh”.  Outright frustration may ensue.

This is really just random thoughts on my project with my recipe if you’d like to give them a whirl.

Macaron, along with puff pastry and tempering chocolate, represent a sort of black belt of pastry production.  They are things you need to learn by doing.  The first law of macaron is you will not make a good macaron on your first try.  They will be delicious but frankly they won’t be right. Accept this and approach this recipe with patience and inquisitiveness and the rewards are great.  Are you impatient?  Go to Ladurée.

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I made twelve batches of these cookies in my ovens before hitting upon the right temperature/ mixing technique. A Google search will return many blogs devoted to troubleshooting macaron baking.  The issue is the foot.  The bottom of the cookie.  See that bubbly ring around the base of the cookie?  That and a flat bottom are what you are after.  A foot that doesn’t stick to its baking surface and a macaron that is just shy of baked crisp is the gold standard.

Ready to bake?

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First, ditch the Silpat silicone baking mats.  Heresy I know, but trust me.  Reach for old school parchment paper and draw some circles on the underside the size you’d like your cookies to be.

Mix your batter.  The mixed batter should be elastic and enough air should have been knocked out of it through mixing that a ribbon should disappear on a three count.

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Bang and rest. (The cookies, you’ve a sick mind)  Pipe your cookies and then bang the sheet on the counter once or twice. You’ll see large air bubbles pop on their surface.  Then let the macs rest before baking.  How long?  Just until your finger doesn’t stick to them when pressed lightly.  About 30 minutes. Got a humid day?…  good luck with that.

Bake your macs.  Commercial deck ovens have top heating elements and bottom heating elements which can be controlled independently.  During my training, our macs were baked with 100% bottom heat and 0% top heat.  They rose and formed a perfect foot consistently and perfectly EVERY SINGLE TIME.  Ordinary home convection ovens aren’t so simple.  Natch.  Baked too high, the macs will soufflé off the parchment and be hollow under their shell.  The main problem with too low heat is the foot will stick.  Did I mention I made 12 batches?  I found 265°F to be a perfect temperature for my home convection fan ovens. When baked properly, the macs should have the slightest bit of moisture left in them.

Sandwich your mac with whatever floats your boat. (Jams, buttercreams, curds, pastry creams etc) But here’s the thing, you absolutely MUST, at the very least, MUST chill them in an airtight container overnight or better yet freeze them for a day or two to allow them to age.  The cold rest assures a crunchy exterior and a chewy inside.  Just do it. There’s magic in the chill.

Here’s my recipe:

120g skinless sliced or slivered almonds

200g confectioners sugar

50g granulated sugar

3 egg whites at room temperature

1  In a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, process your almonds and confectioners sugar for a full minute.  Sift the resulting powder to remove the larger unpulverized almond pieces.  These can be reprocessed and resifted if you’d like. Discard what remains in the sifter.

2  Whip your egg whites with the wire whip on a stand mixer on high for about 15 seconds until frothy then lower the speed to medium and allow to whip until soft peaks form.  Begin adding the granulated sugar a bit at a time, raise the mixer speed and whip the whites just to firm peaks.  Add any paste food color at this point.  Do not use liquid food color, you have been warned.  Then whip on high to incorporate the color and maximize the stiffness of the whites.  They should just begin to lose their sheen but should not be in any way grainy.

3  Fold the almond mixture into the egg whites.  Fold together long enough that a ribbon of the batter disappears into itself on a three count.

4  Pipe circles of the cookies onto your prepared parchment and give the sheet pan a bang on the counter to displace large air pockets.  Allow the unbaked macs to rest uncovered until they lose their stickiness and a bit of their shine.

5  Bake the macs at 265°F for 15 minutes.  Turn the sheet pan and bake an additional 15 minutes.

Allow the shells to cool before removing from the parchment and sandwiching with your favorite filling. Allow them to age in the cooler.

So, did they stick to the parchment or are the feet otherwise imperfect?  Eat your mistakes. Try again, rinse, repeat.

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