Saturday, November 19, 2011

Mmmacarons...

Venturing outside my comfort zone of baking cakes and cupcakes, I decided to try to make French Macarons since I had a small amount of leftover swiss meringue buttercream and quite a few leftover frozen egg whites from making pate sucree tart shells and pastry cream.


I have wanted to try these for a while but after reading various recipes, blog posts and articles, I have to admit that I was feeling a little intimidated! 

French macarons are made with egg whites, icing sugar, granulated or caster sugar (superfine), and ground almonds. The ideal macaron has a smooth domed top, and a round base (also called the foot). The popularity of the macaron has soared in the last few years (although they have been around in France since 791) and you can find a number of books dedicated solely to these chewy, melt-in-your-mouth confections. 

There are so many possible macaron flavour combinations out there and they can be filled with buttercream, jam or ganache. 

I settled on a Maple-Cocoa recipe from a blog called Delicious Delicious Delicious. With a blog title like that, how can you go wrong? The yield of this recipe was also modest and perfect for a small amount of leftover buttercream.

For the ground almonds, I processed whole almonds (including skins) using a coffee grinder with a few almonds and a little of the powdered sugar at 5-second intervals to achieve a powdery texture. I then sifted each 'batch' of almonds and powdered sugar to catch any almond chunks that weren't sufficiently ground. I threw these back in the grinder and repeated the process until all the almonds were ground to a fine enough powder. 

I then sifted the ground almonds, remaining powdered sugar and cocoa powder into a small bowl. 

The recipe calls for caster sugar which is also known as 'superfine' in North America. I don't know if the Redpath 'Special Fine' granulated is 'fine' enough so for good measure, I ground it in my mini food processor. 

Now for the egg whites. There are some firm believers that you must used aged egg whites to make macarons. From a food safety perspective, I am really not a fan of leaving egg whites at room temperature for several days. I have several jars of egg whites in my freezer from various baking expeditions. They can be safely stored in the freezer for up to 4 months. I label each jar with the number of egg whites and the date. For this recipe I used 2 frozen egg whites that I thawed in my refrigerator overnight and let them come to room temperature prior to making the macarons. 

I piped the meringue mixture onto a Silpat liner instead of parchment paper for super easy removal! This recipe suggested leaving them to sit for 30 minutes prior to baking them. I have also read that you should leave them for at least 2 hours in order to get the right texture and adequate development of the 'foot'. I was in a hurry and let them sit for 30 minutes and the 'feet' developed just fine in the oven. I baked them for about 12 minutes but I think they could have used an extra minute or two. 



I was able to easily lift them off the liner with my hands - no need for a palette knife.

They have a little texture on the inside because I used the wrong side of the Silpat mat, ha ha!




For the filling, I had leftover vanilla swiss meringue buttercream. I beat the buttercream with a small amount of maple extract. I was not satisfied with the flavour - it tasted like an artificial extract. To remedy this, I added a little pure maple syrup at a time until I was satisfied with the taste. I also had my husband approve the flavour balance as he is a maple fanatic. 



I was extremely happy with the results of my first attempt. They are not perfectly smooth - I suppose I could have avoided the little piping 'knobs' on the top by gently tapping my pan before putting them in the oven. It is recommended that you refrigerate them for 24-48 hours to achieve the proper texture and then bring them to room temperature before enjoying them. We ate them almost right away and I had no problems with the texture! Now the only question is, what flavour do I try next?

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