Monday, January 02, 2012

Orange cream macarons

So once again I had leftover swiss meringue buttercream and leftover egg whites from making swiss meringue buttercream. The most logical and delicious solution to this problem is the macaron.

I am hardly an expert in macarons. This is only my third time making them. My two other macaron adventures were maple cocoa macarons from Delicious Delicious Delicious with the exception that I preferred the flavour of maple syrup to maple extract, and chocolate peppermint macarons (using the same cocoa shell as the previous ones). Before embarking on another macaron experiment, I decided to do a bit of research again. It amazes me how much variation exists in macaron recipes and techniques. I checked numerous websites, online videos and books (including my Larousse Gastronomique, which seemed significantly different from other recipes - bake at 400ºF??). I narrowed down my recipe choices using 2 criterion 1) I do not have powdered egg whites in my pantry, therefore I excluded all recipes requiring powdered egg whites, and 2) I did not want the fuss of using an Italian meringue technique. The Italian meringue technique involves heating up sugar and water to the soft ball stage (240ºF) and then carefully pouring the hot syrup in a steady stream, into medium peak meringue with your mixer on low speed. You want to stream the hot syrup down the side of your mixing bowl to firstly avoid pouring the hot mixture in too fast and scrambling your egg whites and secondly, to avoid pouring it over your moving beater and getting hot sugar syrup in your face.

I decided on the ingredient ratios from Ms. Humble's Scatter Plot Macarons, mainly because I love that there was a very scientific/analytical method to developing this recipe.

The original ingredient list is as follows:
120 g almond meal
200 g powdered/confectioner's sugar
100 g egg whites
30-35 g granulated sugar
food colouring gel

Before I start, I wipe all of my utensils down with lemon juice to ensure that everything is grease-free. This includes the prep bowl that I'm pouring my egg whites into, my mixing bowl (you don't need it dried off as the acid in the lemon helps to whip up your egg whites), my mixer beaters and my spatula.

I used pasteurized egg whites from a carton (leftover from making buttercream), weighed them out and let them sit at room temperature for several hours. If you are separating whole eggs, 1 egg white is equivalent to about 30 g.

For the almonds, rather than using almond meal, I used whole raw almonds (including the skin). If you do not want the rustic speckled nature from the almond skin colour, then you can use blanched almonds.

I weighed 120 g of whole almonds and processed them (about 30 g at a time) with about a tablespoon of the powdered sugar. I end up sifting this mixture several times with the remaining powdered sugar to ensure that I have a finely powdered mixture.

For the granulated sugar, I weighed out 35 g and then I also processed this using my mini food-processor to resemble caster sugar which has a finer texture. I let it settle for a minute before opening the food processor.

For mixing the egg whites, as much as I absolutely adore my stand mixer, I used my hand mixer since it is a small volume mixture. Beat the egg whites until they are foamy and begin to hold a shape, and then with the mixer on low-medium speed, add the granulated/caster sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time. Once all of the sugar is added, I beat the meringue on high (number 5, the highest setting, on my KitchenAid handheld mixer is really not all that fast) until the meringue had stiff glossy peaks. At this point you can mix in your gel colour. I chose orange since I was making orange cream macarons.

I then folded in my sifted almond and powdered sugar mixture (about 1/4 at a time) until it was all mixed in nice and evenly.

Pipe the meringue mixture onto Silpat mat or parchment-lined baking sheets (if you're using parchment, tack down the corners with a dab of your meringue mixture) in little quarter to loonie-sized rounds (I like my macarons to be a bit on the larger size). Gently tap your sheet on the counter to get rid of any piping peaks and bubbles and allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

I baked my macaron shells at 300ºF for 17 minutes on the middle oven rack. I had one baking sheet lined with my Silpat mat and one sheet lined with parchment. I did not find any appreciable difference between the two except that I found it much easier to remove the shells from the Silpat Mat. I placed my baking sheets on a cooling rack and allowed them to cool completely before I attempted to lift the shells.

For the filling, I used leftover vanilla swiss meringue buttercream flavoured with Whittington's Natural Orange Essence. To reconstitute leftover swiss meringue buttercream, heat about 1/3 of it for about 5-10 seconds in the microwave until warm (it may liquify slightly), add this to your cold buttercream and beat on high. You'll notice it becoming creamy fairly early on, but looking closely it may look slightly separated. Keep beating it on high until the texture is fluffy and the buttercream is smooth and shiny looking. I did not measure the amount of buttercream that I had left. I simply added a 1/4 teaspoon of flavouring at a time until I achieved the flavour intensity that I wanted.

I think this recipe will be a keeper. I look forward to trying many more flavour and colour combinations.

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