Friday, November 18, 2011

French Macaron Recipe Recap

In my last post, Macaron Madness, I promised to share a French Macaron recipe - I'm actually going to post links to three and give you some feedback on my experiences with each. (Warning - long blog post ahead!)

Many of the recipes I find are written using grams for measurements. I have a recipe from my husband's cousin's daughter in Australia that I want to try but have yet to do so because I don't have an adequate kitchen scale. Her recipe uses a totally different method for making macarons and I'm excited to try it! The three recipes I'm sharing, however, use US measurements.

I've made seven batches of French Macarons so far (or more, I've lost track) and have only had one recipe flop. That time many of the shells cracked, stuck to the parchment and didn't form adequate "feet" (see below under Sitting time for an explanation on "feet"). Still, most were good enough to eat. So I ate them (I shared some, too). This doesn't mean that I actually have French Macarons figured out. I'm a total French Macaron amateur and I have yet to find a recipe that I like 100% and never know if each batch is going to turn out or not.

Here's some of my notes on making French Macarons. If you are impatient for the recipes, simply scroll down to find them.

Almond Flour - at first I processed my own almonds but, for simplicity, I've started buying Bob's Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour and am having good luck with that. If you make your own flour the recipes call for blanched almonds and some specify "non slivered." I have yet to find blanched almonds that are NOT slivered. I've used slivered blanched almonds to make almond flour and have had fine results. 
Almond meal/flour and baking stuff
Sifting - several recipes call for sifting the almond meal and the powdered sugar. I've been doing this. Sifting sorts out larger bits of almond in the almond flour which, I believe, gives the macarons a more consistent texture.
Egg whites (with a drop of red food coloring) beaten until stiff peaks formed
Egg Whites - some recipes call for you to "age" your egg whites up to three days. I haven't seen a huge difference when I have aged my whites and when I have not - but I'm no expert so probably don't know what I'm looking for and haven't actually aged any egg whites for a full three days. It's been a time issue for me. I have aged them for a day or two but never three.
Ryan helped me make my last batch of macarons. Here he's folding the almond/powdered sugar mixture into the egg white mixture. 
Rocket always hangs out with us when we're baking - here he's literally "underfoot"
Pastry Bags - recipes call for you to pipe the meringue using a pastry bag. Some recipes say to simply use a gallon zip-lock bag as a pastry bag - you just cut a small hole in a corner for the batter to come out. I don't have a pastry bag and have had good enough luck using a zip-lock baggie. 

Parchment - recipes suggest baking the meringues on parchment. Some suggest silpats (a non-stick baking mat) I don't have any silpats so use parchment.

Baking sheets - I use insulated baking sheets. When I run out of those I layer a smaller sheet inside a larger one. I have good luck with insulated sheets.
The macaron shells sit for about a half hour before they are baked
Templates - some recipes suggest using templates so your macarons all come out the exact same size. I have made my own templates by simply drawing circles on the back side of my parchment. I find drawing 40 circles on parchment to be a lot of work so usually just wing it and pipe the macarons. After piping somewhere around 300 of them I'm getting pretty good at making them about the same size.

Size - most macarons I've seen are around the size of an Oreo cookie. This is a nice size. Some are bigger, about 3" round. I made my last batch really small, just over an inch round. They all taste good.

Sitting time - after you pipe your meringues you are supposed to let your meringues "sit" for awhile until the tops are glossy and have formed a slight crust. This sitting time is also essential for the meringues to form "feet," the frilly look around the edges.
Finished product! Note the "feet" around around the edges of the meringue shells.
Baking temperature - I'm having good luck starting the oven at 375 and, once it's preheated, turning the temp down to 325 to bake. This is the method used in the Lavender French Macaron recipe. Each time you put a new pan of meringues in the oven you need to preheat the oven again - and be sure to turn it down. I ruined a batch once when I forgot!

Baking time - for the size of macarons I'm making (1" to 1 3/4") 10 minutes in the oven seems about right. 

Now here's the links to the recipes I've tried.

Raspberry Chocolate French Macarons: This is the first recipe I tried. I over baked them and thought they meringue shells were ruined but added the ganache layer anyway and stuck them in a Tupperware and left them on the counter overnight. In the morning the kids found them asked me if they could have a cookie. I figured they could try the awful things if they wanted. They ran upstairs to tell me they were the best cookies ever. I ran down to try one. The over baked shells had softened overnight and they were indeed the best cookies ever! 

I find the recipe easy to follow and had decent results with it. If you try it I suggest lowering the bake time to ten minutes and then watching them carefully so the tops don't burn. I just bake one sheet at a time so don't switch racks like the recipe suggests. For the almond flour I just took a 6 oz bag of blanched almonds and processed them in my food processor until as fine as possible. 

Lavender French Macarons: This recipe introduced me to aging the egg whites, to templates and techniques for piping the meringue shells. I have good result with the meringue though I find them a little sweet. I wasn't thrilled with the buttercream recipe (though my shortening was a bit old, that might have been a problem) but you could use any buttercream recipe you'd like. I also added pink coloring to the buttercream. This blogsite links to two other macaron recipes - just click on the "French Macarons" tag. Uh oh, he has a recipe for Salted Caramel - I'm going to have to make them now!

Chocolate Kahlua Mocha Buttercream French Macarons: I discovered this recipe just two days ago and love it! I like the simplicity of the ingredients - 1 C almond flour, 2 C confectioner's sugar, 3 T cocoa powder, 3 egg whites - something nice about the 1-2-3 in the numbers there. I like the buttercream recipe (or maybe I like it because there's Kahlua in it, mmmm). Note that this recipe calls for piping 3" meringues and baking for 15 minutes. I made mine 1" and baked for 10 minutes at oven preheated to 375 then turned down to 325 (except for the batch when I forgot to set the timer. Near flop. Totally under baked so, figuring they were ruined, I stuck them back in the oven and baked again. They turned out fine).

This is a loooong blog entry so if you read this far you should get a prize - a French Macaron. If you know where I live I'll give you one - or more.

Oh, and I feel I should make some kind of disclaimer statement - I am not a professional baker or macaron maker. The notes above are just my own notes based on my so-far-so good baking experiences. You might follow every recipe to a T and follow my notes but your macarons still may flop. Just saying. Don't get mad at me if they do (and try to eat them anyway, they usually are still kinda good).

I think my next macaron blog entry will simply be pictures and talk a bit about flavors. A visual treat!

3 comments:

painted fish studio said...

loved this post! i never thought i'd try making macarons myself... seems like so much work! but you have some great tips and it doesn't seem too hard... but then again, it baked goods always seem to taste better when someone else makes them! :)

shebicycles said...

I have printed it out - and thank you so much for the wonderfully detailed post on how to do this. Now, if I can just get around and attempt to make them. :D

Savorique said...

The aging of the whites is for getting rid of excess humidity of the egg. It's not mandatory each time but is important when the weather / kitchen atmosphere is very humid.
You may very well always follow thoroughly the same recipe yet never get a consistent result because of the humidity parameter which affects the macaronage process.