Friday, January 27, 2012

Parisian Macarons

Cardamom Lemon with Buttercream Frosting and Chocolate with Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache

I have never eaten a french maracon, before today that is. All the bakeries in the Slope like Trois Pommes and Almondine have these exquisitely colored cookies, although that noun seems too ignoble for macarons, but I always give in to the chocolate eclair. As a result I was a macaron virgin until today, which apparently is very gauche in the cooking blog circles I now run in. There is an entire community out there in the blogosphere dedicated to perfecting macarons.
They diagnose your mistakes based on the symptoms of your lopsided, bubbly, or footless cookies and post pictures of their beautiful masterpieces. Based on the technicality and fragility of the recipes, one would think they are performing a hemispherectomy (which is exactly what it sounds like). But you're not, right? They're just cookies that happen to be a bit snobby.
After all they are Parisian. I was certainly timid when I sat down to view all my tutorials and down four different recipes but my confidence grew with help from Bravetart's recipe which assured me that I did not need to age my egg-whites or use dehydrated egg-white powder to stiffen my meringue.
I was nearly certain that my macarons (not to be confused with coconut macaroons) would fail miserably, but when I peaked into the oven and saw that they were developing perfectly ruffled feet (the little ring around the cookie), I squealed and ran into my dad's room screaming, "Daddy, daddy, my macarons grew feet!" He was on a serious conference call and stopped, pausing the entire meeting, to compliment my achievement. I think he was wondering why I didn't claim to be dying, since that's the only bona fide reason to interrupt him. I thought it was just as important and he did too after tasting them.
To begin you need almond meal, which according to all of these blogs, is rather easy to find. I however searched two grocery stores and couldn't find it so instead I made my own. I purchased about 150 grams of almonds, which I then put in the food processor off and on for ten minutes, until it was a fairly fine powder. It is very important to weigh all of your ingredients on a scale rather than rely on volumetric measurements.
Unlike in lab where we have digital scales that you can re-calibrate based on the weight of your weighing boat, I had to subtract the weight of my bowl from the final weight to make sure that all my measurements were specific enough to satisfy the macaron judges, whom I felt were most certainly watching me. I measured out 115 grams of almond meal and 230 grams of powdered confectioner's sugar into the food processor together and ground the mixture for a minute at a time.
Then I sifted the mixture through a strainer into a bowl and ground the parts that did not go through. I reground those afterwards until nearly all of the mixture was fine enough to pass through a sieve. I set that aside and in my mixing bowl I added 144 grams of egg-whites (aged for about 30 minutes not that that did anything but increase my chances of contracting salmonella poisoning), 72 grams of sugar and 1/2 tsp of salt and beat on a low speed (4 on a kitchen aid) for 3 minutes, on 7 for 3 minutes, on 8 for three minutes and then I paused to add my flavor.
I might also add that I split my ingredients in half: part for the chocolate macarons and part for the cardamom lemon ones. So for my first batch I added ground cardamom seed (I used a spoon after I broke open the pods to crush them), 1/2 tsp of lemon extract to the meringue, and some yellow food gel to color the cookies. I mixed it for one last time according to Bravetart's recipe on my mixer's highest speed for a minute or so.
Then I folded in the almond/confectioner's sugar mix with a rubber spatula. You must fold it so that everything mixes (this could take a minute or so) and make sure you press against the sides to burst any bubbles the egg-whites might be holding on to. I then cut off the tip of a ziplock bag and added my batter to it and squirted 1.5 inch circles of batter onto wax paper covered cookie tins (I recommend silicone mats instead because the wax paper stuck a lot to my cookies).
Tap the trays a few times to expel the air bubbles. Set your oven to 300 degrees and put them in for 18 minutes. Let them cool for 20 minutes or so and be careful not to break the very fragile tops when you pick them up. Each macaron uses two cookies like an oreo with frosting or some sort of filling in the middle. To complement my cardamom lemon shells, I made buttercream frosting out of Irish butter (just eyeball this), confectioner's sugar and a dash of brandy.
Mix it together adding more powdered sugar until it doesn't taste like straight butter, but rather like delicious frosting. I put a tsp or so on each cookie and then gently pressed them together. My chocolate macarons were not as successful as the cardamom ones simply because I added too much cocoa powder, which made the batter much too stiff.
Instead of cardamom powder (25 grams) and lemon extract, I added 25 grams of cocoa powder (I recommend less). My filling was bittersweet chocolate ganache. Boil 1 cup of heavy cream and then add it to a bowl of 8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate so that the chocolate melts.
Stir continuously. In the meantime I softened 4 tbs of butter and pressed it around my plate with a rubber spatula. Once the cream and chocolate mixture has cooled a bit, stir in the butter until everything is mixed together and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes or so.
The chocolate macarons turned out a bit lumpy and chewy, but still delicious, however, the cardamom lemon macarons were amazing. I am so excited to experiment with different combinations of flavors and to not perfect but improve my macaron skills. The possibilities are endless.

1 comment:

  1. A co-worker of mine went home to Canada for the holidays. When she returned she brought macarons to the office. What a special treat. I can't wait to try Nika's. They look so beautiful...and that bittersweet chocolate ganache filling....mmmmm....where's my spoon!