Those lovely French Macarons from fancy patisserie, which melt in the mouth like a dream, always had a complicated status in my mind. These delicate beauties need a lot more time, attention and energy was my conception about their making, which kind of put me in a "it's complicated" status for them, until I prepared myself, took a deep breath and finally plunged to try making them at home. I was elated by the outcome on my first trial, and with a pat on the back, here it goes on to my blog. Like I always tell myself, "to do or not to do is trivia once you take the plunge". I'm sorted, "not so complicated it is! " (thumbs up)
Before going into the technicalities, lets first check if it's pronounced right. I had a little confusion over it and ....like it came as a bit of surprise to me, I decided to post the correct version to save you that bit of embarassment or surprise maybe. Two similar words here, Macarons and Macaroons.
What I have just baked here is a Macaron (rhymes with horn) They are sandwich-like biscuits with crisp crusts and a soft filling in between. As shown in below pic.
Macaroons, (pronounce like 'broom' or 'room') on the other hand are shown in pic below. They are dense cookies made either with coconut or with a coarse almond paste. Find this recipe on my blog.
Now that we are sorted on the pronunciation, lets go ahead to it's technical aspect. The most important component of Macarons is the Meringue. Meringue is egg white which gradually turns foamy as you whip along with gradual addition of sugar through the process. Beating or whisking causes the protein in the egg whites to unfold, forming films that trap the air bubbles, and the sugar stiffens the foam. A perfect egg white meringue is really nothing but a foam, and foam is a big collection of bubbles.
Some tips on how to go about Making the perfect Meringue:
1. For stability of foam, use fresher eggs for meringues, saving older ones for general baking.
2. Do not make egg white meringues on a rainy or really humid day (remember that they are mostly air and if that air contains a lot of water, it will have an effect).
3. Cold eggs separate more easily than those at room temperature because the whites hold together better.
4. The tiniest bit of fat or egg yolk will wreck a meringue, as fat interferes with the formation of good foam. When separating eggs, if a speck of egg yolk falls into the egg whites, lift it out with an empty eggshell half. Do not try to fish it out with your fingers; the oil on your skin will prevent the egg whites from expanding.
5. Room Temperature: After separating, bring egg whites to room temperature to ensure volume when beating (as warmer eggs whip faster than cold eggs). Egg whites right out of the refrigerator will not whip well. A beaten egg white can foam to 6 to 8 times its original volume if the egg whites have been at room temperature for 30 minutes before beating.
6. Copper, stainless-steel, or glass bowls work best for making meringues. Avoid using plastic bowls for whipping egg whites as they can often harbor traces of grease or fat, which prevents the whites from getting stiff. Whichever type of bowl you use, be sure it is spotlessly clean. Make sure that all your utensils are immaculately clean, completely grease-free, and completely dry. Meringues are very sensitive and they do not like any moisture.
7. NOTE: I would not hand beat a meringues (too much work). Use a hand beater or a stand mixer.
8. Do not add sugar before whipping the egg whites. Adding sugar at the beginning can double the time you have to whip the egg whites to get a foam. Add the sugar at the very end when the whites have formed soft peaks.
I like to use superfine sugar when making meringue because it dissolves faster than table sugar. When beating egg whites and the recipe calls for sugar, Gradually add the sugar, a few spoonfuls at a time and beating the whole time.
9. As a general rule, add a total of 1/4 cup of granulated or superfine sugar for each egg white. Do not make meringues that have less than 2 tablespoons of sugar per egg white. If you use any less, the foam will not set and the meringue will shrink. To tell if the sugar is dissolved when you are beating egg whites for meringues, rub a bit of the foam between your fingers. If it feels gritty, the sugar is not dissolved, so keep beating for a few minutes. It should feel completely smooth when the sugar is dissolved.
10. For soft peaks – Place egg whites in a clean glass or metal bowl (not plastic), and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed or with a rotary beater until egg whites form peaks with tips that curl over when the beaters are lifted. For stiff peaks, continue beating egg whites on high speed until they form peaks with tips that stand straight when the beaters are lifted.
For stiff peaks – Continue beating egg whites on high speed until they form peaks with tips that stand straight when the beaters are lifted. Once you start a making whipped egg whites, continue it straight through and finish it off. Do not stop halfway to take a break. The meringue is done when it is not runny and when you can hold a spoonful of it upside down and none of it drops off. Also when you swirl a spoon through it and the swirls hold their shape indefinitely.
So, once you have those meringues ready, lets go to the next level of piping them onto a baking mat, parchment or baking paper.
I had bought these reusable macaron baking mats with heart shaped motifs long time ago, and finally they are out and about. And yeah this recipe was complimentary along with this beautiful mat. So, a big thank you to whoever came up with it... it was just right for an amateur like me. Ok, now wait a minute have I already talked you out of the recipe with the baking mat? Just chill, you can make them even if you don't have them. All you will need is baking paper and pencil and you are good to go. You can simply bake the shape you like. Watch this video from Youtube and see how.
Below is the Picture of the Baking mat I used.
Keep your desired cream filling ready.
Once the Macaron cookies are out of the oven, allow them to cool down completely before taking them off the mat. Pipe generous amount of cream on one side of the cookie and top it up with another cookie to form a sandwich. And voila Macarons ready!!! Mission accomplished!
Believe me these are just melt in the mouth with the crisp outer cover carrying dessicated coconut and moist inner cream filling. Yummm...
- For the Meringue mixture:
- Almonds- 45g
- Baking powder- 1 pinch
- Icing sugar- 130 gm
- Dessicated coconut- 40 gm
- Large egg white- 1
- Salt- a pinch
- Granulated sugar- 40 gm
- For the Cream filling:
- Cream- 60 gm
- Dark Chocolate- 40 gm
- To make the Almond powder:
- 1Blanch the almonds in boiling water for 2 mins, then drain. Shell the skin by squeezing the almonds. Allow the almonds to dry, ideally in the oven or a heater for about 15 mins.(keep a close eye, do not allow to color). Allow it to cool completely before grinding it by hitting pulse button for few seconds-off- pulse few seconds- off, till almonds are dry ground. This method of "pulse-off" is essential to ensure that a dry almond powder is obtained. Continuous grinding should be avoided as it will result in oil formation which will make the powder a thick paste.
- 2Add the icing sugar and grind again, then mix the baking powder.
- 3Line a baking tray with reusable baking mat or baking paper /parchment with desired shape drawn and placed facing down. (I used reusable baking mat with heart shaped motifs).
- To make the Cream filling:
- 1Heat the cream. Break the chocolate and melt it in the cream. Place in fridge to chill.
- To make the Meringue mixture:
- 1Whisk the egg white with the salt until frothy, Gradually add the sugar and whisk the egg white until it stands in stiff peaks. Then fold in the almond mixture with a mixing spoon. Add the dessicated coconut to the almond mixture.
- 2Transfer the meringue mixture into a piping bag with a plain nozzle. Pipe a small amount of mixture into each of the 30 motifs on the reusable baking mat/ parchment or baking paper. Allow to rest for 30 mins in a warm place. Until the macarons develop a skin on top.
- 3Preheat oven to 170 degrees C, bake the macarons for 17 minutes, until the feet are well-risen and the macarons don’t stick to the parchment paper. Allow to cool completely before filling with your favourite cream.
- 4Whisk the chocolate cream until it stands in stiff peaks. Transfer to a piping bag with plain nozzle.
- 5Assemble the macarons by piping the chocolate cream on the inner side of the macaron and topping it up with another macaron like a sandwich. Place in the fridge before serving. enjoy!!