aspiring american in paris first batch of macarons...
So I did it! From scratch. By my own handiwork. With no help whatsoever. Just allot, allot, allot of reading of course. And can you blame me? These suckers are a nightmare for every novice foodie or aspiring pastry chef. But after a while (re: two days of research interrupted by my own 48 hour old stench) I finally lifted my head and closed my sagging eyes, went to bed, and promised myself to just awake the next day fresh, fearless, and ready for an adventure. Everything should be taken with a grain of salt right (pun intended!)? So I accepted that I might be defeated, that those macarons would emerge from my Granny's old little oven with no feet, concave lids, burnt bottoms, and the color of mud. But low and behold, none of that dare take place! You know, after watching Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice marathon style for the last few months, I am really starting to believe that people who want to survive an extensive surgery, or kick cancer treatment in the ass, just have to believe in the positive all the way through, as if confidence and optimism were the last remaining emotions left in the world and you had no choice. Same should go for baking. Why on Earth should home bakers torture themselves by the elusive reputation of one small little cookie? Just believe in yourself and shove all the foolishness of everyone else's bad experiences in the far part of your brain.
1 cup (4 ounces) ground blanched almonds (I used Oh!Nuts)
6 tablespoons fresh egg whites (from about 3 extra-large eggs)
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
filling (see recipe below)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, pulse your ground almonds a few times to make sure they get to flour consistency. In a medium bowl, whisk together confectioners' sugar and almond flour. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip egg whites with salt on medium speed until foamy. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar. Continue to whip until stiff glossy peaks form. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in the confectioners' sugar mixture until completely incorporated.
- Line baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Fit a pastry bag with a 3/8-inch #4 round tip, and fill with batter (I didn't have all that fanciness, I just used a 99cent store pastry bag and cut the tip 1/2 inch). Pipe 1-inch disks onto prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between cookies. The batter will spread a little. Let stand at room temperature until dry, and a soft skin forms on the tops of the macarons and the shiny surface turns dull, about 15 minutes.
- Bake, with the door of the oven slightly ajar (or not, depends on your oven, I didn't need to), until the surface of the macarons is completely dry, about 15 minutes. Remove baking sheet to a wire rack and let the macarons cool completely on the baking sheet. Gently peel off the parchment. Their tops are easily crushed, so take care when removing the macarons from the parchment. Use immediately or store in an airtight container, refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month.
- To fill the macarons: Fill a pastry bag with the filling. Turn macarons so their flat bottoms face up. On half of them, pipe about 1 teaspoon filling. Sandwich these with the remaining macarons, flat-side down, pressing slightly to spread the filling to the edges. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.Salted Butter Caramel Sauce
1/8 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 ounce salted butter (you may use cultured salted as well, as I did)
- Heat the heavy cream in a saucepan until boiling. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.
- Combine the water, sugar, and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.
- Stir just until the sugar has dissolved.
- Cook without stirring until the caramel is a deep golden (you may play around with the darkness of your caramel, but be careful, as sugar cooks very quickly at this point and will easily blacken if you don't stop the cooking by setting the saucepan in a pan of ice water).
- When the caramel has reached the golden color, immediately pour in the warm cream.
- The sauce will bubble up. Allow it to become smooth before proceeding.
- Add the butter and whisk in until smooth. I also go ahead here and pour mixture into a stand mixer, add sifted confectioner's sugar in until it reaches a consistency I like.
- Use warm or at room temperature. It should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge, where it will become quite stiff. Allow it to come to room temperature after storing. At room temperature, it is still very thick, so give it a hearty whisk to get it to spreading consistency, or warm it (very briefly) over low heat, stirring all the while.
Honestly, these macarons were delicious! I will not sit here and say they will trump Laduree, but to have Paris a bit closer to home anytime I like, its a very painless process once all the stress about failing subsides. You end up with a great homemade product that otherwise would cost and arm and a leg. I could go without the super nutty flavor of the almonds, so I am up for trying the hazelnut version next, which I discovered on my beloved Franish Nonspeaker!
WHAT I LEARNED:
Ha, wouldn't it be a pathological lie if I denied having learned anything? Are you crazy! It was low stress, but full of new knowledge. For one, mis en place is beyond important for this particular recipe, as everything is about temperament and one ingredient relying on the upcoming ingredient to be ready and at the right temperature. So, mis en place dolls! Then, make sure to learn about your oven. I read so many conflicting things about oven ajar vs oven closed. It was one of the hottest summer days, so I took a risk and figured I didn't need to add any extra humidity and kept my oven door closed. Also, when it comes to whole folding of ingredients, it really helps to watch videos to see just how one should manipulate the spatula, and at what speed and for how long. That is the key to the shells. When it came to piping the shells, I don't have any fancy things okay. I totally took a spice can and sloppily traced circles onto the parchment paper in lieu of a template sheet (which means uneven and mismatching shells, but oh well!). As for the filling, oh my! The salted caramel is so quick to golden, that the first go I completely burned it. So watch that pot closely and DO NOT STIR while its cooking (I did that too, and it turned into a rock). Otherwise, its sooooo yummy and my fave filling so far. I used it for cupcakes a few days later. Oh, and that whole airtight container thing is so true. I put my macarons in a cake stand since I was so proud, they needed showing off. The next day, they were as hard and crumbly brittle as, well, as poorly stored macarons!