09 November 2011

les premièrs macarons

Recently I wrote about my new obsession with macarons and how I was planning to battle the India humidity to make my first batch. I did battle the humidity and the little cookies came out much better than I expected.

Per the book Cecile Cannone's Macarons: Authentic French Cookie Recipes from the MacarOn Cafe I separated my egg whites two days before using them. Early in the morning on baking day, I took my egg whites and other ingredients out of the refrigerator to bring them up to room temperature. I also turned on the oven early and brought the dehumidifier into the kitchen to dry out the room as much as possible.

I had to dry out my almond meal before I started the real baking and that took about thirty minutes in the oven. After that things moved along much more smoothly than I expected. I used the Cuisinart food processor (nearly blowing a fuse but stopping when I could feel the electricity struggling) to grind the almond meal and confectioner's sugar (or icing sugar) into a fine, smooth powder. I had to use an electric handheld mixer rather than my KitchenAid stand mixer to beat the egg whites (because the KitchenAid did blow out a few weeks ago and I haven't been able to get it repaired yet) so it took a long time to get the egg whites and sugar to the stiff peaks they needed to be at but it eventually happened. And I did a little dance of joy because I was so relieved and happy to see them beat properly!

I carefully folded the egg whites with sugar into the almond meal with sugar to complete the batter -- yeah, lots of sugar. So far things had gone by the book but I actually had no idea if my batter consistency was correct. It seemed useable so I kept going.

Getting the batter into the piping sleeves was a tricky, sticky mess and who knows how much I wasted. I had a blocked nozzle once or twice with some almond meal clumps but for the most part the batter flowed just as it was supposed to. I made my little circles on my parchment-paper-lined baking sheet, let the cookies rest for a few minutes, then popped them into the oven.

It's the resting and cooking time that can be difficult. The mixing of stuff is all mechanics, but the resting and cooking is a total crapshoot. The cracked cookies and the ones without the nice little shelf on the bottom are the ones that either did not rest long enough, or rested too long, or were not cooked long enough, or were cooked too long, or the oven wasn't opened enough times to let out steam while they were baking, or they were removed from the tray and parchment too early, or too late. There are lots of factors to worry about.

Although my introductory photograph is purple, I did not use food coloring for this first attempt. The purple is the result of my fooling around with some new photo editing stuff. I wanted to see what the macarons looked like naked, so to speak.

They looked pretty good. Much better than I expected them too. They were shiny on top and not all of them cracked. The cracking is the result of too much moisture but there are a few tricks I can use to combat the moisture next time, especially since we are moving away from the rainy season.

Fresh out of the oven. My first tray, before I got the hang of making perfect circles.
The best macaron from the whole batch.
Lots of them cracked.
They tasted great. They are sweet, that's for sure. But they melted in our mouths just like they were supposed to. We ate most of them plain, but when we had some friends over for dinner I made sandwich cookies, some with chocolate frosting left over from birthday cupcakes a few days earlier and some with cherry preserves.

I'm game to keep trying. I have some colors and flavors in mind to play around with. I've purchased several macaron cookbooks lately and I love the colorful photos. I kind of want to make them just so I can take photos of them, too!

Note: I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on the book link and ultimately decide to buy it, I will receive a small amount of money.
All photos taken by me. 


Carrie said...

After traveling to France this past summer, I've become a big fan on Macarons as has my 8 year old. I'm so amazed how the craze has spread everywhere, we just got some at a bakery yesterday.

I'm impressed at your baking skills, they look wonderful.

Stephanie said...

Thanks! When you break them down to little steps, they're not too difficult, but they're time consuming. I'm excited to try again soon though! I wished I lived in the US (or Paris!) so I could buy them more easily.



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