Mac’ing My Way Through Life

I absolutely LOVE macarons, I love eating them, discovering unusual flavours. Before I learnt how to make them, I always thought “what is that crinckled bubble thing at the bottom”, had no idea why it was even there. But aren’t they just the cutest delights to look at, admire, such sheer perfection. (I am warning you, this post is pretty long)

So what is a Macaron? And is it really french?…… Well that is another question in itself. A Macaron is of course a meringue based sweet confection, it sits in the petit four category because its eaten in one bite, but if you are like me, one small bite goes a long way, you can really observe, taste and see all the tiny details. Which is then filled with ganache, buttercream or jam and sandwiched between two meringue cookies. Macaron is also known as a Gerbet or Paris Macaron originating in Italy, created by the monks in the 8th Century. The word Macaron is derived from the Italian word Maccerone, which means to crush and it is believed to represent the crushed almonds, which is the main essential ingredient. The first macaron was introduced to France in 1533 which was brought over by Catherine de’Medici’s Italian pastry chef. 

There are many famous pastry chefs specialising in maracons, in France there is The Picasso of Pastry and my biggest inspiration, Pierre Hermé – using pleasure as his only guide

Chef Pierre Desfontaines of Ladurée was also credited for his flavours in the earlier parts of the 20th century.

Luxemburgerli in Switzerland, smaller and lighter macarons, melt in your mouth goodness, and what perfection to look at! A box of these in my hands will go down in a few hours – strictly no sharing!

Lets not forget, Macaron day is also celebrated on March 20th, created in 2005 by the man himself, Pierre Hermé, where a percentage of sales are donated to a charity. On this very day, exclusive flavours are given to customers and a free sample too.

Now, we have covered the history part, lets get down to some serious business of making these little gems. There are two methods: A. French Meringue and B. Italian Meringue. Very two different methods, same ingredients, just French meringue requies the piped rounds to rest for at least 1-2 hours till they are completely dried out, and little feet start to form (feet is what they stand on, the crinckled bubble thingys). Italian meringue can rest for 20 minutes or if you are in a rush, directly goes into the oven!

French Meringue:

  • 125g Icing sugar
  • 65g ground almonds
  • 60g egg whites
  • 12g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • food colouring of your choice

Method:

  1. Make sure your mixing bowl and whisk attachment is free of any grease. Clean with lemon and a paper towel.
  2. Crack the egg whites in the bowl (making sure no yolk is in there) and whisk.
  3. Start slowly allowing bubbles to form, then to a medium speed till its foamy. Add the caster sugar, and continuing whisking till its all incorporated. You want a glossy, stiff meringue!
  4. Sift all the dry ingredients and add to meringue mixture. Gently fold in with a maryse but also force the powder into the meringue, keeping the aeration. Add the vanilla extract and food colouring. If the consistency of the mixture is too thick, add a little bit of egg white, it should be a dropping consistency, but not loose that it all fall out!
  5. Fill piping bag with round nozzle 10, pipe rounds onto a silpat mat, they must all be consistent. (If you have a macaron mat, use that! If not, draw rounds onto parchment paper using a round 3cm cutter and use that as a template)
  6. Allow the macarons to completely dry out for 1-2 hours, they should have a skin on top.
  7. Place an empty tray on the top rack and then place the macaron tray underneathe (this prevents the macs from losing the colour and also burning)
  8. Bake at 140 degrees for 14-16 minutes. Test: feet should form and they should release easily once moved.

Fillings:

Chocolate Ganache:

  • 200ml whipping cream
  • 200g milk chocolate coverture
  • 50g soft unsalted butter

Method:

  1. Cream in a saucepan and allow to heat to approximately 70/80 degrees, do not boil!!
  2. Over a bain-marie, melt the chocolate to 40 degrees.
  3. Remove cream off the heat, add to the chocolate in 3 inclusions. Combining from the middle, working your way out. Fully incorporate before adding the next inclusion.
  4. Add the softened butter in small chunks.
  5. Place onto a tray, or keep it in the bowl and chill at room temperature. Scrape the ganache every 15 minutes, check the consistency, it should be able to stand on its own, not be too runny, but pipeable, holding its own shape.

(I use this method as it is the best, it avoids any lumps in your ganache and you obtain a smoother consistency)

French Buttercream:

  • 180g caster sugar
  • 75ml water
  • 50g egg yolk
  • 50g egg (1 medium egg)
  • 1 vanilla p0d/1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250g softened unsalted butter – room temperature

Method:

  1. Water and sugar in heavy bottom saucepan and cook to soft ball stage – 120 degrees. Keep a thermometre in the pan.
  2. Egg yolk + egg in a mixing bowl with whisk attachment. Once sugar reaches 112 degrees, start whisking eggs on a high speed.
  3. Once sugar has reached 119 degrees, remove off the heat, allow the bubbles to settle, lower the speed of the mixer to low, and slowly start pouring the hot sugar down the side of the bowl, (avoid the whisk).
  4. Increase speed to high and continuing whisking till bowl reaches room temperature.
  5. Scrape all the sides, add soft chunks of butter, vanilla extract and food colouring (optional). Continue to whisk for a few minutes till all is combined.
  6. Fill a piping bag with a nozzle of your choice and you’re all set to go.

Italian Meringue:

  • 200g ground almonds
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 135g egg whites
  • 270g caster sugar
  • 80g water
  • 80 egg whites – to adjust consistency
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • food colouring

Method:

  1. Sieve all dry ingredients twice
  2. Water + Sugar in a pan and cook to soft ball stage, 120 degrees. Keep a thermometer in the pan.
  3. Egg whites in a nice, grease proof mixer bowl with whisk attachment
  4. Once sugar reaches 112 degrees, start the mixer on a medium speed, allow them to become foamy.
  5. Gradually pour the hot mixture down the side of the bowl, avoiding whisk. Continue whisking till bowl reaches room temperature.
  6. Add the food colouring and extract at this stage too.
  7. Incorporate the dry mixture gently. If the mixture is stiff, add the additional egg white and force into the mixture. Should be a dropping consistency.
  8. FIll piping bag with round nozzle 10 and pipe rounds straight onto silpat mat or greaseproof paper.
  9. Tap the tray several times to release air pockets, and to flatten the tops. At this stage you can add anything you want, dry fruits, glitter, sprinkles, food powders etc.
  10. Bake at 140 degrees for 12-14 minutes, place an empty tray on the top rack of your oven, and place your macaron tray under it. Test: Pinch the shell, should release on its own.

The possibilities are endless, and they are a delight to eat, perfect for any occasion. You don’t have to share if you don’t want to :p Customise your buttercream, ganache, jams etc. You can even turn it into a macaronde, with fruit and cream inside (Laudrée style)

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Priya – Scrumptiously Yours

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