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Macaron Me!

In the last week or so, I have taken upon myself the task of Macaron making. I was foraying into unknown territory and what an adventure! So new was I to these trendy meringue-like confections that I initially got them confused with macaroons! Note the additional ‘o’. Although both are made with similar ingredients of grounded almonds or almond-meal, sugar and eggwhites, macaroons have shredded coconut folded into the meringue and is baked till crispy on the outside and chewy inside. Macarons however, has no coconut and are more like shells to be sandwiched with any flavoured creams and fillings. The latter can be incredibly temperamental and success is subject to so many technical elements. But the endless choice of flavoured fillings and textural bliss of a good macaron can make your taste buds sing!
 
I tasted my first Macaron at a tea-party more than a year ago and noted the interesting texture and flavour but didn’t think too much about it. Afterall, I’m not a fan of pure meringues as they’re too sweet for my liking. It was not until I went to Hong Kong for my honeymoon and saw for myself that macarons were all the rage in town, so I thought I should see what the fuss is all about. So my hubby and I bought 6 Jean-Paul Hévin macarons ranging from pure chocolate to bergamot and I guiltily admit that we ate all of it in a matter of 2 minutes? But even more shameless is the fact that we turned and walked back to the chocolatier and bought more! Hehe..
 
Since I took up food blogging, I have been looking at several food blogs on the internet, clicking on their links to more food blogs and I noticed that almost every food enthusiast have attempted macarons. As a newbie to the world of blogging, I too wanted a share of this experience. But like the fool, I jumped straight into my first attempt without researching the recipe and technique properly so my first trial was a SPECTACULAR FAILURE! They weren’t macarons at all: more like flat discs with holes, no ruffled feet, a dull complexion and the chewiest consistency ever. Needless to say, the whole batch ended in the bin. I should have taken photos but I was so disappointed at the result that I wasn’t in the mood to photograph them. I should have.
 
5 days later, I decided to try again. This time, I used the recipe from Serious Eats which was in turn adapted from A La Cuisine and other various food blogs. There was a slight improvement (the macarons finally have feet) and I made sure I folded the mixture until it flowed like ‘magma’ BUT it was my heavy-handedness in piping the batter that made the macarons turn out more like a fudge cake and the feet was too flared out from the crusted shells. I might have overmixed the batter too. This is what it looked like. 

  

Not satisfied, I tried again, this time following everything by the book as best as I could except for point 2:-

  • Aged the egg whites for 24 hours at room temperature
  • This was not in the recipe but I added cream of tartar when the eggwhites were foamy from beating. This stabilizes the beaten eggwhites and contributes to its volume.
  • Folded the dry ingredients into the stiff eggwhite mix until it flows like ‘magma’ or so I think.
  • Piped smaller rounds, apparently the piped mix will spread about 1 cm more.
  • Let the piped macarons sit for 2 hours until a crust/skin develops. Apparently some say this is not such an important step. 30 minutes will suffice but I think it depends on temperature and humidity.
  • Baked it in a 160C oven with a wooden spoon wedged between the oven and door to prevent the shells from burning. You want them cooked but not browned.
And the results:
  • Nice shiny shell
  • Nice ruffled feet
  • Initial bite was a crunch, followed by a slightly soft chewy meringue-like consistency
  • No air-pocket between shell and feet. Phew…..
Notes for improvement:-
  • I think the batter was slightly overmixed, so might lessen the mixing time a little next time.
  • Process the almond mill and icing sugar before sifting.
  • Continue experimenting with different techniques especially with Italian Meringue which requires warm syrup to be poured into the eggwhites. I must experiment with Pierre Hermé’s recipes. He’s an acclaimed french pâtissier who’s considered to be the guru of Macarons!
  • Go easy on the rose flavouring. The purple macaron (which was laced with sifted crushed lavender) was overpowered by the rose flavoured buttercream which reminded my friend of Hazeline snow! (That white stuff you put on your face).
  • Experiment with various fillings!
Ahhhh…so much to learn! It never ends…
With that, I leave you with pictures of my purple and green macarons. The third batch ones.
 
Baked shells cooling
 
 Purple and Green shells
 
 Stack of macarons. Green ones were sandwiched with chocolate ganache laced with orange curacao and purple ones with hazeline snow, er I mean rose flavoured buttercream.
 
Bite!

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