Macarons. The famous french dessert made popular by Laduree and Pierre Homme. Sadly, I wasn’t aware of Laduree when we went to London and Paris in 2009, so I can’t really taste the craze of authentic French macarons. I wonder if they have it in the Harrods shop here? hmmm…
Through my research for the perfect macaron recipe, I found that there are 2 versions of macarons : the Americanized coconut macaron (or macaroon), and the French almond macaron. The coconut macaroon have flour in it, while the French macaron uses egg whites. Intriguing. Furthermore, the French macaron looks more fancy with its ‘tiny feet’ and fillings, not to mention the rainbows of colors they come in.
They look scrumptious and too cute to bite! They come in all sorts of flavors and colors, with complimentary fillings. I had some macarons from a well known bakery, and I dare say, it was good. The next day, I was totally challenged to make my own macaron, regardless of the intimidating reviews and comments about baking macarons.
First, what are macarons, despite the photos you always see? Its made from a meringue, with almonds and have cream-like fillings (or jam, or chocolate, etc). The outer shell crust is very delicate, think of very thin egg shells.. Inside, it is soft, moist, and chewy. Taste? Oral description won’t do any justice. But definitely 1 macaron won’t satisfy your buds.
OK, lets move on to my version of macarons. I used a basic macaron recipe, didn’t even bother to color it since this was my first try and I really didn’t know how it would turn out..for all I know, it could be a total flop! For the filling, I decided on a Swiss Meringue buttercream – Its like buttercream, but less sweet with a smoother texture. Simply melts in your mouth. This was also my first time making this kind of frosting. So I guess it was a Double Dare?
Double dare challenge 1: Making the Macaron
Ingredients: egg whites – I aged my egg whites for about 3 days, ground almonds, white sugar, icing sugar. Simple ingredients, surely I can’t mess it up? But like they say, making macarons is not about just following a recipe, but technique and instinct as well. (huh?)
I always have a problem when whisking things- whipped cream, egg whites. when do I know it’s DONE? With cream, I know I’m overwhisking when the mixtures starts to curdle. Point of no return. With egg whites? Followed the famous tips of putting the mixing bowl upside down, if the whites don’t slide-it’s done. Easy.
Step 2 – If you are using ready made ground almonds – simply mix this with the icing sugar and sift/ mix well. If you are using blanched or whole almonds, you need to grind it in a food processor with the icing sugar.
So my meringue is done – time to fold in the dry ingredients. OH NO! my toddler awoke from her afternoon nap. This could spell disaster as usually if she wakes up from her naps, I have to spend 30minutes to an hour trying to get her back to sleep (if she still wants to sleep, or her nap was too short). Not knowing what to do, fearing my egg whites would deflate, I quickly covered the bowl and ran upstairs to tend to the crying toddler. *sigh* the things we mothers do. Luck was on my side, she wanted to wake up. Thinking fast, I parked her in front of the idiot box, made a bottle, and ran back to see my meringue. She’ll take a while getting fully alert, and the box will keep her entertained, maybe she won’t even notice I’m gone – this is a silent prayer I chanted to myself.
Back to the kitchen – well.. the meringue looked pretty much the same as when I left it. Debated if I should re-whisk, but I didn’t. Gamble gamble.
Step 3 – Folding in the dry ingredients. This was the tricky part. Overfolding will ensure a disaster. So does underfolding. Hmph! Once mixed, I briskly folded the dry ingredients at first, slowing down gradually. The mixture will and did deflate. How did I know if it’s enough folding? The tip I read somewhere was that to drop a dollop onto a plate, and see of there’s a small beak formed, then give it a couple more folds. If the beak smoothed out, then it’s good to go.
Step 4 – Spoon the batter into a piping bag with an inch opening, and piped a good sized round on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. I didn’t bother drawing circles on the paper- thus the multisized macarons 😛 (this is a trial remember?) I also didn’t make it into an inch size, but slightly bigger, 1.5″. There was no way I was going bake more than twice in my cute little oven.
Step 5 – Let stand 30 mins and bake. Since humidity was high that day; it was raining heavily with thunders and lightning, the whole package – I left the piped macarons standing for a little over an hour, even then the shells didn’t properly formed. I baked them anyway, done waiting! Baked for about 15minutes on 150degrees C, and let them cool slightly in the oven before taking them out.
Once warm to the touch, carefully remove from the parchment paper, onto a cooling rack to completely cool the macarons. Some tips say to run water under the paper if they are hard to remove – I didn’t have to do this as they came off quite easily.
Voila! Macarons ready! Happy happy clap clap.
Double dare challenge 2 : Making Caramel Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Well, ain’t that a mouthful to say! I wanted to add some flavor to my buttercream instead of the traditional vanilla. But don’t really want chocolate or jam flavored as I was short of those. Instead, I decided on caramel since I simply know it would taste great. Who doesn’t love caramel? I simply substituted the white sugar the recipe calls for with brown sugar.
Step 2 – In a double boiler, cook the brown sugar egg mixture untill sugar dissolves. Make sure you use low heat, or you’ll end up with scrambled eggs and have to start all over!What a waste will that be.
Step 3 – Remove from heat, and whisk the eggs until room temperature. Tip: Feel the bowl with your hand and if it’s not too warm, you’re done. It is important that the mixture cools down and form stiff peaks, or you’ll end up with a runny frosting!
This is where I realized that I wanted some color to the frosting, since my macarons are already pearly off-white. In the spur of the moment, I quickly melted some chocolate, and added it into the frosting. Result? mmm…chocolate caramel – does that flavor even exist?? but I assure you, its totally delicious that I cleaned off the bowl!
Next, I piped the filling onto the cooled macarons, making a sandwich. They say that macarons are best left for a day before consuming (this is what they do at Laduree). But they are awesome freshly baked too.