13 Jul 2015

My Macaron Journey: Attempts 1 & 2

In my I'm Back post, I told you guys that I set myself a goal of perfecting the French macaron. For the longest time I was incredibly intimidated by this delicate French treat and whenever I walked past a Ladurée boutique I would purchase a little box of 8 to enjoy later on. I'm not entirely sure what it is about the macaron that I love, but I suspect it's because of the wonderfully crisp and chewy meringue shells. Now, macarons are an expensive treat (around $4 each here in Sydney) and I'm not going to lie, they're the kind of thing that I wouldn't think twice about spending my money on. Kieran doesn't get why I can do such a thing and has encouraged me to make my own. I finally bit the bullet, bought my ingredients and off I went. 

I used the Ladurée recipe for the shells which required almond meal, powdered sugar, egg whites, and granulated sugar. It's a fairly simple recipe but because there are only 4 ingredients, each component really needs to be done right. Seriously. I was so nervous because meringues always frightened me for some reason (crazy baker confessions) but I soon realised that macarons can smell fear and they will use it against you, so I mustered up all my confidence and soon I started producing quality macarons. 

Attempt #1 provided a good baseline for my skills. It showed me that I needed to sift my almond meal/powdered sugar mixture a few more times, whip up the egg whites and granulated sugar just a bit more, and that I needed to fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients a little bit more. You can see the grainy shells which was a result of inadequate sifting and what I like to call the macaron nipples (aka the peaks). I was so scared of over mixing the final mixture that I actually undermixed. The batter should be lava-like (this is how it was described in a lot of recipes) and mine certainly wasn't. 

One thing I was very proud of though, was the feet. When mum attempted macarons a while ago she couldn't get the feet and I soon learned that it was because she didn't let the macarons dry out enough before baking them. Some recipes tell you to dry the macarons out for ~15 minutes before baking but I read that it's much better to leave them for closer to an hour. You'll know it's ready when you touch the shells and they don't stick to your fingers. 

For the filling, I started out with a simple chocolate Kahlua ganache involving cream, baking chocolate and 3 tbsp of Kahlua. It was sooooo good. 

You can tell that the macarons were overbaked because of the brown discolouration on the shells. The oven temperature was way too high. Baking time is still something I need to work on…

Attempt #2 was much better. The shells were a lot smoother but still needed more sifting and the batter was still undermixed. I tried to get the shells as round and as similar to each other as possible but it's still a bit difficult, even on Attempt #4. The brown macarons were salted caramel ones. I found this recipe which produced the most amazing salted caramel I have ever tasted; it's sweet without being too sweet and it has that slight burnt sugar aftertaste. The green macarons are pistachio ones. I really did not like these ones because the recipe I used for the filling had way too much butter and the butter taste really pierced through the flavour of the pistachio paste. For later macarons, I added more ground pistachio and a little bit of almond essence; I've found that almond is a familiar taste when I have the Ladurée pistachio macarons so I thought I'd experiment with that. The result was a less buttery mixture but it was still lacking the distinct pistachio flavour. 

The macarons themselves were of a good consistency. There was the crunch of the shell and the chewy centre inside. They stuck to the baking paper/silicone sheet I used which tells me they are still slightly under baked. It seems that the best baking temperature is at 150 degrees Celsius. 

Attempts 1 and 2 weren't total failures; it was more the visual aesthetic aspects that I needed to work on but they provided dozens and dozens of edible and delicious macarons that were gone just as fast as I baked them. I'll be posting more updates on my Macaron Journey soon so stay tuned! 

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