Aaah, macaron. My old foe.
For the longest time, I was scared to even try to make macarons, because all the recipes I read sounded like being able to make a good macaron involved about 278 steps that needed to be exactly right in order to get an edible cookie. And I'm really not good with following directions exactly. Nevertheless, I tried my luck twice and both times turned out, well, inedible.
Back then, when I tried to find out what had gone wrong, I was left with about a dozen possible explanations: Hadn’t I aged the egg whites long enough? Did I maybe use 126 grams of egg white instead of 117 grams? Did I whip them 45 seconds too long? Of course in hindsight, all of this was stupid. Now, I’m pretty sure the first time around I just sucked at macaronage and didn’t fold the mass long enough and the second time I simply took them out of the oven way too early, so they fell apart.
How do I know that now? I found Stella’s Macaron Mythbuster post. And I could have kissed her. A pastry chef telling everybody to chill out, because making macarons does not involve magic or any kind of elaborate preparation? Exactly what I needed to try again.
So after making the Portuguese Croissants for brunch, I had a lot of egg whites left over that I didn’t want to throw out, so it was the perfect opportunity to try again. This time, though, I tried to stick to Stella’s recipe as closely as possible and didn’t add colors or anything, because it was about trying to get the macaron right first. Colors and more elaborate flavors than vanilla are reserved for next time.
And lo and behold, they turned out beautifully. Alright, alright – maybe they could’ve been a little bit prettier, but that was me being totally unable to pipe them right. They tasted really nice, though and I’ll definitely stick to this recipe from now on, at least for almond and vanilla flavored shells (I’m planning on trying peanut butter shells next, though, as soon as I can get my hands on some peanut flour).
Plain Vanilla and Almond Macarons with 4 Different Fillings
[Shell Recipe from Brave Tart]
115g almond flour
230g powdered sugar
145g egg whites
mark of 1 vanilla bean
1. Sift the almond flour and powdered sugar together. Set aside.
2. Mix egg whites, sugar, mark of the vanilla bean and salt and whip until it forms firm peaks, about 8 to 10 minutes, depending on how fast your machine works.
3. Dump the almond-sugar mixture on top and fold it into the egg whites. Every few turns, spoon out some of the mix and drop it back into the bowl. The mixture has the right consistency when it takes about 20 seconds for the spoonful to incorporate itself into the mix again. If it stays sitting on top, keep folding, if it incorporates quicker - well, you've screwed up. [Stella's recipe says it takes about 40 folds, mine took almost twice as many, so it's important not to simply count, but really check the consistency!]
4. Fill about half of the batter into a piping bag with a round tip and start piping circles onto a baking tray covered with baking paper. [Now I have a macaron silicone sheet, so I don't have to worry about size, but if you don't have one of those and want equally sized circles, find something round about the size you want your macarons to be, and use it as a pattern to draw circles onto your baking paper before you start piping. Don't fill your circles to the very edge, because the macarons will spread a little bit.]
5. Rap the tray on the counter a couple of times (to disperse air bubbles) and bake at 150°C for about 20 minutes. (Right away. You do NOT have to let them sit on the counter. I actually had two sheets and one had to wait 20 minutes until the other was done and the macarons I put into the oven right away had nicer feet than the ones sitting on the counter for 20 minutes).
6. Let them completely cool before you start filling them.
I had actually made some coffee chocolate ganache for the filling, but the stuff took forever to cool down and harden and I was on a timetable, so I had to improvise. I filled some of them with lemon curd, some with peanut butter mixed with a couple of teaspoons of melted chocolate, some with raspberry jam and some with a mix of raspberry jam and coconut bread-spread (for the Germans: REWE's "Glück der Tropen"). The fillings all went really well with the subtle vanilla flavor of the shells and the peanut-butter-chocolate ones tasted especially great on the next day when the flavor had had some time to settle.