Macaron Mastery

There are a number of factors that can contribute to the success or failure of a batch of Macaroons.  Some believe that some of these things are not true, but for me I have found them to being pivotal to the success of a batch.

  1. Know your oven.  This will help you to determine what temperature to adjust it to!  I think my oven is on the hot side, so I cook my macarons at 130°C. It will also help you to determine when your macarons are cooked. Undercooked macaroons will stick to the paper and drop as they cool creating a hollow macaroon.
  2. Always dry out the almond meal before use. Dry it spread on a tray in the oven, but watch it like a hawk you don’t want it burning. I find this helps with the next “rule”… I ended up with almond paste when I didn’t dry the almond meal.
  3. Blend the almond meal and icing sugar. I always pop the almond meal in the food processor to remove any large lumps and add the icing sugar to get a really good mix of the two ingredients. This gives a smoother finish to the end look of the macaroons not like my Luscious lemon ones.
  4. Use eggs at least one week old and at room temperature. This is a basic my mother taught me to do with anything that is meringue based…I look at it as a plan ahead step!
  5. Keep the meringue step simple.  No need to do any heating, just beat egg whites and sugar until you are getting soft peaks. No fancy machinery required, I just do this with my small electric handbeater.
  6. Liquid colour should be added to the egg, dry colour to the almond meal and icing sugar.
  7. Do not over mix. Be careful to not over mix either the macaronage (the mixture) at the meringue stage or when folding in the dry ingredients. Soft peaks and just wet are the key to a good foot. The foot is the little speckled bit at the bottom of each biscuit.  I think it gives them a nice almost lace type look.
  8. Piping gives you a nice round shape, provided you are good at controlling a piping bag!
  9. Once piped – Drop the tray from a height several times onto the bench. Close your eyes if you are too nervous to watch.
  10. Always rest the Macaroons before cooking. I tend to leave mine resting about 40 minutes before putting in the oven.
  11. Watch, watch, watch … don’t let them over cook, this is when you end up losing colour.
  12. Cool, fill and leave to mature…in the fridge for at least 24 hours, I have to say I think about 3 days is perfect…still crunchy on the outer, yet gooey and chewy on the inside.

I don’t think this list is definitive, but it is certainly my main observations to this point.

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Masterchef Final – Macaroon towers

Firstly, congratulations to Nadia on your massive acheivement!

 Like many NZers on Sunday night, I sat glued to my TV watching to see what the dramatic final moments of Masterchef 2011 would bring. I watched in dispear as Jax macaroon tower collapsed to the floor.  Oh the pain!

A macaroon tower is yet a long way off for me, but I was very, very impressed by the first attempts at macaroons by Nadia and Jax. Well done girls, an amazing effort!

I learnt two things on Sunday night:

  1. Watch, watch and watch…but don’t open the oven door, until you are ready to remove them. I really must get the lightbulb in my oven replaced.
  2. A blast freezer will help if the macaroons are slightly undercooked and sticking to the paper. Will a little longer in a chest freezer do the same?

The journey so far

 

Don’t you just wish you could pluck one of the above delicious looking macaroons from the screen and savour it now. That is what I want my end product to look like. So far a result such as the photo above is just a goal!

Batch number one was an epic fail!  I tried to make my first batch with six couped up children in the house, running, yelling, demanding food on a wet school holiday day…the ultimate recipe for distraction.  This batch was doomed to fail, did you expect anything less.  I produced hard little rocks, there is no other way to describe them.  So what was my first macaroon sin….Opps, that was flour I put in, not sifted icing sugar. I cooked them anyway just to see how they tasted – bland, gritty rocks that could not be redeemed.

Failed batch number one resulted in a little internet research. I learnt

  1. Use eggs at least a week old and at room temperature
  2. Undercooked macaroons will stick to the paper
  3. If possible, pile several baking trays on top of each other – can’t remember why. I discounted this one as I only have one tray.

I had a little more success with my second batch. They had lost some of their colour, were starting to brown and were gritty. In my desire to make the almond meal finer I had chucked the almond meal in the food processor and given it a blitz and had produced a semi paste like consistency. I had failed to dry the almond meal out first.

Time for a little more internet research:

  1. To dry almond meal, spread evenly on a baking tray in a preheated oven for 5 mins, watching carefully that it doesn’t start to brown.
  2. Once dryed, blitz with the icing sugar until just mixed together. It will still need sifting before you fold it in to the beaten eggs whites.
  3. Play with the temperature and length of cooking time, it will differ from oven to oven.
  4. Fan bake at a lower temperature will dry out the shell better than bake at a higher temperature.

Another Sunday afternoon, another batch – so here I am at attempt number three. This time I am begining to feel more confident. I am armed with more knowledge than the previous times and follow what I have learnt, still using the same basic recipe. This time I try with a different colour – blue, because we now know the baby is a boy. ( My ultimate goal is to serve a platter of professional looking macaroons at a dear friends baby shower – she is finally pregnant with a much wanted second child. An excellent excuse for a fabulous celebration). My research is definately paying off, we are headed in the right direction. Still a little browned around the edges, bordering on undercooked, but most come off the paper with ease.