Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Taste of France

Last Saturday, in honor of Bastille Day, I decided to make macarons.  Over a year ago I took a class at Sur la Table to learn how to make the delicate French confection and let me tell you, it is much harder than it looks.  It's a time consuming process but with some patience and attention to detail, you may not have the most perfect looking cookie, but it should be delicious!

My recommendations:
Before you attempt to make these, you will need a kitchen scale and some silpats (silicone mats that are used for baking and can be bought at any cooking supply store).  The kitchen scale is necessary because a lot of these measurements have to be exact and are in ounces.  Baking is scientific to begin with but macarons are especially temperamental.  Also, it is very handy to have a stand mixer.  Macarons are basically meringue cookies with almond flour mixed in and to make meringue, you have to beat egg whites for a long time.  Once I felt like my arm was going to fall off before I had stiff glossy peaks.  So a stand mixer can alleviate this and help immensely.

Cassis Macarons

  • 7 ounces powdered sugar
  • 4 ounces almond flour or meal
  • 4 large (4 ounces) egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspon creme de cassis (Note: different flavors of macarons can be created by changing this ingredient to different flavors, ie. vanilla extract, coffee extract, etc.)
  • 3 ounces granulated sugar
  • purple food coloring
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line baking sheets with silpat silicone mats 
  • Pulse one third of the powdered sugar and all the almond flour in a food processor to form a fine powder.  Sift sugar mixture 2 times.  Sift remaining powdered sugar 2 times.  Combine almond flour mixture and remaining powdered sugar.  Set aside.  (It's important that this mixture is as fine as possible to create a smooth cookie)

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk egg whites and creme de cassis on medium speed until foamy.  Gradually add granulated sugar.  Once all sugar is incorporated, scraped down sides of the bowl, add food coloring and increase speed to high, whisking until stiff, firm glossy peaks form.  

  • Hint: use a lot of food coloring.  When the cookies bake they will become much lighter, so the darker the better.  Also, if you can't find purple food coloring create it using red and blue... a color combo I forgot temporarily, adding green before I remembered it was red that helped make blue purple... embarrassing.

  • The way you know that the eggs are stiff enough is that you should be able to dip a spatula into the mixer and turn it upside-down without the meringue moving at all.  

  • Part of making macarons involves three steps: macaronnage, macaronner and pied.  The macaronnage step is the technique of mixing flour and meringue to make macarons.  For this step, sift almond flour mixture one-third at a time over the egg white mixure and fold using a large spatula until mixture is smooth and shiny.  Once all the almond flour mixture is incorporated, check for the correct consistency - the batter should be nicely firm and drip slowly from the spatula (macaronner).  

  • Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch plain round tip (#12) and pipe 1 1/3 inch rouncs onto baking sheets.  (Tip:  I did not have a bag the last time I made these, but was able to make a makeshift one from a plastic bag, cutting a hole in the corner.  Also, this part gets very messy.  Be prepared.) 

  • Try to make sure that your rounds are roughly the same size, so that once you add in the cream, they will fit together to form a cookie.  Also, when squeezing the bag, try to keep the tip in place so that the batter is forced to spill out to the sides.  This will help keep the cookie flatter.  
I have papers with identical circles printed to help guide me on making equal sized cookies
  • Tap the bottom of each sheet on a flat surface to release trapped air.  Let stand at room temperature for 15-30 minutes.  Check for slight crust to form - macarons should not stick to your finger when lightly touched.

  • Stack the baking sheet onto another before baking.  Bake one sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until macarons are crisp and firm, about 10-15 minutes.  If the macarons are still soft inside, lower oven to 300 degrees and cover with aluminum foil before baking for a few more minutes.  
  • Let macarons cool on sheets for 2 to 3 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before filling.  
I should have used more food coloring, even the darkest batter can bake light

Rum Cream Filling

This is one of my favorite fillings because in my opinion it goes with almost any flavor.  But if you have a filling or frosting you prefer, go ahead and use it to fill your cookies. 

  • 2 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 4 ounces granulated sugar
  • 6 ounces (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  • Place egg whites and sugar in a heatproof electric mixer bowl, set over a medium saucepot of simmering water.  Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 141 degrees on an instant read thermometer
  • Remove bowl from heat and attach to a hand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.  Whisk on medium speed for 5 minutes.  Increase speed to medium-high and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 6 minutes.  Reduce speed to low and add butter, 1 piece at a time, whisking well after each addition.  Once all butter is incorporated, return to medium-high speed and whisk for a few minutes until fluffy.
  • Switch to a paddle attachment.  With mixer on low, add rum.  Use rum cream immediately or cover and refrigerate.  Pipe between two macarons.  

Recipes from Sur la Table

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