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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tea & Bakes * Macarons * By Made With Pink

We've been ever so busy here at Isle of Tea Towers recently and after an influx of guest posts, (we thought it would be ever so very silly to refuse them), especially when they look so amazing and as delicious as these beauties do!


Hello, I'm Andrea from the baking blog Made With Pink. Two and a half years ago I moved to the UK from Canada, and brought my North American taste buds and recipes with me. I'm a self confessed hoarder of bakeware, cook books and any pink kitchen gadgets I can get my hands on. You name it, I have it.

It was shortly after I moved to the UK that I was flipping through a magazine when something caught my eye. Something magnificent that I'd never seen before. It wasn't a pair of designer shoes or a pretty dress - it was a cookie! But not just any cookie. These cookies were colourful fancy little things with pretty ruffled edges. I scoured the page to find out what they were called and where I could get them. Macarons. I'd never heard of them before - except for the American coconut haystack kind (aka macaroons). I immediately googled macarons to see how I could make them.



At that time only a few websites & blogs popped up that actually featured recipes for macarons, each of them explaining how finicky they were to make. Age your egg whites, fold the batter until it flows like magma - (no more than 50 strokes), don't make them on a humid day, let the piped macarons rest on the counter for 45 mins, etc. It seemed as if the odds to make these pretty little cookies were stacked against me. Never the less a few days later I decided to bake my very first batch of macarons. I did all of those things I mentioned above (except for the jazz), and you know what? My macarons actually turned out pretty darn good for my first try! They had the frilly little feet and everything! I was thrilled with them, and gloated to myself that they really weren't that hard to make! Well, fast forward 2.5 years, and I've made dozens of batches of macarons, but sadly only about 50% of them have actually turned out well enough to even be called a macaron. I didn't know what I was doing wrong. My beginners luck had run out shortly after I made my first batch, and it seemed like each batch I made was completely hit or miss - even if I used the exact same recipe as the time before. Macarons started getting increasingly popular on the blogging and baking scene, and I was constantly reading new blog posts and trying new recipes out. I got pretty discouraged after a while, and to be honest I probably went a good year without baking another batch of macarons - until now.

I recently discovered a new macaron recipe that was supposedly "fail proof" - a recipe where most of those crazy rules didn't apply, and immediately I knew I just had to try it. Three trys to be exact. Each time I managed to get at least one tray of perfect looking macarons. Sometimes I aged the egg whites, and sometimes I used fresh cold ones. They worked each time. I did however have a few issues, which I have explained in my blog here, but overall I'd say these were a great success!

I made a plain vanilla flavoured macaron and filled them with Speculoos (a subtle gingerbread flavoured spread similar to peanut butter). I also had a few extra Speculoos cookies laying around which I crumbled and sprinkled on top of the macaron shells before baking them. They were delicious, and would go perfect with a nice cup of tea!


Vanilla & Speculoos French Macarons
Slightly adapted from Brave Tart

4 ounces (115g) Almond flour, or whatever nut you like
8 ounces (230g) Powdered sugar
5 ounces (144g) Egg whites , temperature and age not important!
2 1/2 ounces (72g) Sugar
The scrapings of 1 vanilla bean or 2 tsp vanilla extract (I used vanilla bean paste)
1/2 tsp (2g) Salt

1 Belgian Speculoos cookie - crushed up

Belgian Speculoos Spread (Peanut butter or Nutella would also go well)

Instructions:

< 1. Preheat the oven to 300° and have ready a large (18”) pastry bag, fitted with a plain circle tip, along with two sheet pans lined with parchment paper.

2. Process the almond flour and powdered sugar in a food processor for a minute or two in order to get rid of any little almond chunks. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg whites, sugar, vanilla bean (not the extract), and salt and turn the mixer to medium (4 on a Kitchen Aid). Whip for 3 minutes. They will not seem especially foamy at that point.

Increase the speed to medium-high (7 on a Kitchen Aid) and whip another 3 minutes, then crank the speed to 8 for go another 3 minutes.

At that point, turn the mixer off and add in any extracts/flavor/color and whip for a final minute on the highest speed, just to show it who’s boss (and to evenly distribute the color/flavor). At the end of this minute, you should have a very stiff, dry meringue.

When you remove the whisk attachment, there will be a big clump of meringue in the center, just knock the whisk against the bowl to free it. If the meringue has not become stiff enough to clump inside the whisk, continue beating for another minute, or until it does so.

4. Now dump in the dry ingredients all at once and fold them in with a rubber spatula. Use both a folding motion (to incorporate the dry ingredients) and a pressing motion, to deflate the meringue against the side of the bowl.

First timers: the dry ingredients/meringue will look hopelessly incompatible. After about 25 turns (or folds or however you want to call “a single stroke of mixing”) the mixture will still have a quite lumpy and stiff texture. Another 15 strokes will see you to “just about right.” Keep in mind that macaronage is about deflating the whites, so don’t feel like you have to treat them oh-so-carefully. You want to knock the air out of them.

Undermixed macaron batter: quite stiff. If you spoon some out and drop it back into the mix, it will just sit there and never incorporate. Do this test before bagging your batter and save yourself the trouble of baking of undermixed macarons!

Overmixed macaron batter: has a runny, pancake batter-like texture. It will ooze continuously, making it impossible to pipe into pretty circles. Um, try not to reach that point.

You can evaluate your batter one stroke at a time, no rush. Essentially, the macaron batter needs enough thickness that it will mound up on itself, but enough fluidity that after 20 seconds, it will melt back down. I’ve heard people describe this consistency as lava-like, or molten, and that’s pretty apt.

5. Transfer about half the batter to a piping bag. (When your bag is too full, the pressure causes the batter to rush out in a way that’s difficult to control, making for sloppy macarons.) Pipe the batter into the pre-traced circles on the baking sheet. Stop piping just shy of the borders of the circle, as the batter will continue to spread just a bit. After piping your macarons, take hold of the sheet pan and it hard against your counter. Rotate the pan ninety degrees and rap two more times. This will dislodge any large air bubbles that might cause your macarons to crack. Sprinkle the tops with the crushed Speculoos cookies.

Bake for about 18 minutes, or until you can cleanly peel the parchment paper away from a macaron. If, when you try to pick up a macaron, the top comes off in your hand, it’s not done. Once the macarons have baked, cool thoroughly on the pans, before peeling the cooled macarons from the parchment. Use a metal spatula if necessary.

6. To fill your macarons take a large dollop of Speculoos and carefully smooth it on the bottom of a macaron before sandwiching another macaron of similar size and shape on top to create the finished macaron.

Macarons, against all pastry traditions, actually get better with age. The shells soften and become more chewy, mingling with the flavor of the buttercream too. So, while of course you can eat them right away, don't hesitate to store them refrigerated for up to a week - just make sure you bring them to room temperature before serving.

If you're new or nervous about baking macarons I've got a few other helpful tips and interesting tidbits that can be found in my original post here.

And now onto something really exciting!
Everyone knows that the key to making a good macaron is a good kitchen scale, so I was delighted when lovely folks over at Salter UK provided me with a beautiful new MyScale kitchen scale to test out. The scale is definitely the prettiest kitchen scale I've ever seen, and it's also pretty cool because you can customise the pattern on it to whatever you like.
Salter UK has kindly provided me with a 2nd MyScale to giveaway to one of my readers. If you're interested in winning this scale and reading a bit more about the features and how it can be fully customised, then pop over to my blog Made with Pink and enter for your chance to win!

*Contest closes at 11:59pm Sunday May 29th

3 comments:

Made With Pink said...

Thanks you so much for letting me be a part of your wonderful blog! Hope all of your readers like these macarons and decide to give them a go. They're really not as scary to make as they seem!

Sarah Buck said...

Made with Pink - they look fabulous! and will certainly give them a go!

Eleni said...

Well, hello! I saw a comment you'd left over at Conversation Pieces, and, well, with a name like yours and a name like mine, we were destined to be blog friends :)

Nice and strong, milk, no sugar, thanks (I'm sweet enough).

Never had a macaron though, I must say...

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