When I'm troubled in my mind, I tend to divert myself from my actual problems and invest my energy into something productive and even more distracting to keep myself occupied. Which was why I decided to devote this week to the art of baking macarons.
1 carton of egg, lots of 'Why?? WHY is this happening??" and 12 test batches later, the mission was accomplished.
I'm choosing to write a very detailed account about what to do should any of you feel the urge to waste a week of your life chasing after a perfect batch of these irresistably delicious but frustrating cookies.
The basic recipe sounds simple enough:
28g egg white
32g almond meal
53g icing sugar
8g caster sugar
1. Whip egg white with caster sugar until it forms firm peaks.
2. Fold in almond meal and icing sugar until it forms a smooth paste.
3. Pipe into 3-5cm rounds onto non-stick baking paper and bake for approximately 12 minutes in a 150 Celcius conventional oven.
There are copious numbers of pictures of macaron disasters on the internet (all you have to do is Google "macaron disasters") because somehow along the way bad things happened and the macaron failed to well... become a macaron.
Anyway, here's how I acquired the perfect batch of macarons.
1. Place almond meal and icing sugar into a food processor and process for a few seconds. Sift mixture and discard bits of almond meal that are left in the sieve - it'll create a rough macaron surface if you keep it in.
2. Add a small pinch of cream of tartar to the egg white and beat on slow speed for the first couple of minutes before increasing to high. When egg whites are at soft peak stage, add the caster sugar in gradually and beat on high until stiff. Very stiff - won't-fall-out-of-the-bowl-when-inverted-sharp-peaks-in-egg-white-stiff.
3. If desired, add some coloring at this point as well as the almond and icing sugar mixture. Fold the mixture until mixture is glossy and when dropped the trail disappears after about 30 seconds. This is the magical phase of macaronage. Usually this is achieved by about 30 strokes of folding for a batch this small.
4. Fill piping bag with mixture and pipe out 3-5cm rounds on non-stick baking paper, staggering the rows for a more even heat distribution. Bang the tray on the counter a few times (go all out and release your pent up anger, existent or non-existent) to flatten out the peaks and bring any air bubbles to the surface.
5. Leave piped macarons on the counter for about half an hour. Rushing it straight into the oven can lead to failure. I don't know why - but that's what happened with me.
6. Which is why I only start setting up my oven after I've finished piping the macarons. I experimented with various permutations and finally discovered that the macarons should be baked on the top rack, with several layers of baking trays and silicon mats underneath it. Something to do with heat distribution. I set my oven on fan-forced at 125 Celcius. (Note: This is a trial and error process, you'd probably have to experiment with a few batches with yours to figure out the optimum set up and temperature)
7. While waiting for the oven to heat up, feel free to do the washing up and maybe a clay facial mask.
8. Once the oven is ready, pop the macarons in. Immediately decrease the heat by about 10 Celcius. Walk away and amuse yourself with something else. 6 minutes later, turn the tray 180 degrees for evenness' sake.
9. By 13 minutes, your macarons should be done. Take them out. They should look like this:
Foot at the bottom and a nice shiny smooth surface. These actually have a few bubbles - I wasn't agressive enough with my tray banging with this batch.
10. Try to detach the macarons once they're cooled. If they're stuck to the paper, don't despair. What I do is return it into the oven for a futher 1-2 minutes, which usually does the trick. I've read other blogs of people who sprinkle water onto the paper and etc but somehow I don't like the idea of water anywhere near my precious precious babies.
11. Sit and admire your beautiful beautiful macarons. Or if they were a failure, start obsessing about what went wrong.
Here's batch no. 13. Orange colored shells filled with chocolate ganache with a splash of Triple Sec.
I can finally sleep tonight. And go back to my original problem.
1. You can double or triple this recipe very easily. This is a very small recipe because...well, when one is testing one doesn't want to toss out huge batches of failures. This recipe yields about 14 shells - or 7 macarons.
2. It will probably take a while to get the perfect conditions to produce the perfect macaron. If you are so lucky as to be successful the first try, I take my hat off to you. If you don't - persevere!
3. If the tops of your macarons brown too quickly (test batch no.3 was perfect except for this annoying problem), try lowering the temperature by maybe 10 Celcius. Yes, it took me another 8-9 batches to figure that out. Silly Dental Girl.
4. The majority of macaron recipes suggest that the egg whites be left out for 24-48 hours. I do not have it in me to be so patient! If I want to make macarons I want to make them now, not 24-48 hours later! Anyway, all my batches were done with fresh egg whites and I still got desirable results so.... but I am assuming it might be better with aged ones but I honestly couldn't be bothered.
5. Always sift your almond meal and icing sugar mixture. Really makes a difference to the smoothness of your macarons.