Friday, November 11, 2016

Macaron Quest - Yummo Trial and Error

I love love love Macarons. French Macaron not to be mistaken for the north american Coconut Macaroons.  I do like those too but I wouldn't get on a subway to cross the city because I read somewhere that someone has awesome Macaroons.  But for a Macaron.  Yeah.  Unfortunately, they are quite an expensive obsession.  Typically, a French Macarons will run you a good 2 bucks minimum to up to 3 bucks for the twoonie sized ones.  I love the Toronto Chowhound article outlining where to find the best priced yet still awesome.  Even on that article, you're looking at 2 bucks minimum.  Therefore, I decided I would learn to make awesome macarons on my own.  To avoid any excuse not to make them, I bought a gigantic bag of Almond meal at Costco because when I saw a Canadian Living test kitchen episode on Macarons, they used fresh Almonds and ground them.  Yeah, not gonna do it.

Trial 1 - Martha Stewart

I have, to date, done three trials and used 3 very different recipes.  I was going to use the Canadian Living recipe but theirs required Meringue powder and I wasn't confident enough to assume that you could leave that out.  So for my first trial, I used Martha Stewarts French Macarons.   I was only really testing for the shell so I didn't used some home made jam for the filling.  I used pink solid food colouring since I recalled from the Canadian Living show that using liquid drops, you risk messing up the composition.  The oven was for a blistering 375.  I rushed the reading of the recipe and made the following errors:

  1. I used Granulated Sugar (aka regular sugar) instead of powder sugar.  I misunderstood what Confectioner Sugar was.  It is powdered sugar.  I did however process it briefly in a food processor.  
  2. I did not sift the Almond Meal/Flour.  Meal is more grainy than Flour.  
  3. I completely forgot to bang/tap the baking sheet after I had piped them to release any air bubbles.
  4. Worst of all, I did not let them stand at room temperature for the prescribed 15 minutes.
They tasted great.  The graininess did not come across but they were quite misshapen.  

French Macarons using Martha Stewarts recipe.
However they lifted well with that typical sort of pulling away puffed up rough look along the side.  They did not store well.  They went slightly chewy and overly fragile after 1.5 days.  They are however, in my view, the best of the 3 trials.  I will try to use 375 for the Birthday Sprinkle recipe next time.  I think their temp was too low.  

Trial 2 Chow Hound

I wanted to push myself to try again so I volunteered to make Macarons for a charity bake sale.  I had even bought a carton of Egg Whites a few weeks earlier to avoid making excuses.  However, I was worried that they'd go bad so I portioned them out (30g of white per Large Egg) and froze them.  I thought great.  I'll use some of my Egg Whites.  I decided to make a double batch but since I randomly decided to freeze my Egg Whites in 3's I needed a recipe that used 3 because I did not want to make a triple batch.  I found the Chowhound Chocolate Macarons recipe. Perfect!  I thought because that way I won't colour them and the Chocolate will help hide possible flaws.  

I was careful to allow for time to sift and to let stand.  I wouldn't make those mistakes again.  I need them to be pretty to sell.  I even remembered to use Powered Sugar and ground the dry ingredients in the food processor to ensure they were fine. I even drew out all the circles to pipe into on the parchment paper then turned over the paper so I didn't freehand.  I banged the sheets on the counter though they were quite solid so it was pointless.  I let them stand 30 minutes as I was told.  These are the errors I committed this time.  Interesting though.  

This recipe required a medium hot oven of 350 instead of 375 as Martha's

  1. I doubled the batch.  This is always risky.  First time using a recipe.  I really should have done a single batch.  But I had wanted enough to sell.  Even though measured everything carefully, The batter was obviously too dry.  To be fair, maybe it was the Chowhound recipe.  It was the texture of cookie batter rather than toothpaste, like it should be.  I should have stopped adding the dry goods.  
  2. I used frozen Egg Whites.  They instantly showed that weren't lifting very well.  I had to beat for a long time and they did eventually lift but it looked more like a marshmallow base than the puffy Meringue I needed.  I should have started the egg whites again.
  3. I did deviate the recipe slightly.  I added 1/2 t of Cinnamon and 1 t of Cayenne for each batter, so double that.  I don't know for certain if that impacted it but I thought I'd give them some character.  Why that matters? I once added dry Mustard to a tried and tested white bread recipe that I can make in my sleep and it rose only 2/3 what it normally does.  I did it 3 separate times and each time the same thing happened.  Different jars of yeast too so it wasn't that.  I can only assume that sometimes the more volatile spices sometimes throw certain chemical reactions into play.  Also, it meant that the mistakes couldn't be eaten by the kids because they hate spicy food.
THEY DIDN'T RISE AT ALL.  I'm guessing it was due to how dry the recipe was and the Egg Whites.  I had decided that I was not going to bring them in and apologize.  But then I tasted them.  They were delicious, chewy yet crispy crust, spicy kick, and nicely chocolatey.  I decided to label them as Gluten Free Almond Chocolate Cookies and I had nearly a 100 and they sold out!!!

Chow Hound's failed Chocolate Macarons turned Gluten Free Almond Chocolate Chili Cookies.
Trial 3 Sprinkles for Breakfast Birthday Macarons

I came across this recipe for what they called Birthday Macarons while I was searching for an answer.  I wanted to use Red Sugar sprinkles to top my Chocolate Chili Cookies to give a hint to the chili. But I didn't know when you add sprinkles to a Macaron without risking the lift.  I saved it because I thought they looked so cute.  I followed this recipe almost to the letter.  I bought brand new Eggs and I banged the trays a few times and let them stand.  I set the oven for the rather low 325.  

So texture wise, they turned out ok while piping but they didn't lift where it looks like a cap is pulling away from the base.  They were rounded like a puffy cookie.  They quantity for all 3 was accurate and that's while not trying to kill yourself trying to drain every drop out of the piping bag like a tube of toothpaste.  I think next time.  I'll use this one in a 375 oven and see what happens.  I like this recipe because it uses 3 Egg Whites and uses a decent amount of Almond Flour.  Martha's only uses less than a cup.  How am I supposed to get through my Costco bag of Almond meal?  I think I can work with this recipe.  Now my kids will have to eat quite a few of my trials. Birthday Macarons in second place
My next trial will involve Sesame sprinkles, Yellow food colouring and Chocolate Ganache filling to make moque-Hamburger Macarons :D

#Macarons, #FrenchMacarons, #Baking, #Dessert