I've been thinking a lot about these little babies lately... They really are all the rage right now with everyone trying their hand at them - me included of course.
When I want to know about something I will read and read, search the internet, watch Youtube videos and practice practice practice.
The lists of the do's an dont's are as long as your arm with Macarons. But these things I have found to be true this week as I have churned through 8 different batches of them in 2 days: Remember I use the French Macaron Method - not the Italian Meringue Method.
- Don't get too hung on up your measurements - Ive started using about a 50/50 mix of Almond Meal to Icing sugar but I guess the split between two batches. What Ive found is that its more about the 'Macaronage' (the mixing) than it is about the proportions in your mix.
- Ive discovered - thanks to my friend Karen - the BEST BEST way to sift that flamin almond meal is to firstly measure it out and combine it with the measured icing sugar then blitz in the food processor for about 2 minutes. Ive discovered this works for 2 reasons. Firstly it makes it all a lot finer and secondly, the dry Icing Sugar helps dry out the somewhat moist texture of the almond meal making it easier to sieve.
- Get yourself THIS sieve! I could sieve almond meal all day long with this. The key is to add only a few spoonfuls of it in at a time. If you put to much in it glugs up. I used an icecream scoop and scooped 1-2 scoops of mix in at a time to sieve and hey presto finished in a few short minutes.
- Macaronage : The artful part of creating that elusive texture just right for the macaron to be perfect. Crisp on the exterior and beautiful on the interior. Don't be too delicate here. I must have watched about 15 videos on YouTube of people mixing macarons. What was just the 'right' consistency. The best tip I picked up was when you think you are runny enough but not too runny - get a teaspoon and take a spoonful of mix and drop it onto a small plate to make a macaron shape and see if it settles properly. Any ridges should be assimilated by a quick tap or shake. If not - then go back and work a few more turns thru your mix then test again.
- Piping the perfect circles: I found a wonderful template online which was free to download and you just slide it under your baking parchment and you cover the dots with your mix - hey presto uniform shapes. Just google 'Macaron Template". Also I have found greater control piping with a smaller Wilton Nozzle on my bag.
- Righto - now we come that part where you want to get the little 'skin' on your macaron. The skin is important in order to create the 'feet'. However in my many experimentations I have also found it can also be the cause of cracked shells. So, here's what you need to do. Its a fine balancing act between leaving them long enough to sit to form the skin - anywhere up to an hour they say but Ive never had to wait that long. But....here's the catch. On pain of death do not wander away - start some other activity or get distracted.... because if you leave it too long and the skin starts to dry too much, you get a thick skin that will cause a cracked shell when it hits the oven. So keep an eye on them. Pop back and give them a nudge every few minutes or so.
- Here's another little nugget of gold info I learned. Some recipes say to get rid of any lingering little holes or peaks on your shells by slightly wetting your finger and then pressing them back in. Yep this works on the uncooked shells - but BEWARE - if you accidentally leave any water on the top of your macaron - you will get a 'bubble' on the top of your shell when you put it on the oven. So just be careful if you use this method.
Right - thats all I have to say on the matter for the moment. I am by no means an expert but in the past few weeks I have made so many batches that I felt I wanted to share what I have learnt along the way. Remember trial and error is all part of the learning process and to be honest thats why I love baking. Its like an experiment. Everything from the number of strokes you use to mix, to the warm and cold spots in your oven, to the relative humidity in your day or kitchen plays a part in how any given baked good will work on any given day. Thats the challenge!!!
Happy Baking. Above are the macarons I have created which will form the Macaron Tower I am in the process of completing. Pics will follow next week of the completed tower - with NO MORE macaron ramblings I promise.