Yesterday I got to cross one off the list: Make French macarons from scratch.
Reader, this is big. If you see me in person anytime in the next seven months please give me a high five. I will be still be riding the high of successful macaron making.
I used the recipe from the book Macarons: Chic and Delicious French Treats by Annie Rigg, gifted to me by one Anna Dubs for my nups. It is supposed to yield 40 shells (for 20 filled macarons). It calls for:
- 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
- 2/3 cups ground almonds
- 1/2 cup egg whites (about three eggs)
- a pinch of salt
- 3 tablespoons caster/superfine sugar
Once you've got your almonds all nice and grindy, add the confectioners' sugar to the food processor and blend for 30 seconds, until thoroughly combined.
Next up is the egg whites. Make sure your eggs are room temperature. Some websites I've read recommend using older eggs, as they're less liquidy. I, however, read those post-baking and thus used fresh ones from the store and they turned out fine. So follow your heart on that one. The most important thing is to be extra, super, freakishly careful not to let any of the yolk mar your separated whites, for then they will fail to fluff up properly and you may as well just stop pretending that you can make macarons.
Tip your unadulterated egg whites into a very clean and dry mixing bowl. Again, if there is a trace of grease or other fatty ick in your bowl you're going to have issues. BE VIGILANT! This was an opportunity for me to bust out my Precious, but you can use a regular mixing bowl with hand mixers and it should work juuuuuuust fahn.
Add the salt, and using a standing mixer or a hand beater, beat until they can only just hold a stiff peak (I know what you're thinking, and no she did not say that).
Continue to whisk at a medium speed while adding the caster/superfine sugar a teaspoonful at a time, mixing well between each addition to ensure the sugar is thoroughly incorporated. When all the sugar has been added it will look white and glossy, like a proper meringue.
This is the point where you would add any flavoring or food coloring you want in the shells. I decided to make lemon macs, so I squeezed in 20 drops of yellow food coloring and the grated zest of one lemon. I kept losing my grip on the lemon as I grated it over the bowl and it plopped into my meringue more times than I care to admit. Don't do that. Grate your lemon over a separate bowl, like a civilized cookstress. Mix thoroughly to make sure the color is even.
Next, fold the ground sugar and almond mixture into the meringue until it is thoroughly incorporated and smooth. The book says to use a metal spoon and I obeyed. When it's ready, it should drop from the spoon in, "a smooth molten mass."
Now, according to our Macy's registry, someone has purchased us the Martha Stewart Collection Pastry Decorating Set we registered for, but I have seen neither its hide nor its hair. Mystery guest, I can haz now please so I don't have to use plastic baggies as piping bags? Thanky muchly.
That said, if you must use a baggie, don't do what I did in the above picture (hold the baggie open with one hand as I spooned the mixture in with the other). In my second round of baggie-filling I wised up and stabilized the baggie in a cup with the top folded over, and then just poured the mixture in. I then sealed the baggie shut, which had I done the first time it would have 'sploded all over my phalanges. Much mo' easier.
Pipe the batter in evenly sized rounds-- about 2 inches across-- onto a lined baking sheet. Without a nozzle on my little baggie I ended up with some interesting circle approximations on my Silpat. And then this happened:
So, the book says to line the baking sheet with parchment paper, and the accompanying photo shows said paper of the brown variety. Which must mean you could just as easily use a brown paper bag, right? WRONG. I only have one Silpat, so I thought I was getting creative. I was just getting very stupid. Don't do this.
Give the bottom of your baking sheet a sharp thwack on the work surface to eradicate any air bubbles that may have formed. Let them rest from 15 minutes up to an hour to set and form a dry shell. They should not be sticky, tacky or wet when you test them with your fingertip. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325 F.
Bake them in the middle of a preheated oven, one sheet at a time, for 10 minutes, until the tops are crisp and the bottoms dry. My Silpat beauties looked the way they were supposed to, with smooth, shiny tops and little frills around the edges.
My paper bag reject ones, however, were a total disaster. Cracked, flat, sticky disaster. Oy. Straight to the gaping maw of Mr. Garbage.
While I let the cookies cool, I whipped up some lemon curd with the leftover yolks, because that's just how I roll. Here's the recipe:
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup caster/superfine sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
- grated zest and freshly squeezed juice of one unwaxed lemon
When my shells were cooled I spread them with lemon curd and then sandwiched them together. Note how some of my shells have gaping holes in the inside from where the insides stuck to the baking sheet as I tried to pull them off. Apparently that's a sign of over-mixing.
Et voilà. Beautiful and delicious lemon macs to impress your friends, scorn your enemies and in general make the world a better place. Applause is welcome and appreciated.