Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Pt. 2--Macaron's

I decided I wanted to make (for the first time ever) macaron's. I did this to follow the theme of a traditional tea party, where macaron's are a favorite. And by the way, it is macaron, not macaroon. Technically macaroon's have coconut.

First, we went to a patisserie in Chicago and tasted authentic macarons. They're kind of crispy on the top, chewy and the filling is usually very creamy.

Then I started to research. Holy cow, there are dozens of different techniques for making a macaron. I have learned way more than I ever intended like getting the perfect "feet" on a macaron, using parchment versus Silpat, using aged eggs versus refrigerator eggs, why copper bowls are the best for making macarons, over folding, under folding, lava textures, air bubbles, eggshell finish, Italian versus French style meringue, using almond flour versus grinding your own almonds. I started to feel a little sick to my stomach. Damn it, I just want some cute cookies for the table and there is no one local who makes them!

Oh yes, I almost forgot. There is also a process macarons go through called maturation. They actually develop their flavors over a few days, so they should be made 24-48 hours before you plan to actually serve them. That is not how they showed it on Master Chef by the way!

I have three macaron varieties to try; a mint, an Alice blue with lemon filling, and a pink strawberry macaron with a chocolate ganache filling.  That's the plan.

I did in fact buy a copper bowl. I read a lot about it online, and felt there was convincing enough evidence from professional chefs, that a copper bowl is just a nice piece to have. They are pretty expensive, but I found a brand new one on Ebay, with tags still attached for $17 (includes shipping). That was a major score.  I also decided to buy Silpat mats because I know I will use them a lot in the future, and because I had read several places where parchment can roll up sometimes on the cookie sheet while piping your macarons and this can cause them to be irregularly shaped.  Also frankly, parchment gets pretty pricey.

So before I could even start this process, the day before I need to start kicking the baking and cleaning the house into high gear, I injured my left knee...bad. I have never in my life actually felt my kneecap slide sideways, but I have now. I dropped to the ground instantly. I iced it right away, but after about 5 hours, I had to be taken by wheelchair to the emergency room. Right now it's listed as a bad sprain with a probable meniscal tear. They can't diagnose it better than that until the swelling goes down and to give it some time to get better. The biggest thing right now is to be non-weightbearing, and well, how? There's not a lot of cooking and baking I can do sitting down. So a little stressed right now, but determined to do what I need to do. I have planned this for too long and put way too much thought and effort into it.

Day of macaron making.

It was every bit as hard as I thought it was going to be. Understanding what "lava texture" feels like, is not as easy as it sounds.

I had to throw away about 4 batches of macaron's because they didn't cook right, but I was expecting that. Macaron's are a learning process. I was happy with the ones that did come out well.

A batch came out hollow on the inside. From what I read this is temperature related. This is what makes it so tricky. After every sheet of macarons you pull out of the oven, before you put another tray in, you need to let the oven heat for 15-30 minutes. Keeping a constant temperature is key. I also read that hollow macarons happen because of the amount of air in the batter.

One batch basically exploded. Even though I kept my oven temp constant and waited the suggested amount of time between each batch, apparently exploding macarons occurs when your oven is too hot. The batter at the edges of the macaron heats and expands too quickly.

The other two batches of throw away's tasted fine, but my piping of circles was irregular (inexperience) and they didn't look pretty or consistent.

Below is a picture of one of the plates of my finished product. I was very pleased that everyone really seemed to enjoy them, especially the strawberry with chocolate ganache.

All in all, would I make them again? Yes...but only once every few years. They are really hard.

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