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Rule No. 2: Be patient! – a guide to macarons part two

January 1, 2014

Happy, happy to bake again. Sitting at the kitchen table, listening to Fewjar, now and then looking at the small sweet dollops on the counter in front of me.

They’re sitting neatly on the baking tray, waiting to go into the oven. It was not an easy journey for them to get there, struggling over roasted almonds and a lack of egg whites, but finally they made it into nice drops of batter, now waiting for their surface to get firm. In a short while, they’ll rise inside the oven, get their cute little feet and finally a filling worth of their taste, indulgent and sweet.

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Macarons it is, once again. By now, I baked these poppy seed macarons several times, each time improving the recipe a little bit, until everyone of my critical test-eaters (including my boyfriend, my friends, flatmates and me) was satisfied.

Developing a recipe takes much patience, and that is also one thing necessary for making macarons. It’s been more than two years now since I posted my first guide to macarons, and now I want to share an updated version with you, plus my first own macaron recipe.

Please note that I’m still just a passionate home-baker and no professional, so I can’t guarantee these tips are 100% correct!

ingredients

The first step to making sophisticated macarons is to make the batter as perfect as possible. Therefore you should consider a few things concerning ingredients.

EGGS:

  • For the right consistency of the batter, you need to measure the egg whites exactly. Separating the eggs a day (or at least a few hours) before making the batter and chilling them inside the fridge until you use them makes it easier to weigh the egg whites exactly and make perfect macarons.

ALMONDS:

  • When making macarons, you need peeled, very finely ground almonds. If they’re only roughly ground, the surface of the macarons won’t be completely smooth. So it’s helpful to sift your ground almonds with a very fine sieve. If necessary you can also grind them a little more finely with a food processor. When grinding the almonds, be careful not to overmix or you might end up with almond paste. A few recipes suggest processing the almonds together with the powdered sugar to avoid getting almond paste.
  • Another point concerning almonds is that – depending on your climate – it is helpful to dry the ground almonds in the oven for a few minutes (at about 60-80 degrees Celsius; be careful not to roast them!), if the surrounding air in your kitchen is too humid. For making perfect macarons it’s crucial to have a specific moistness of the batter – I failed at least half a dozen times due to humid air on rainy days and not drying the almonds thoroughly.

technique

The second key point for making perfect macarons is the right baking technique. There are several things that might affect the looks of your macarons, so here are a few tips on common problems considering the surface and shape of macarons.

If your macaron shells are cracked, your oven temperature might be too high. Just try to bake the next batch at a lower temperature, even if it is below the temperature in the recipe as each oven is a little different!

For avoiding bubbles, you need to smoothen the batter after folding in the almond-sugar mix into the meringue. You do that by using a bowl scraper and scrape the batter very carefully until smooth and rather liquid (test by taking some batter up on the scraper and letting it “fall down” into the bowl – if it doesn’t fall in chunks but runs smoothly, it’s good!) but be careful not to over mix and break down too much of the meringue!

For a smooth and even surface, the consistency of the batter needs to be right. If you mix or even beat the meringue for too long, its flufflyness will dissolve, so fold in the dry ingredients very carefully. But the batter also needs to be liquid enough so that the unbaked macaron’s surface can flatten after being piped onto the baking paper sheet. You achieve this consistency by carefully scraping the dough inside the bowl with a bowl scraper until it falls down in ribbons (as described above – see “avoiding bubbles”). However, if the macarons don’t flatten on their own, try to move the baking tray from left to right or back and forth to smoothen the macarons’ surfaces.

“le pied” – getting the little foot of the macaron shells right:

  • Try to pipe the macarons in a “blob”, not in a swirl. You do that by holding the piping tip about 3mm over the baking paper sheet, then carefully press a little batter onto the sheet while lifting the piping tip another 2-3mm. The batter should come out of the piping tip in a flat, round drop. Shortly before your macaron is large enough, stop squeezing out the batter and carefully remove the piping tip from the macaron with a smooth, swirl-like movement so that the vanishing batter-stream evenly unites with the whole macaron. This way, you keep the surface as flat as possible.
    By piping the macaron in a “blob”, you prevent air bubbles in the batter so that the macaron rises evenly, which is – as far as I experienced – important for getting “le pied”.
  • Let the macarons sit for a while before baking and let their surfaces dry until a skin has formed (this usually takes about 10-20 minutes; test by carefully touching the surface of an unbaked macaron – when the batter does not stick to your fingertip anymore, they’re ready to be baked) so that the macaron shells can rise evenly.
  • If you live in a cold and humid climate, it might be helpful to preheat the baking trays (for example putting them into the oven while preheating the oven) before piping the macarons on it. In my experience, the heat from the tray helps the macarons dry when the surrounding air is too humid or too cold.

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I hope these tips are helpful to you and will help you to make sophisticated macarons, for example this first creation by kawaii kitchen:

Poppy seed & marzipan macarons
makes about 40 shells (=20 macarons)
Ingredients:
160g powdered sugar
90g finely ground almonds
90g egg whites
30g granulated sugar
7g poppy seeds
  • Line two baking trays with baking paper and set aside.
  • Sift powdered sugar and ground almonds into a bowl. Add poppy seeds, mix and set aside.
  • Put egg whites into a clean bowl and start whipping them with a handmixer. As soon as the first bubbles appear, add half of the granulated sugar. Continue beating until it starts to get foamy and then add the remaining sugar. Beat until glossy and stiff peaks remain when removing the (switched off) hand mixer.
  • Add half of the ground almonds, poppy seeds and powdered sugar to the egg whites. Carefully fold them in with a rubber spatula with about ten streaks.
  • Add the rest of the almond mixture and continue carefully folding in until there are barely no streaks of white left.
  • Scrape the batter down inside the bowl with a bowl scraper until the batter falls down in ribbons (see description above -> avoiding bubbles).
  • Fill the batter into a pastry bag with 0,8-1cm diameter round tip. Pipe macaron shells (about 2,5cm diameter) onto the prepared baking sheets. Leave at least 4cm space between the individual shells as they will rise!
  • Let the macaron shells dry for about 20 minutes, until a skin has formed and the batter does not stick to your fingertip anymore when carefully touching the macaron’s surface.
  • In the meantime, preheat oven to about 165 degrees Celsius.
  • When a skin has formed on the macaron shells, bake the first tray for about 7-10 minutes (depending on your oven) until they have risen, their little feet have formed and they don’t look like unbaked batter anymore.
  • Remove from oven and bake the next tray. Let cool completely before removing the shells from the baking paper.
    While letting the macarons cool, you could make the fillings!
for the fillings:
Ingredients:
50g poppy seeds
10g semolina
1-2 tbsps. sugar
4 tbsps. milk
20g butter + 40g butter
100g marzipan
1 tsp. kirsch
  • For the poppy seed filling, put 20g butter and milk into a small saucepan and heat carefully until the butter is molten.
  • Add semolina, poppy seeds and one tablespoon sugar, whisk until combined.
  • Taste and if necessary, add the remaining tablespoon sugar. Set mixture aside and let cool. When cooled down, it should have a spreadable consistency.
  • For the marzipan filling, cut marzipan into small pieces, add kirsch and knead until homogenous.
    Cut 40g butter into small pieces and knead into the marzipan until well combined.
  • Spread poppy seed filling onto half of the macaron shells, and the marzipan filling onto the remaining half of the shells, then put together two shells with different fillings.
  • The macarons taste best when cooled for about 2-3 hours in a sealed box inside the fridge :)

If you have any questions considering macarons, feel free to ask, but keep in mind that I’m also just an amateur baker who experimented with macarons a little bit :)

Until then, I wish you a happy new year and lots of love, baking, health and joy in 2014 !

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