And this is clearly the winner! Look Ma! No nipples or hollows! Just beautiful feet!
Yes - I thought I had these down to perfection when I posted Macarons last time. I mean, they were beautiful, and delicious, and only had the slightly hint of nipple. But they had one problem that no one who ate them cared about... except me. Hollow! A macaron bakers' second worse nightmare (first is no feet).
What is (are??) the macaron feet?? See just under the very top of the macaron shell - the kind of crumbly looking part (it's not really crumbly) - that's the foot. We like them big :-) What's the nipple? If you look at this picture - the yellow macaron in the right front - you'll know what I mean. And the hollow... well ... it's when there's a big air space between the top of the macaron and the bottom feet. Here's a picture I found online. Mine were worse. I didn't take a picture.
The recipe I started with is from Bravetart and as much as I love Stella and her recipe (and her blog is simply one of my favorites because she is a fabulous pastry chef and fun blogger), I knew I had to venture out to try other recipes to get me past the 'hollow' hump. Still - it was her blog and recipe that got me going on my quest for macaron perfection.
I don't know if you've looked recently (or ever, for that matter!), but there are a zillion recipes/blogs/youtube videos out there for making macarons. There's the French method, and there's the Italian method. I started with French and I'm sticking with it (I don't need anymore dirty bowls). It's fascinating, because all of the recipes use egg whites, sugar/powdered sugar/almond flour - but everyone has different proportions and slight (or not so slight) variations in technique. Yet they all seem to have beautiful pictures of macarons. How can that be? These are fussy little buggers, but somehow different proportions and different techniques work for people anyway. (Of course, only a brave few actually show the inside of their macarons, where hollows hide).
So with a new recipe to try, and some changes in technique (more traditional) - I did it! Look - no hollows!
Simply chewy goodness with flavors that pop, that you can only find in a French macaron.
This recipe comes from Ms. Humble at Not So Humble Pie, who took a scientific method to come to her own proportions of egg white-sugar-almond flour that should bake up into a perfect macaron. And hey, it worked! I mean, after all, baking is about science as much as anything else, isn't it?
So with her proportions, and using some pretty traditional techniques, I got me some pretty darn good macs.
So! Today's recipe from Not So Humble Pie, with minor changes in technique:
- 120 grams Almond Meal/Flour
- 200 grams Powdered Sugar
- 100 grams Egg Whites (I don't age them, but I try to leave them out for at least an hour, or as much as a day)
- 30-35 grams Sugar
- 1 Vanilla Bean, scrapped
- pinch of salt
- Prep your pans. Line two (heavy weight) baking sheets with parchment paper, and have your pastry bag with tip ready. (I use a template I made - I traced 1 1/2 inch circles on piece of parchment and then I put it under my baking parchment. You can see the circles through the top piece. Then after they are all piped - I pull the bottom sheet out and reuse it next time.)
- Add the almond meal and powdered sugar to your food processor and pulse for 15 seconds or so. Then sift, tossing any bits leftover that don't make it through.
- Start beating the egg whites on low (about 4 on a kitchen aid) using the whip attachment for about a minute (until foamy), and then add the salt, followed by the sugar and beat for another minute. (about 2 minutes total)
- Add in the vanilla bean caviar and turn the mixer up to medium (6 on kitchen aid) for about 2 minutes.
- Add any food coloring, and then turn the mixer up to high (8 on kitchen aid) for about 2 minutes. This is where you really need to pay attention so you don't overbeat. The whites should be stiff, but not overly dry. They should hold stiff peaks.
- Remove the beater whip and bang it against the bowl to remove any egg whites.
- Add about 1/3 of the the almond meal/sugar mixture to the egg whites, and start folding it in. You don't have to be particularly gentle - you actually want to deflate the egg whites somewhat. Once incorporated, add another 1/3, and repeat until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated. Now you REALLY want to pay attention to it. You want to keep folding it until it gets to a "lava-like" consistency. If you pick some up and drop it back down into the bowl, it should blend back into the batter after about 20 seconds. Be careful not to overmix. When you think you're getting close, do another one or two folds and test it again.
- When you have the batter just right (!), transfer it to your piping bag.
- Start piping out the batter onto the pre-traced circles, staying just inside the edge of the circle. Don't worry if you don't get it perfect. I get my share of oval macarons. Practice is what it's about.
- When you've piped your first tray, rap the tray against the counter 3 or 4 times to remove any air bubbles that might be lurking within your macarons. Repeat with your second tray.
- Set aside to rest for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, you can preheat the oven to about 300 degrees. That's the temperature that works for me - you'll have to experiment with your own oven.
- After about 30 minutes, when the macs are no longer tacky to the touch (lightly), you can put your first tray in the oven (I haven't had luck baking two trays at a time). They take about 15-16 minutes for me - but again, you'll have to experiment with your oven. How do you know when they're done? What I've been doing is very lightly nudging the top of one (usually an ugly one) to see if the top is loose - it will move slightly. If it's loose I leave it in for another couple of minutes and test again. You want that top on securely.
- When the first tray is done, let them cool on the tray on a cooking rack for a while, before peeling them off. Put the second tray in.
- Once completely cooled, you can gently pull them off the parchment (If there are some sticky spots just nudge it lightly with a sharp knife. TIP: These babies are delicate. Always handle them gently on their sides. If you grab them on their delicate tops, you'll probably put a hole in them. Ask me how I know...
- Match up bottoms and tops close in size, and put them together (carefully) with your favorite filling - then into the refrigerator they go in an air tight container for at least overnight. That's when the magic happens! Trust me. Take them out about 15 minutes before serving. I generally keep them in the refrigerator unless they are being served or eaten.
- Chocolate ganache: made with heavy cream OR coconut milk, and bittersweet chocolate.
- Lemon cream cheese: made with cream cheese, powdered sugar, lemon zest, and a little lemon juice
- Strawberry cream cheese: made with cream cheese, powdered sugar, and ground freeze dried strawberries.