Welcome to a diary of someone trying to reach perfection, note the word trying. You see those pink buggers up there, well they are the best macaron I have produced yet and I am still not a 100% happy with them yet let alone even 70% happy with them. They are my greatest test in the kitchen, nothing baking wise at least has ever tested me so much as a macaron. Thankfully however I don't think I am alone, I recall recently seeing Raymond Blanc make macaron on his Kitchen Secrets tv show from a few years ago and despite his macaron looking perfect he still says is trying to master them 30 years later. I am by no means comparing myself to Raymond Blanc but in that there is hope for us all if a master of his craft still hasn't mastered them. I bet you are wondering why they are so hard, quite simply they aren't thats the problem anyone can make them but they are fiddly to make and perfect.
The first time I made them was back in February of this year down home in Limerick. Joanne was with me, to say she saw a different side to me would be an understatement. I had downloaded a recipe online and at 6pm on a Saturday we began. I followed the recipe so rigidly throughout, and the first mix I made was an absolute mess. It was liquid, un-pipeable, 2 hours down the drain. Angered (ok I should have stopped but I didn't) and my father breathing down my neck( In case you don't know he has been a baker & confectioner for now 49 years), for some reason my home in Limerick is like a fortress of disaster not solitude, my greatest baking disasters happen here. Sigh... We plow on in to a 2nd attempt, its now 10pm the mix is some what better and is at least pipeable, we follow the steps which I will detail later. Its now 12am Sunday morning and they are going in to the oven. 12 minutes later they are out and we allow them to cool. "THAT'S IT I GIVE UP" I shouted in anger, they were rubbish , they cracked the minute you take them off the baking tray. I never get angry baking but god damn they tested me that night, and I thought sod this maybe I am not cut out to make macaron.
So after that disastrous night I left the thought of making them anytime soon behind. That is of course until a few days later Joanne produced Pierre Hermé's Macaron book. The French patisserie genius behind the greatest macaron you can buy in Paris. His macaron are outstanding, they get no better and the book is fantastic, I read it cover to cover but I was not making macaron anytime soon, I don't need the hassle to be quite honest is what I thought. A few months past and having just moved in with Joanne in April I was filling the book shelf with the few cook books I have, I pulled out Pierre's book and I sat down again read it. RIGHT! time to give these guys a go again, follow his 32 step method to macaron perfection. I even bought a fancy new electric temperature probe to make my Italian meringue. Oh wait just before I go any further, let me tell you how simple macaron should be with the most basic ingredients. In layman's terms, mix icing sugar with ground almonds together with 100g of egg white, then add Italian meringue to that, pipe out on to baking trays allowing to sit for 1 hour, then bake for 12 minutes, done easy peasy lemon squeezy. Its 3 ingredients for god sake it cant be that hard!
I make them, and by gum I produced something edible, ok they look knobbly on the surface but the internals are ok, they taste like macaron and some what have the feet! ( the feet are the little ridge that forms around the macaron by the way) here is a pic of attempt number 2 ( in case you are wondering where are the pics of attempt number 1 well that night is to be never spoken about anymore ):
The reason why they are so knobbly is partly what I will explain in the recipe but the ground almonds you use need to be extremely fine. Otherwise not a bad attempt, not perfect however the process of making them was flawed, my sugar crystallized making the meringue grainy, but least I was making progress of sort. After making them however though I wasn't overly enthused about making them again until last month when I gave it another go. I was going to a friend of mine's house for a evening of good food, drinks and lots of fun. I thought right I am going to make these again and perfect what I got wrong the last time. Here is attempt number three:
Personally speaking I think they were getting better and a massive improvement on my first batch back in February. However again we have the lumpy outside but in the main they weren't too bad. I took them down to the party and they were liked an eaten, but being honest I was not happy with them at all. If I had the time I would have made something different and brought them down instead. Bringing us back to last weekend p, I thought I making them perfect or as close to perfect as I can, I am conquering this enemy, I am slaying this dragon, they are only meringue based cookies after all. So having spoken to a good friend of mine Steve and read his blog on macaron over on his excellent blog http://bakersdiet.wordpress.com/, I kicked the process off last Friday gone. So to start with you need to separate out 225g of egg whites place in a bowl covered with cling film pricked to let air in and set aside in the fridge for 2 days. The reason you do this is macaron like old eggs, because older eggs lose their elasticity but still allow for great meringue and puff up well. Fast forward 2 days to the Sunday morning and I am ready to make the best macaron I have ever made and here is the detailed recipe.
Now let me stress these are easy when you do them right, all that stuff I wrote above is because I didn't do them right, I messed up constantly but this is one recipe you MUST stick to so rigidly, and if you do BAM you have it! Do not be daunted by this, its easy ignore all I said above.
These are my Mikado Macaron ( I say Mikado because of the cool look similar to Kimberly Mikado biscuits)
Also let me state thank you to my mate Steve, and the advice he gave, sound advice he received from a master macaron maker and outstanding patissier we both admire!
225g old egg whites
300g ground almonds
300g icing sugar
300g caster sugar
300g ground almonds
300g icing sugar
300g caster sugar
Red food colouring
200g Raspberry jam
200g Desicated coconut
Juice of one lemon
85g icing sugar
Equipment you need is a good hand mixer, thermometer, food processor, piping bag and two baking trays. This recipes make 36 x 4cm round macaron.
1) First thing you want to do is get a piece of paper or cardboard and draw on circles as a template for the macaron later on.
2) Blitz the icing sugar and almonds together in the food processor for 1-2 minutes. You want the finest mix possible here. Take out of the food processor and sieve in to a bowl and add 100g of egg white and good dash of red food colouring. Mix it all up into a smooth paste.
3) Now stick on your free standing mixer or use an electric hand whisk, whisking 125g of egg whites to soft peaks. At the same time start boiling your caster sugar and water on medium high heat. Whilst boiling regularly dip a pastry brush in cold water and brush down the sides of the pan to make sure you don't get sugar crystallization.
3) Once your sugar is boiling place the thermometer inside, when it reaches 118c remove from the heat and slowly add to your egg whites while still whisking. Whisk for 10 minutes... Now you have just made Italian Meringue, easy eh! Before you add the meringue to the paste though you must leave it cool to roughly 35-40c, this will take about 20 minutes.
4) Right the next part is messy but it works! Take a handful yes a handful and add it to pink paste. Mix it all up to loosen the paste.
5) Once you have done this fold the remaining meringue in 3 batches again using your hand. This time your are folding in gently, so as not to beat out the air we have in the meringue.
6) Phew the messy mixing is done! now take a piping bag and fill it up ready to pipe like below. Make sure you fill your bag right up and tightly twist the bag at the top.
7) Once you have fully piped out your macaron, gently slam your trays on the counter to knock out any air bubbles and let them spread out slightly.
8) Allow the trays sit on the counter for 1 hour. After an hour the macaron will have dulled and will be ready to bake.
9) I bake my trays in 2 batches so as not to bake at the same time. Bake 180c/170c fan for 8 minutes, then briefly open the oven door to let out the steam, bake for 2 more minutes, open the door again and finally bake for 2 more minutes.
10) Remove from the oven and immediately take off the tray or they may continue cooking. Rest for 10 minutes and gently remove from the baking parchment. They are still a little knobbly but they have the feet and I am pretty damn happy with them.
11) Once cooled you can assemble these lovelies. First off toast your coconut in a dry frying pan till golden. Mix the juice of one lemon with 85g of icing sugar and dash of red food colouring. Finally before assembly mix you jam until smooth.
12) Match up your macaron shells to make sure they are all the right size. To one half add half a teaspoon of jam and sandwich two shells together.
13) With a pastry brush, brush the tops of macaron with the lemon and sugar icing and dip the top in to the coconut.
PHEW! finally we are done, its a long process but its easy enough in reality. As I said I still have a few changes to make, but over all I am fairly happy with these macaron. As the Irish Rail advert says, a lot done but more do :)
Thank you so much for reading this mega post I hope you enjoyed it, these really are a labor of love.
Any questions leave them below and I will answer as best I can.