The last time I baked macarons, I swore never to attempt them again. Ever. That was almost 3 years ago. Yes, the famously unpredictable, notoriously difficult to please, divas of the pastry world. The truth is, I never did really understood the hype over the vividly-coloured, dainty, perfectly round French desserts (which could be technically considered as sandwich cookies)
My first attempts produced ugly, flat and mishapened cookies that were tooth-achingly sweet. Photographic evidence from back then (poorly shot, with bad lighting) revealed vanilla, matcha and some shocking-pink coloured macarons among the batches that came out of the oven. Fast forward to the present, a sudden urge to master this pretty little troublemaker has unexpectedly resulted in The Macaron Project.
After looking up several recipes from books and food blogs, I was confounded by all the different techniques and methods involved.
1. Method: French or Italian Meringue?
2. Egg whites: Age or not to age?
3. Sugar: Powdered, confectioner’s or icing sugar? Does the addition of cornstarch matter?
4. Crouter: Do the piped shells really need to rest?
5. Filling: Flavoured buttercreams, ganache, fruit curds or gelée?
The Macaron Project I:
This time, I used the French Method with fresh egg whites at room temperature + icing sugar and let the shells rest. (I had accidentally left them to rest for a whopping 3 hours, when I headed out to dinner!!) I also decided to skip the food coloring this time because I more concerned with getting the texture, flavour and appearance right. The filling was my homemade Lemon Curd. Simple, incredibly tart and lemon-y.
The macarons had a nice chewy-crisp texture, domed and no hollow shells. (Yay!) However, the signature frilly feet were missing. A quick check on Macaron Troubleshooting 101 pointed to the culprit here — the prolonged resting period. Despite tasting like macarons, mine looked no where near them. Oh, and these taste the best after an overnight rest in the fridge when the flavours really get to develop and meld.
Blitz the almonds and icing sugar in a food processor. Sift the finely ground almonds mixture twice, or thrice if you must. I’m lazy like that.
Egg whites and sugar whipped to stiff-peaks. Whisk in a pinch of salt and pure vanilla extract. Fold the dry mixture into the meringue, in 2 additions. Use gentle and smooth strokes. You don’t want to beat the life out of the meringue here.
The final batter should be glossy and smooth with a slight fluidity. Most people describe the consistency as “magma-like” — how am I suppose to know what magma flows like?? A more useful gauge is when lifted, the mixture falls back onto itself and disappears after 20sec. Using a piping bag, with a plain tip, pipe little circles. Give the baking sheets a firm tap on a flat surface to dislodge any air bubbles. Let the shells rest for 30 minutes. (No, not 3 hours like I did)
Bake the shells in the oven preheated to 150C for 12 minutes, rotating at the halfway mark. Let the cool completely before filling. Store in an airtight container overnight before devouring!