I baked my first batch of macarons back in Nov 2012 after I saw my friend Kenrick’s beautiful creation. Being fascinated, I asked him for the recipe and made mine right away. Macarons are too sweet for me but I enjoy making them. Throughout my three years of macaron quest I have tried different recipes and methods. I have experimented with different sugar ratios in order to make my macarons less sweet. It was not easy as the feet would diminish with the reduction of sugar. There was even one time that I cut the sugar too much that my shells wouldn’t dry after a full night of resting! So now I simply accept the fact that macarons are sweet by nature. All I do is to pair them up with ingredients and/or fillings that are salty, bitter or tart to balance/mask the sweetness.
Making macarons can sometimes be frustrating, i have made macarons that are cracked, hollow, lopsided, undercooked, overcooked and feetless before. And here are some of my tips for you:
1. Grind your ground almond until finely ground unless extra-fine ground almond is used. I have made my own ground almond with blanched almonds as well. Blitzing just the blanched almonds or ground almond alone in the food processor will easily turn it into a nut paste. You need to do it along with the icing sugar. Remove any big bits by shifting the mixture or else your baked macaron shells will be bumpy.
2. If your ground almond feels wet or oily, dry by spreading it evenly on a baking tray in a 200°F/95°C preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely before using.
3. Some bakers swear by using aged egg whites while other says fresh egg whites are fine as well. I’ve tried both and got better luck with aged egg whites. I usually separate my eggs the day before then leave the bowl of egg whites loosely covered in the fridge. I bring them back to room temperature before beating.
4. Beat your egg whites until almost stiff peaks form. It should be shiny and glossy. I add cream of tartar to help with the stability.
5. It is important to fold the batter to its correct constituency. This folding process is called the macaronage. Many describes the perfect consistency as “lava-like”. I have never seen lava in person so I judge by how the batter flows down from my spatula. When the batter flows down like a thick ribbon and the trail disappears in about 30 seconds, it is ready. If you overmix the batter it will be too runny to be piped into perfect circles.
6. After piping the batter into circles, bang the baking tray on the counter several times to release the gas bubbles. Pop any visible air bubbles with a toothpick. Make sure that a skin has formed before baking or the shells will be feetless or crack in the oven. They should look dried out and won’t stick to your finger when touched. On a humid or rainy day, I place my baking tray under the ceiling fan to speed up the drying process. Why rest the shells? When the air in a shell expands in the hot oven it pushes the shell upwards. There is no way for the air to pass through the surface because a skin has developed. So the only option is to escape sideways from the bottom, creating feet which is the characteristic of macarons.
7. Regulate the oven temperature with an oven thermometer (read about my post about understanding oven accuracy here). An oven that is too hot makes your shells cracked and look like volcanoes. If your oven temperature is too low, your shells may have firmed up but the interior could be still undercooked. The inside will then collapse and you will end up with hollow shells.
8. Know your oven well and make adjustments as needed. With that said, there is no “one-size-fits-all” way of making macarons. For instance, I currently own two ovens of different sizes. My range oven has a hotter bottom element so I need to double stack my baking trays to keep the bottom of my shells from burning. My other newer, countertop oven doesn’t have this problem at all so I don’t need to do so. I have previously owned an oven that could not have the fan turned off and my macarons always came out like the Tower of Pisa! If your oven has hotspot (i.e. some shells are always cracked or browned in the same area), rotate your tray halfway for an even heating. If your shells brown too fast then cover the top with a piece of aluminum foil halfway through or at the end of the baking process. If you don’t want to cover your macarons with foil you may lower the temperature of the top element (provided that the top and bottom elements can be adjusted separately). Placing the baking tray on the lower rack of your oven yields the same result.
8. 要了解自己的焗爐並作出適當調整，馬卡龍沒有統一或萬用的製作秘笈，因此我們要執生(懂得變通)。舉個例子吧，EC家中有兩個不同大小的焗爐，大的那個連接着煮食爐，下火比較剛烈，因此EC要疊起兩個焗盆使用才能避免馬卡龍底部被烤焦，新購置的小型焗爐卻從沒這個問題，所以使用一個焗盆經已足夠，EC曾經擁有一個不能關掉熱風模式的焗爐，結果嘛，馬卡龍都烤得像比薩斜塔！ 倘若焗爐熱力分怖不均勻有熱點(hot spot)，即某些位置的馬卡龍總是出現龜裂或上色過深，那麽烤烘中途便要把焗盆位置轉一轉好讓馬卡龍平均受熱。至於馬卡龍上色過深的問題嘛，只要在烤烘中途或末段為馬卡龍蓋上一層錫紙便能輕易解決了！若不想蓋上鍚紙而焗爐上下火又可分別調整的話則可把上火調低一些，否則把焗盆放低一層亦可。
9. Check doneness by moving a shell slightly. If it doesn’t wiggle it is done. Remove the tray from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Once completely cooled, take the shells off the parchment paper or silicon mat. The shells should come off easily. It they stick to the paper or mat it means that they are underbaked.
10. Filled macarons are not meant to be consumed immediately (yes I know it’s hard). Instead, let them rest or mature in the fridge for a day so that the filling and the shells can become one, making the inside chewy and gooey while leaving the outer shells crispy. Let the macarons come to room temperature, about 10 to 15 minutes, before serving.
I hope my tips and advice help!
Happy Baking =)
Mocha Macarons (Plus Lots of Tips)
makes about 24 to 26 sandwiched cookies
For the Mocha Macaron Shells
60 g egg whites (from about 2 large eggs, aged 1 to 3 days in the fridge)
25 g granulated sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
65 g ground almond
10 g Dutch-process or unsweetened cocoa powder
95 g icing sugar
1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
For the Chocolate Kahlúa Ganache
60 g premium dark chocolate, chopped
50 g whipping cream
6 g unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp Kahlúa (or to taste)
蛋白 60克 (約兩個大蛋蛋白，放在雪櫃一至三天)
Line baking tray with parchment paper with a master template underneath.
In a food processor, process ground almond, icing sugar, cocoa powder and coffee powder until finely ground. Pass mixture through a sieve into a bowl and set aside.
Place egg whites in a clean mixing bowl. With an electric mixer, whip egg whites until frothy. Add cream of tartar (to stabilize the meringue) and continue to beat until soft peaks form. Add sugar and continue beating until firm peaks form. When you lift up the whisk, the meringue will stand straight up with a little curve at the tip.
Fold meringue into the almond-flour mixture with a spatula in two additions. Knock some air out by pressing the batter around the sides of the bowl with the spatula a few times. Then begin to fold by scraping the batter from the bottom of the bowl and bringing it to the top. Keep folding until the batter forms a thick ribbon that slowly disappears into the batter. Undermixed batter will be pointy after piping and over-mixing will deflate the meringue, resulting in runny batter that loses its shape after piping.
Scrape batter into a pastry bag fitted with a large round piping tip (I used Wilton #2A). Pipe out dollops of batter onto the prepared baking sheet using the template as a guide. When done piping, tap the baking tray against the counter a few times to eliminate any trapped air bubbles. Pop bubbles that haven’t risen up to the surface with a toothpick. Remove the template and let the shells stand at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the weather and humidity, until the it is dry to the touch. While waiting, preheat the oven to 300ºF/150℃.
Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until set without browning. If you touch the shell and it feels firm and doesn’t wiggle it is done. Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack before filling.
To make the filling, heat whipping cream in a saucepan over medium-low heat until it bubbles around the edges (but not boiling). Alternatively, microwave cream in a microwave-safe bowl on high. Add to chopped chocolate and let stand for two minutes. Stir with a spatula until combined. Stir in softened butter until smooth and shiny. Add Kahlúa and mix until incorporated. Fill pastry bag with ganache then chill in the fridge until it feels firm enough for piping.
To assemble the macarons, pair up shells of similar sizes. Pipe out dollop of filling on the flat side of a shell then top with the other one, flat side down. Store filled macarons in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a day to mature them. Bring to room temperature, about 15 minutes, before serving.
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