The baking machine is in full effect in the TimmyDaFoodie household. It helps that I need something to occupy my time while I am getting some rest and relaxation here in Toronto. While I am loving staying indoors when it is -10ºC outside, cabin fever soon sets in and I NEED SOMETHING TO DO, and something to blog about.
It also helps that I can be quite domestic. I love the kitchen.
So, I got my egg on.
Looking through the pantry here in at my Aunt’s house, I am given a wonderful array of ingredients at my disposal. So what found my fancy this time around?
Some good ol’ Almond Flour and Icing Sugar to the tune of Parisian Macarons. I have not made these darling gems in over a year and since we had a few eggs to spare, I got to meringue-ing.
Parisian Macarons or French Macarons as they are more commonly known are one of the most difficult of all baked goods to master. It is not that the list of ingredients are overwhelming (it’s just almond flour and meringue), it is the level of technique involved in making them and the high degree of uncertainty (…and failure) that comes along with it. You can be the most mastered of pastry chefs, the most technical, the most knowledgeable and you will still have a failed batch due to the varying factors involved throughout the process. They are that difficult to make and justify their hefty price tag at the bakeshops.
I am by no means claiming I am a master at these fancy cookies, I just know how to make them through persistence and patience. But if they are so hard to make, why are they everywhere and in every bakeshop? Well, if you stop making them, you lose your technique, your touch, your… handle on them. So then the next time you make them… they are not going to turn out… at all.
Everyone talks about this “macaronnage” stage during the mixing process and it is true, if you mix the meringue just a little bit too much or not enough, they do not bake correctly. But there is also a fallacy in that knowledge, because some chefs (myself included) will bang the cookie sheet on the counter or punch it with my hand from below to get the air out. This process also pushes the almond meal to the bottom and the meringue to the top to help the “feet” properly form.
I am getting ahead of myself here. It is winter and it is the best time to make macarons. It is dry, and the oven will be on warming up the house, duh. But in all seriously, the dry air helps form the shell needed for a successful macaron cookie. There is this importance of aged egg whites and/or room temperature egg whites to facilitate the best meringue possible. Let us be honest here, cravings do not give a damn about this type of food coddling. If you know how to make a stiff and well-sugared meringue, do it. That is all the chemistry you need.
Have I aged my whites? (…senior citizen jokes aside…) Sure… Have I brought them to room temperature before? Of course, but in the end, it did not make a significant change to my final result. What did though, was using store bought egg whites. No ma’am, I will not, those did not suit me well in the least bit, but perhaps it is due to my old-fashioned French method of meringue-ing. Yes there are three different types of meringue. The French, the Swiss and the Italian, all in order of difficulty and technique. The French meringue is the easiest for the home chef, but it is also the most fail-ridden version.
It is trial and error folks, I spent many months making these and bringing them to friends and colleagues as my certified guinea pigs. They were not disappointed, so I kept tweaking my formula to find the best recipe.
Back the other day, I made my meringue, I added some colour, my almond flour and got to piping. Once I baked and frosted them, I left them in the fridge to properly mature. Macarons actually require overnight refrigeration before they are ready to eat, but even just a few hours in the ref will help. If your cookie was over-baked this is the best way to fix it especially if you are filling it with a buttercream. The butter will soak into the macaron and soften its texture and thus correcting any mistakes from overcooking.
Why am I blogging to you all about this? Well folks, this batch was the first perfect batch I had ever made. Not one single macaron was cracked, undercooked, or even improperly formed. The feet were perfect and the cookie texture was just right even out of the oven. (I even filmed a time-lapse video of them baking on my Instagram) If anything, I would say the bottoms were a tad bit overcooked, but other than that, once the buttercream from the other day was slapped on, I was in patisserie heaven.
What did I do with the egg yolks? I already knew I was going to make a custard or flan with them. Of course on a smaller scale, but I did not know what else to do with it. I whisked in some sugar and some 10% (Half & Half) and realised I could do a ChocoFlan mug cake. In the end my mug cake turned into a full brownie pan of chocolate cake with a thin later of flan custard.
So the thing about ChocoFlan is you make your cake batter and fill the pan, then you slowly pour your flan/custard mix over the top with a spoon. Much like they make those fancy Caramel Macchiatos at Starbucks, “Upside Down” you pour the flan mixture on the spoon and allow the spoon to gently pour the mix over the cake batter.
During the baking process, if done properly, the mixture will invert sending the denser flan to the bottom and the cake mixture to the top. You then flip this cake upside down onto a plate and are left with the ChocoFlan cake. It was just ok, I wish I had more flan. Since it was orignally a mug cake in inception I did not foresee needing more egg yolks.
Oh well, that is for another adventure in the kitchen. After all, I still want to fit into my clothing when I am back in Chicago. I can’t bust my gut too much!
I will dissect my formula for the perfect macaron below:
3 Egg Whites
1 Cup Almond Meal or Flour (Trader Joe’s or Bob’s Red Mill)
1 Cup Icing Sugar
5 Tbsp Caster/White Granulated Sugar
Food Colouring (Liquid or Gel)
2 Mixing Bowls
Electric Hand or Stand Mixer
Separate egg whites from yolks and set yolks aside for other recipes. Stores in the fridge wrapped with cling film for a few days.
In a clean mixing bowl sieve or powdered sugar and almond flour together and discard any large chunks of almonds. (You may have to add additional almond meal if a large portion of or meal was discarded in this process).
In another clean mixing bowl, begin to mix your whites at medium-high speed (5-6 on hand mixers) until they begin to foam. Slowly incorporate your caster sugar (at the highest setting) one tablespoon at a time to properly dissolve the sugar as the meringue forms.
Once you begin to have soft peaks, add in your desired food colouring and mix until stiff peaks have formed in the meringue.
Drop in the dry mixture and fold into the meringue. You do not want to go full force with the folding, but you want everything to be well incorporated. As the mixture becomes more and more incorporated, you will need to watch its consistency. It must flow like “lava” but not like “chocolate syrup”. Think more along the lines of a stiff caramel that pours but immediately holds its shape. It should take 6-7 seconds for the “goop” to form a mound. If it stays as a “goop” of meringue and does not slowly form a mount that resembles the macaron cookies, then it is not mixed enough, alternatively, if it looks like pancake batter, you have gone too far and can scrap the batch or use it in a cake mixture.
Pipe them out onto parchment paper or silicon mats into 2-3 inch circles.
Smack the cookie sheet on the counter a few times to release any excess air in the cookie. This process will rid any peaks left from the piping process and force air bubbles through the top of the cookie.
Allow cookies to air dry for at least an hour before baking.
Depending on your oven you will bake it at 275ºF-300ºF (135ºC-150ºC) for 10-12 minutes.
If after 10 minutes the cookies do not separate as one piece once they have cooled, put back in the oven for an additional 3-5 minutes. Allow to fully cool before pulling off the cookie sheet and frosting.
You do not want to macarons to brown, though in some cases and depending on food colouring, they do. Fear not, they are still edible, just bake them for less time or at a lower temperature for the next batch.
Frost with your desired buttercream, fruit or citrus curd.
Please refrigerate for a few hours or overnight before eating for best texture and flavour.