Sunday, November 20, 2011

The French Macaroon Making Marathon

Ever since the amazingness that was the Lark/Harmon wedding, I've wanted to recreate the incredible little desserts the bride somehow found time to make. Sara was happy to send me the recipe, so I enlisted the services of expert sous chef Nancy (of Tres Leches and Roasted Poblano Enchiladas fame) and set out on what would become my most trying (and delicious) baking adventure yet.

The Batters

Almond Macaroon Master Recipe
All Parts From
Servings: 30-40 macaroon pairs
Time: 60-90 minutes

1 cup almond flour
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 large egg whites
2 tbsp granulated sugar

Now you just have to wait about 45 minutes for the skin to form.
There's a decent amount of sugar
  1. Sift the almond flour and powdered sugar together in a large bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy then add the sugar to help stabilize them. 
  3. Continue beating the egg whites until firm peaks start to form.
  4. Pour half of the dry ingredients into the bowl with the egg whites and fold the egg whites over to incorporate. Add in the remaining dry ingredients and fold until the dry ingredients are no longer visible.
  5. Fill a piping bag with the batter and pipe nickel sized circles onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Note: the batter will spread more on parchment paper, so for better looking macaroons, you'll have to splurge on the costly mat.
  6. Preheat the oven to 280 F.
  7. Let sit until a skin starts forms around the batter. This can take anywhere from 30-90 minutes depending on the weather. You'll know they're ready when you can touch then without any batter getting on your finger.
  8. Bake for 18 minutes making sure to turn once midway through.
  9. Allow the macaroons to cool before removing from the sheet. If you try to move them too quickly, the bottoms will pull off.
Don't remove too quickly if you like your cookies to have bottoms.
This almond master recipe is what you need to start any macaroon. From there, you can simply add dry ingredients to change the flavor (which you'll see in a minute with the chocolate ones). While it is fun to try out a bunch of different recipes, you can succeed with just this simple almond recipe that is already fantastic. Even though these tasted great, we still didn't quite get the consistency down. The macaroons were a little too flaky and sometimes hollow on the inside. This is likely because we didn't beat my egg whites into firm enough peaks, or my piping technique was deflating the batter too much.
The graveyard of failed macaroons: the saddest thing ever. We lost a lot of good men that night.

Chocolate Macaroons

Almond macaroon master recipe (see above)
3 tbsp cocoa powder

  1. Repeat the procedure listed above, but also sift in the cocoa powder with your dry ingredients.

The chocolate macaroon batter came out much nicer than the almond ones and they had an intriguing brownie-like flavor. Plus, once you add filling, they kind of look like Oreos, which has to be a good thing. 

Speaking of fillings, now let's move on to our three varieties: chocolate ganache, white chocolate ganache and lemon curd.

The Fillings

Chocolate Ganache/White Chocolate Ganache
Time: 5 minutes

6 oz white or dark chocolate
1/3 cup heavy cream

White Chocolate Ganache: Because the macaroons need to be sweeter
  1. Bring the heavy cream to boil in a pot.
  2. Pour over well chopped chocolate in a bowl and mix well until it becomes creamy.
The dark chocolate ganache is no slouch either.
These two ganaches are beyond quick and easy to make, which will help your sanity while waiting for the macaroon batter to form its skin. Both provide all the chocolateyness you could want without being too rich and distracting from the macaroon itself.

Lemon Curd
Time: 20 minutes

3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
Pinch of salt
2 sticks of unsalted butter, chopped

Nancy has the faux double boiler technique down.
  1. Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, salt, lemon juice and lemon zest together in a large metal bowl.
  2. Bring a few inches of water to boil in a medium pot. Place the bowl of whisked ingredients over the pot and whisk continuously. Keep whisking to make sure the eggs don't scramble.
  3. The mixture should transition from frothy to creamy. Once it's creamy, whisk for an additional minute to help it thicken.
  4. Remove the bowl from heat and add in a handful of butter at a time until it's all melted in.
  5. Pass the curd through a strainer to remove any egg that scrambled. 
  6. Let chill in the fridge until ready to use.
The curd in my finest lighting.
It looks a little better sitting atop a delightful little macaroon.
I previously made a lemon curd for some lemon blueberry cupcakes, and I have to say this version of the curd was far superior. You have to be careful that the curd doesn't become too sour, but this was just the right level of lemony goodness. The sour plays perfectly with the sugary sweetness of the macaroon itself to give a winning combination.

Not all fillings can be winners. Just ask the vanilla buttercream that looked like cottage cheese (but still tasted good).

The Wild Card (Toppings)

If you're feeling extra adventurous, you can add some toppings to your macaroons. Simply drop them on top of the batter when it's freshly piped onto the baking sheet. Since the macaroons are baked at low temps, you shouldn't have to worry about the toppings burning. We used some sweetened coconut flakes, but you can also use others like pistachios or hazelnuts.

Just be sure to mix the right fillings with toppings: Coconut and chocolate: yes. Coconut and lemon: no
The Final Drool-Worthy Product
Macaroons, Mac-ma-Macaroons (if you get the reference please apply to be my wife)
What started as a desire to acquaint ourselves with the world's latest baking phenomenon (sorry cupcakes), quickly turned into an endurance test of our will. A lot of work had to be done to make all the different batters and fillings, and our sanities definitely started to wan around hour five (at some point you will likely yell at them and call them stupid when they're not forming their skins quickly enough). Luckily, my sweet baking music (that 90s rap is a great motivator) and the help of the always sunny Nancy led us to French baking victory.  Despite some overmixing of the batter, they still were unbelievably delectable and received rave reviews from all parties fortunate enough to get their hands on them.

Even tastier than the Oreos they resemble.
Each of our combinations was delightful, but if I had to pick a favorite, I'd probably go with the chocolate macaroons with white chocolate ganache. The coconut with dark chocolate ganache (which I lovingly call the almond joy macaroon) came in a close second.
Nancy poses with her baking achievement, while the Ashby highrise continues reeking photobomb havoc
I always knew Sara was ridiculously awesome, but now her status as such has been forever cemented. I'll never figure out how she managed to bake these for all her wedding guests without going crazy, but my stomach is sure thankful she risked it. These didn't quite live up to the ones she delighted us all with, but no one in their right mind would pass on them.
The world's happiest box that my coworkers can look forward to enjoying at the weekly staff meeting.

No comments:

Post a Comment