So I admit it, I've been a little bit loony tunes on the whole macaron front recently because, well finally if I get this right, I don't have to keep paying Herme and Laduree for theirs, albeit the once in a blue moon foie gras number isn't too bad (seriously, in a macaron. Not bad.)
If you go back enough, I've had a go a few times over the years, but not tried consistently starting from the very beginning with the Roux brothers recipe. Anyway I went to a Groupon course taught by On Bakery. We took the basic and advanced class which goes through the french meringue method and the swiss meringue method (I also took the choux class which is another story).
The first thing you should probably know is that the teacher Loretta Liu is a bit loony tunes. Not an insult by any means. Normality is overrated. She is Singaporean and those traits are really, really present. Her english is fine, there is no "la"s at the end of sentences like in university and apparently she's the wife of a friend of a friend (after I went to the class). Just expect a little abruptness, a little, "sorry ran out of time so your buns will be screwed, should have baked them longer for that size, but your fault for piping them a little bigger than we told you to." It means you finish on time but after paying for a class and perhaps more western sensibilities you wonder, "well if you could see that why couldn't you leave them in for five minutes longer?!"
Anyway, the macarons you make in her class are very stiff. Since I can't pipe and cut off the peak with the little "comma" whisk of the piping bag, I end up with little nipples.
It's not just me - this is the product of everyone else's leftover mix being piped out as practice/for charity.
Stacks of macarons from the oven.
My macarons for taking home - they give you some ganache to sandwich it with. After the choux class, the basic macaron class and then the advanced class, you just cba to watch them teach you ganache again.
Hmm. Well, the recipe she gave us was very good for making "solid" macarons without hollow air pockets. My major problem with macarons is overbeating to get the colour incorporated.
For the advanced class they let you do Swiss Meringue and also decorate it with royal icing which is pretty boring if you already do decorated biscuits. However, observe. Skirting. That's my overbeaten mixture. It fell pretty lava like and it had nipples so I was surprised but apparently this mixture is easy to go over without noticing.
Even my mother can tell me which ones are "pretty" or not now. She knows what a macaron should look like. Help me.
The ones here were the ones I did two days ago using the "class" french meringue recipe. Knew as soon as I piped nipple free that it was overdone.
However, I found a means to resolve that online.
The ones in the picture are the ones I made today using BraveTart's shell recipe. The notable thing about these are that they don't get as much "feet" as other recipes and even in the pictures on her site and on her followers, it is an inherent thing with the recipe. They pipe but settle flat.
I've yet to work out whether me popping the large bubbles with a cocktail stick/tapping it does much good, but it doesn't do them any harm. I blame Roux for this compulsion.
See the sort of feet? Not the same are they? But respectable. Also worryingly there's a large quarter teaspoon of yellow in that mix and can you tell the difference? No, it's slightly golden. Fantastic. What on early do we eat when we eat the lurid colours of the commercial macarons?
In case you're interested, they were filled with:
1. White chocolate ganache infused with a cinnamon stick and stiffened with icing sugar
2. White chocolate ganache with passion fruit essence and icing sugar
3. Cream cheese and icing sugar
4. Some of the chocolate mousse before I decided it was too bitter on its own.
I also picked up a few things. With my oven I know that there are hot spots which give me cracked shells so I've been piping half sheets for awhile. Then I started turning the tray. I don't know why I haven't been doing this before? Risk of both sides cracking? Inherent cake baking mantras not to take cakes out till they're almost done in case they sink? Genius. Now I get two cracked ones and they are exactly where some gust of heat comes in at the start of the cooking time.
So what have I learnt for Macarons?
1. Whisk the colour in with the meringue first - it will make the colour mix in with the overall so you don't have to risk overbeating. I use the paste/gel and if it's become a solid lump, do smush it around a lot before you put it in otherwise, it will end up freaky.
2. Turn the tray in the oven once you have feet. Too early and you don't get feet on some of them.
3. Don't bother with a timer. Most of the recipes will make about four or five trays of macarons, each with about 11 or 12 on. If you put them in on one layer (because I don't have a fan-assisted oven) to get the right heat, then once you've taken them out, you can stick in the next one, busy yourself with the ganache/filling and turn them, cook them, take them out and put in the next tray. I now just test them by doneness i.e. when you take some off and it doesn't leave half its belly on the parchment. I'm probably a little prone to overdone-ness this way but if you whack enough filling in it's okay. It's somewhere between ten and eighteen minutes for a small to a "normal" macaron size.
4. Ageing eggs doesn't necessarily matter (maybe that's why we get mediocre feet?), but you can put it in the microwave for ten seconds on high (as in 1,2,3,4 not 1 crocodile 2 crocodile, which gives you some partially cooked egg - but FYI still works when you fish out the white bit)
5. Spatulas work better. They just do. I usually bake with metal spoons but the plastic spatula works.
6. Buying an oven thermometer was redundant. I know my oven. It doesn't cook on the bottom rung and I need to amp up the temperature to the next Gas Mark compared to what the recipe says. I spent more time dropping it through the rack, almost burning my hand and letting the hot air out when I was trying to read it that I gave up and went back to trusting myself.
7. If you're interested, the On class taught us to keep the icing sugar and almonds separate in the bowl before we folded it together. Theory being keeping the oil and sugar separate as long as possible. Not sure that has that huge an impact, I gave it a quick stir through before I folded it today, but I didn't sieve the two together like I used to.
1. When you try to make four types of ganache in one go you don't whisk and therefore it WILL split. To rescue, adding corn syrup didn't seem to work (couldn't find my glucose) but heating a small puddle of milk and whisking it in gradually made me a nice bitter mousse into which I loaded all my rejected macarons. If I'd have used cream it might have been ganache again.
2. When you make white chocolate mousse, they aren't kidding when they say you will find it doesn't set. White chocolate melted is already pretty liquid so adding cream basically leaves you with sauce. However, you just need to remember to have a brain. I whisked sieved icing sugar into it until it stiffened. No longer technically a ganache but at least it works. For some reason, tunnel vision makes you forget basic solutions. I also found cream cheese makes it pretty interesting.
So can you be a$$ed to make macarons now? It's a tasty almond biscuit and you acknowledge that you are chasing some rather pointless feet and shine but it's the journey. And it beats paying up to £2 for one of the wretched things. Not bad for a few afternoons experimentation.