Thursday, March 27, 2008

Pistachio Macarons


I think I caught the macaron bug that's been going around. I created this blog as a result of my many (mostly failed) attempts at making macarons. I found some recipes on blogs and tried them but failed...There must be some secret magical recipe or trick that I haven't tried that works!! I didn't believe other bloggers when they said that you have to find your own recipe and stick with it. I didn't believe them when they said that you shouldn't overmix and you shouldn't undermix...nothing made sense when I opened the oven and produced flat, disappointing disks of dry batter. When I first began using the French Meringue method I tried it and failed miserably. I am not sure what it was that I did but I must have been either over or undermixing my batter. So I stumbled accross Mad Baker and I thought her Macarons looked spectacular...and when I read on I discovered that she uses the Italian Meringue method. The difference between Italian and French Meringue is that French Meringue relies on simply aerating the eggs via whipping and stabilizing by adding sugar. The Italian method produces a shinier and more stable meringue. It first begins with a basic French meringue and then a sugar syrup is heated to about 120 degrees C, and you slowly pour the hot syrup into the meringue while mixing. I did try this method many many times, and I failed every single time. I was determined to keep trying this Italian method because if I am not getting anywhere with the Italian stable Meringue how could I possibly get anywhere with the French light fragile one?? I read that you shouldn't overmix, so I was very careful and mixed till the mixture was just combined and "flowed like lava" as everyone keeps saying. I ended up with baked meringues rather than macarons. Frustrated I felt that I must be doing something totally wrong so I resorted to YouTube to find a video I could watch and I found one which shows a French chef using the Italian method. I don't speak French so well but I understood enough to know that my recipe was the same as his so there must be something he did that I wasn't doing...YES....there was....he MIXED his batter and MIXED and MIXED and scraped the sides and kept MIXING....and it still "flowed like lava", I ran to the kitchen to whip up another batch and when I got to the mixing stage I did exactly what he did....I piped it out on the baking sheet, and let me tell you it looked right...I put it in the oven and waited...I sat next to the oven door and watched, but to my horror, I had worse results than ever before. That was it...why was I doing this to myself? I decided I would try this Macaron business one last time and then I was done for good! So I tried the french meringue method one last time because I couldn't bare to wash all the sticky utensils from the syrup. This time I used the recipe on Veronica's test kitchen but I was sick of overmixing so i deliberately undermixed. I used the 24-hour aged egg whites and this time when I looked in the oven and saw tiny tiny traces of feet....I was thrilled but still when I took them out they were more meringue-like and stiffer than I wanted. So I figured I should mix it th batter until "just combined". when piping, my circles appeared stiff and after a few seconds they took on the classic round shape. This time I definately saw feet. Just not as big as I wanted, but I definately think I would stick to this recipe. So the next day I tried the pistachio recipe from Veronicas sit which she links back to Tartlette and I added about a spoon of Merriwhite (egg-white powder) to the aged egg whites, I read that Pierre Herme adds it to his meringue. Anyway I thought it can't do any harm to try...and instead of using the 25grams of sugar to stabilize the meringue I increased it to about 80g. I felt that th meringue wasn't getting as shiny and as stable. Those were the only 2 things I changed. Oh and I left the piped circles out to dry till they weren't sticky anymore (about 20 mins).
And as you can see I got decent results. They tasted DIVINE too, these are sandwiched together with swiss meringue pistachio buttercream...

Things I learned for successful macarons:

  • Aging the egg whites DOES help.
  • Old almond powder yields bad results. Use blanched almonds and process them.
  • Leaving the piped circles to dry in a non-humid room DOES help.
  • Overmixing is not recommended (result=flat discs)
  • Undermixing also not recommended (result=hard shelled meringues)
  • Mixing just right is something you develop and get a feel for...forget the "lava" tip...both undermixed and overmixed batter looked like "flowing lava" to me. Always mix with a flat spatula from the outward edges of the mixing bowl towards the center in one direction only.
  • Add dry ingredients in six stages and mix each stage very briefly.
  • Immediately fill pastry bag and pipe on a parchment lined baking sheet. The mixture should maintain a stiff shape and should then spread slightly after 15 seconds or so.
  • Tap the sheet lightly on the counter before leaving to dry in non-humid room for 20 mins (I increase the AC as I live in Dubai and it can get humid)
  • Don't take them out too early or they will deflate.

So here is the Basic Recipe I used:
125g. almond powder
(I used blanched almonds and ran them in the processor + sift)
225g. icing sugar sifted
100g. aged egg whites (left outside uncovered for a day)
5 g merriwhite or egg white powder
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
70g. granulated or caster sugar


Method:
  1. whisk eggs with merriwhite and cram of tartar till white & foamy
  2. pulse icing sugar and almonds in food processor and sift
  3. keep mixing whites on high speed until the eggs aerate and increase in size and soft peaks form
  4. add granulated sugar a tablespoon at a time but drop it in slowly, mix well after each addition, keep mixing till all sugar is finished
  5. add the dry ingredients in 6 stages, mixing briefly (don't overmix)
  6. fill pastry bag with a medium plain nozzle and pipe small balls onto a baking tray lined with parchment. Try to pipe at a 90 degree angle and lift the bag upwards when finished.
  7. leave out to dry for 20 mins. You can test with your finger to see if they are dry.
  8. bake at 150 degrees. Ovens differ and my advice is to use a separate oven thermometer to check the "real" temperature. I bake them for 13 mins.
Good luck and Bon Voyage...:)

7 comments:

sue said...

hahaha well done on yr lovely macs. I do feel yr agony as i too fail many times ( 15+) and each time its yeils different results.
Hope to try yr recipe soon but can i omit the dry egg white powder?
rgds

Bakerette said...

Hi Sue, yes you can omit the dry egg-white powder. I just made some today without the egg white powder and they turned out great. I will be posting the recipe soon!

Marianna said...

I loved reading about your macaron adventures. I have the exact same issue here except that well, I have put the whole macaron thing "on hold" and until today havent reached the successful part that you have (congrats :-) ). I did ething like you, blogs, Youtube, books, word of mouth, everything except the Italian method which I will try once I get some macaron-motivation back!

Jen said...

Hahaha! I don't have to write my whole macaron adventure, for mine is EXACTLY like yours. I'm frustrated with all the many failures I have with both methods, and I can't understand how others do it so easily! I'm also tired of watching and eating flat disks...Oh well, I shall try attempting again - for there's no success without failure.

Szilvia said...

Hello!

I've discovered the beauty and the uh-mazing taste of the macaron, and I've been reading Mad Baker's blog to get some inspiration for flavours.

I Just googled about the difference between Italian and French macarons and your blog came up explaining it.

In fact, I think we've been watching the same french baker make the Italian style macarons on youtube.

Thank you for explaining and for sharing about your trials and errors, it's always good to get a heads up before trying to do something for the first time -as I am about to with these lovely macarons!

I also noticed that your last entry was a few months ago, I hope you're still blogging, you're good at it! =)

Best wishes
Szilvia

Szilvia said...

Hello!

I've discovered the beauty and the uh-mazing taste of the macaron, and I've been reading Mad Baker's blog to get some inspiration for flavours.

I Just googled about the difference between Italian and French macarons and your blog came up explaining it.

In fact, I think we've been watching the same french baker make the Italian style macarons on youtube.

Thank you for explaining and for sharing about your trials and errors, it's always good to get a heads up before trying to do something for the first time -as I am about to with these lovely macarons!

I also noticed that your last entry was a few months ago, I hope you're still blogging, you're good at it! =)

Best wishes
Szilvia

Chris said...

Hi,
Congrats on your success in making macarons! I tried making them and the feet only appeared on my 7th attempt. But I'm not exactly satisfied with the way the feet looked which is kinda "short". They looked fuller and long while in the oven. But they sort of shrank once I took them out of the oven. If you would be so kind to take a look at the pictures in my blog here (http://eat2tell.wordpress.com/2009/11/29/macaron-fatigue/)

When you said "Do not take them out too early or they will deflect", do you mean that I should leave in the the oven for a while to achieve fuller and longer feet? Thanks for your time!