All 2 entries tagged Macarons
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August 28, 2012
Quick! Hide this entry's title with your hand. Can you guess what these are, without looking at the title of the blog entry?
¡Mira! They're meant to be macarons imitating the Olympic Rings. However, even I as their co-creator, have to admit that in reality, they bear a greater resemblance to Homer Simpson's donuts.
See what I mean?
The story behind the photos goes something like this:
In Sarah's sitting room. Sarah, Emma and I are tasting the results of our 'experimenting with different sugars' cupcakes and plotting what to bake next time.
Me: I've really enjoyed the olympics. Wouldn't it be fun to do some baking that is olympic-inspired?
Sarah:We could do different flavoured cupcakes. Wouldn't it be fun to do...
(a lengthy, rather detailed conversation ensues on the various flavours and colours that would figure in olympic inspired cupcakes, such as blueberries, raspberries, lemon, chocolate... we keep getting stuck on what would make the courgette and lime cupcakes a greener colour.)
Me:How about macarons instead? It would probably be easier to get the colours right on macarons than with cupcakes
Sarah and Emma: Oh that might be fun. I've never baked macarons before.
Me: They're a bit tricky but we can give it a go. I've got Emma's gel colours that we could use.
Emma: Olympic ring shaped macarons! We should be able to get the proper shape too!
Sarah: (enthusiastically) Yes! Let's do it soon.
Me: (eyes popping out of head, trying to think through how to pipe ring shaped macarons! Actually don't think that I've ever seen a non-conventional shaped macaron before in my life!) Uh... Um...
Emma: They're like meringues aren't they, so we can pipe them into circle shapes.
Me: Um... okay (really not convinced how this will work)... so I'll get egg whites and ground almonds... if you're alright with it, then shall we have it at mine, since I've got most of the equipment for baking them already? Save me lugging the stuff over here.
Sarah and Emma: Okay. That's a plan.
Sarah: So, next Wednesday?
We finish clearing up and depart.
----- O -----
Unfortunately, Emma, who had the idea of olympic rings, was poorly on the night. I was kind of counting on Emma to bring the inspiration for the ring shapes. So, picture doubtful moi on baking club evening when an enthusiastic Sarah bounds in. Sarah is very decided that we should push on and experiment with colours and shapes. Hence, riding on the wave of Sarah's determination, there happened a marathon macaron making evening of three different flavours and five bright colours over the course of the next 3 hours.
I wasn't at all convinced that we could pipe macaron circles. However, I knew that if we were going to have any luck with it, we would have to be really very careful in the macaronage stage and not overmix the batter. If you remember, the first time I attempted to bake macarons, I had a disastrous 'my batter spilleth out of the piping nozzle and over everything' moment.
Thankfully, not this time round. :)
Do you know, I have yet to see one macaron recipe that is the same in it's ingredients or methodology. Seriously! Each recipe book (Fiona's, Nigella's and the Pink Whisk) that Sarah and I looked at had varying cooking times, oven temperatures, the number of egg whites etc... I'm not sure that the perfect, foolproofmacaron recipe exists, you know. Besides, there are so many varying factors to consider, like the temperament of the oven you use and the humidity of the air for the drying out period. When it comes to baking macarons, I think that the key is to keep trying and practising and trying and practising.
So, back to our macaron marathon. We weren't sure how to mix the three primary colours we had to produce black, so I thought that chocolate would be a good substitute. The chocolate macarons went down a treat with the kids when I took them to a congee party later that week! I think that we did a good job with the other remaining colours - apart from maybe the pink rings. We should have added more red colouring perhaps but Sarah and I were concerned about runniness with that mixture. Hence, we stopped at pink and I'm glad that we did because it proved a bit difficult to control the piping of that particular batter. We saved the hardest to last - green, pistachio macarons. Sarah mixed the colours and macaronaged, whilst I was peeling macaron shells and rings off baking sheets. We had a veritable production line going on!
Personally, as flavours go, I think that the chocolate and the pistachio ones were the yummiest. Both of those flavours married well with the orange flower white chocolate ganache filling, that you can see sandwiched between the rings. The other colours were filled with rosewater white chocolate ganache.
We did make conventionally shaped macaron shells, rather a lot of them in fact! But I never got a chance to photograph them to show you, because a) by the time I'd cleaned everything up, I was too exhausted on that Wednesday night and b) I took them into work the following day and they all got demolished by my intrigued colleagues!
So, one day in the future, I will bake some more pistachio macarons and take photos this time so that I can post you a blog recipe for the pistachio macarons.
June 29, 2012
Item no. 25 on my 30 for 30 list is: bake macarons.
(That's not a typo, by the way. Remember the song: "You say eether, and I say eyether." Well, "You say macaroons, and I say macarons..." I've taken to saying macarons to describe these delightful creations because whenever I called them macaroons, people automatically assumed that I meant coconut macaroons.)
Anyway, back to the subject of macaron baking. These chocolate baileys macarons were the first batch of successful macarons that I baked and I was so pleased with myself. You see, I decided to bake macarons as a birthday cake of sorts for Sarah (of the White Chocolate, Rosewater and Cardamon cake episode) because she likes things that are a bit different. However, I had a disastrous first attempt making white chocolate and raspberry macarons from the Pink Whisk because I over-folded the mixture. Thus, when I added the bright pink mixture into the piping bag, it all ran out of the piping nozzle... and there was no stopping it. What. A. Fail. The sides of my mouth dropped a few centimetres as I scrapped the pink batter into the bin, and my bottom lip came out a bit. No joke.
Well, on the plus side, at least I know what over-folded mixture feels like. However, that's not much of a consolation prize when the clock is ticking.
The following day (which was the day I needed to present them), I decided to try another macaron recipe. I was still feeling somewhat deflated by the previous evening's disastrous attempt so decided to skip the grinding together of the almonds and sugar. That's why the macaron shells look rather rough and grainy, rather than smooth, on the photos. (I have done this for all subsequent macaron baking.) I was understandably slightly cautious when folding in the almonds and icing sugar into the eggwhites. I halted all folding action the second the batter slid slowly off my spoon in a somewhat ribbony fashion. No river of sugary, chocolatey, almond goo fell out of the piping nozzle this time. Success!
They (I don't know who precisely 'they' are) say that chocolate macarons are harder to make than normal ones because the cocoa powder drys them out. So maybe I lucked out with this. But I'll always remember them as the first batch of macarons that I baked successfully.
Ingredients for the chocolate macaron shells from Green and Blacks: Chocolate Recipes
- 125g/4½oz ground almonds
- 25g/1oz cocoa powder
- 250g/9oz icing sugar (225g in with the almonds + 25g with the egg whites)
- 100g egg whites, which is between 3-4 large egg whites
- ¼ tsp vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 240°C/475°F/gas mark 9 and line 3 baking sheets with non stick baking liners, such as Bake-O-Glide. Fit a large piping bag with a 1cm plain circle nozzle. Twist the piping bag and push the twist into the nozzle so that the mixture doesn't spill out of the nozzle. Stand it in a large receptacle, such as a pint glass.
2. Measure out the icing sugar and ground almonds. Put them into a food processor to grind down to an even finer mixture. I use my Bamix Dry Grinder and have to do it in 3 batches. When you're finished add in the cocoa powder then sift the almond, sugar, cocoa powder mixture and leave out the residue of ground almonds that weren't ground fine enough. (I always find that there can be up to a tablespoon of ground almonds leftover.) Then leave the sifted powders to one side.
3. Measure out the eggwhites and sugar in a large bowl and whisk until they are thick and glossy. (I sound like I'm describing hair for a shampoo advert!)
4. Use a spatula to gently fold in the almond, icing sugar and cocoa into the egg whites in a figure of eight. It will feel really dry at first and you'll wonder whether it'll ever come together, but don't worry. It will. It's important not to over-mix (see above) so stop when you feel like the mixture is dropping off the spatula in a thick ribbon. This is the tricky part to get right and it even has a name - macaronage.
5. Pour or use the spatula to spoon the mixture into the prepared piping bag. Once it's full, gently untwist the piping bag and begin piping the mixture onto the baking sheets. With the nozzle perpendicular to the baking sheet, squeeze out the mixture until it forms the circular size you're after. Firmly flick up your nozzle and move onto the next one. Leave 2cm of space between each circle, in case the macaron mixture spreads a bit.
6. Next, here's the noisy part. In order to remove spare air in the macarons, bang the baking trays firmly on a flat surface. Let them rest for at least 30 minutes to an hour for a film to form on the macarons. They're ready when you can lightly press your finger on the wet macaron circles and your finger comes away clean. This is also a good time to press down any remaining peaks on your macarons. Something that I clearly forgot to do with the one in the top photo.
7. Put the baking trays in the oven to cook at 240°C/475°F/gas mark 9 for 1 minute, and then reduce the temperature to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 and bake the shells for another 10-12 minutes. The shells should still be soft to touch but not gooey.
8. Let them rest for a minute on the baking trays and then remove them gently from the baking sheets to cool on a wire rack.
Ingredients for the chocolate baileys ganache filling
- 100g double cream
- 100g dark chocolate
- 2 tbsp baileys or an irish cream liquor substitute (or more splashes of baileys if you prefer)
1. Break up the chocolate and put it into a heat proof bowl.
2. In a small pan, bring to boil the double cream and then pour the double cream on top of the chocolate. Leave for 2-3 minutes so that the chocolate starts melting of it's own accord.
3. Gently stir the cream into melting chocolate to encourage the remainder of the chocolate to melt away. Add in the baileys for flavour.
4. Let it cool completely and put it into the fridge to harden for at least an hour, or preferably overnight.
To assemble the macarons:
1. Lay out the macarons so that the flat side is looking at you, and pair up similar sizes - you can tell that I'm a novice macaron baker.
2. When the ganache is ready, you can spoon the ganache onto the shells using a teaspoon, or better still, transfer the ganache into a piping bag, fitted with a 1cm nozzle, and pipe the chocolate ganache onto half of the shells. Sandwich them together with the other half of the shells.
3. Ta DA!
How does the story end with Sarah's birthday treat? Is it happily ever after? Oh no - my list of things that went wrong in baking macarons didn't stop there. Once I'd arranged the macarons and the candles on the plate, I decided to hide them in the bottom oven. And then I used the top oven to warm the bread. You already know how this story ends, right? Yup, you've guessed it - when I took the plate out to surprise Sarah, virtually all the candles had bent over like the tops of walking sticks. Only three of them had survived the oven. We were all amused!
Oh and the verdict on the macarons? Tasty, of course. Sarah was really pleased with the alternative birthday 'cake'. Now, if you were patient enough to eat one 3 days later - heavenly! The flavours had matured and melded together. Elegantly scrum!