I’m still experimenting with different recipes (you might say, just stick to a darn recipe girl! But I’m fickle minded that way), and am still determined to get my french meringue technique right – I’m still in the process of tweaking the different variables to see where I’m going wrong.
Like I mentioned previously, I tried making macarons using the french method for a consecutive five times, and each time, the macarons turned out feet less. I was so dejected and disappointed – at that point, I knew that I had to turn to the italian meringue, which had given me results on my first attempt. And to that I turned, and it did give me results as promised. You might query why the hesitation in using a successful method? Well, for one, I find the steps tedious, and you do need a candy thermometer in order to make the italian meringue and second, I really wanted to get my french meringue method right. Suffice to say, after having successful macarons with the italian meringue, I have given up on making macarons for a while and have focussed instead of using up those macaron shells. Once I’ve cleared my fridge of all those shells, it’ll be back to more macaron experiments for me!
For those interested, these are what my failures looked like:- volcano and cracked tops as well as undercooked bottoms for some.
After reading MANY troubleshooting posts (see Not so Humble Pie, Miso Hungry, Duncan, Vivian for some imminent examples) on why my macarons turn out the way that they do, I have concluded that it was a combination of several factors, including:
1. Not allowing the ‘crust’ to develop sufficiently, hence the mega cracks
2. Too humid weather and too high baking temperatures (see this useful post by Silvia and Ivan on dehumidifying)
3. Over folding the batter.
|Check out the difference in the bottoms of the macs – the left ones are using a generic silicone mat and the right ones are made using baking paper.|
Nevertheless, I was sick of getting failures, so I escaped by using the italian meringue method (yes I’m escapist) and I ended up with this bunch of macarons you see here:
Macarons with Salted Caramel Buttercream, using the Italian Meringue Method
For the Macarons
150g ground almonds
55g egg whites
1 tsp egg yellow food coloring (I used 2 drops brown coloring)
40g mineral water
55g egg whites
- At least a day (24 hours) before attempting the macarons, separate the egg whites from the yolks and let them rest in the fridge (it is too humid and hot here for them to rest on the counter for more than a few hours) to age and ‘liquefy’ (in the master’s words).
- Sift the icing sugar and ground almonds individually to get rid of the large lumps. Then, sift the icing sugar TOGETHER with the ground almonds. This is known as your “tant-pour-tant” (literally, so much for so much or equal parts). Mix in the food coloring into the first 55g of egg whites. Then, combine these colored egg whites into your tant-pour-tant. Mix well and leave this aside.
- For the remaining 55g of egg whites, place it in a clean mixing bowl. Next, heat the castor sugar and water in a saucepan over a medium heat. Do use a candy thermometer – allow the mixture to boil until it reads 118°C. However, once the syrup reaches the 115°C mark, start whisking the egg whites. The sugar syrup should read 118°C just as the egg whites reach a soft peak (the timing is pretty accurate). Pour the sugar syrup down the sides of the bowl and continue whisking the egg whites until you achieve a stiff peak. The egg whites should read about 50°C when stiff peaks are achieved.
- Fold in the egg whites in 3 additions into your tant-pour-tant mixture, gently folding the batter until it is glossy and ‘flows like magma’. I generally use the indicator of how long a fold takes to ‘dissolve into itself’ – about 15 to 20 seconds to check if my batter is ready.
- Pour the batter into a pastry bag filled with a plain tip (about 10-15mm in diameter should be just right) and begin piping the mixture into circles of about 3cm in diameter onto your baking sheets lined with parchment paper. If you have problems piping evenly sized shells, do print out a template or you can trace out 3.5cm rounds on the back of your parchment paper. Since the shells will spread out a little, do pipe the shells a little smaller than the circles you have drawn. Leave a 2cm space in between each shell. After you are done piping, rap the baking sheet against your work surface to ensure that there are no air bubbles trapped in the shells.
- Allow the shells to develop a ‘crust’ – this crust is simply a skin that ensures that the shell will not stick to your finger. It literally feels like a thin membrane. For a humid environment like Singapore, try to work in an air-conditioned environment or you can place the shells in front of a fan. My shells took about 1 hour to develop a crust.
- Preheat the oven to 160°C (some recommend 180°C but I find that 160°C works best for my oven). Place the tray in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes. At the 5th minute, the feet should have developed. At the 8th and 11th minute, do open the oven door a little to release the build up of steam. If your macaron shells start to brown, your shells are overcooked. What I do is to remove the tray from the oven at the 12th minute and flip one shell over to check if it adheres to the baking paper. If it does, put the tray back to bake for a few more minutes; if not, the shells are done.
- Once out of the oven, remove the shells from the baking sheet (still on the parchment sheet) and allow them to cool on a cooling rack. This will ensure that the shells don’t continue to cook on the hot baking sheet. Once the shells are cool enough to handle, remove them carefully from the parchment sheet (ideally they should not stick at all) and pair them up.
- Fill the shells with your desired filling and store in the refrigerator for at least 24-48 hours before consuming, to allow for an ‘osmosis’ of the buttercream to the shells.
For the salted caramel buttercream filling
115g whipping cream
- Add half of the sugar to a saucepan and allow it to melt before adding the remaining half of the sugar. Do not stir the mixture and allow all the sugar to melt to a amber color.
- At the same time, bring the cream to a simmer.
- Once the sugar has turned a dark amber color, remove from heat and add the first 15g of butter. Stir quickly and be careful as the mixture might splatter. Then, add in the cream which has been simmering and stir quickly to incorporate.
- Put the saucepan back onto a medium heat and allow it to boil until it reads 108°C on the candy thermometer. Pour the mixture into a heatproof dish to stop the mixture from cooking and allow it to cool.
- Once the caramel mixture has cooled, stir in the sea salt, making sure it dissolves. Begin beating the softened 70g of butter for about 5-10 minutes, or until it becomes soft and fluffy. Add in the cooled caramel mixture in two additions, making sure that the caramel is fully incorporated into the fluffy butter. Place the mixture into a piping bag and your salted caramel buttercream is ready to be piped!
- Note: Veron from Kitchen Musings has this delightful series on Macarons which you should read – more relevantly, her comments on Pierre Herme’s italian meringue method here come in handy should you wish to attempt this recipe. For a photo tutorial, do check out Edd’s post for this exact same recipe. If you wish to look at local bloggers attempting the italian meringue method, do check out Swee San’s step-by-step tutorial for Wendy, both of whom had beautiful macarons with frilly skirts :]
- Taste: I enjoyed the saltiness of the caramel but it might be a tad salty for people unused to the taste of sea salt. I would recommend starting with half a teaspoon and working your way up through tasting (you can do that with the cooled caramel). The sweetness of the macaron shells were thus countered with the salted caramel.
- Texture: For the best experience, DO allow the filled macarons to rest in the fridge for at least a day or two, because the part of the shell in contact with the buttercream yields more easily and this gives you a crisp and chewy mouthfeel, the hallmarks of a good macaron.
- Serving size: I halved both the macaron shells and buttercream recipe, so that I got a smaller number of shells (about 30 pairs).
- Modifications: I didn’t get my hands on salted french butter or creme fraiche, so I changed that to normal unsalted butter but used instead an extra teaspoon of sea salt to adjust the saltiness to my liking. Creme fraiche was substituted with whipping cream as well. I did reduce the sugar in the sugar syrup by quite a fair bit – the original calls for 150g of sugar and 37.5g of water but I found that reducing the sugar a little worked as well.
- Storage: The macarons keep extremely well in the refrigerator – you can even freeze them for a month, but note that the shells will soften and lose its crispiness.
- Would I make this again?: Definitely! The italian meringue method requires much more work than the french, but it promises results each time, so I know which recipe to turn to when I have a macaron craving! However, I intend to tweak the recipe a little to see if I can use less sugar for the sugar syrup in order to reduce the sweetness of the shells.
|The texture of the shells were pretty good – slightly crispy with a chewy interior. There are also no visible air pockets whee! :]|
Till my next macaron adventure!