Macarons! And how I got into blogging.

I did not participate in the Tuesdays with Dorie recipe this week because the recipe was a fresh berry tart and I can’t get fresh berries here.  So instead I made macarons!

This is probably my first re-do recipe.  I made macarons once for a Daring Baker’s challenge, and it was a royal failure – I won’t even post the pictures – that’s how bad it was.  But after I made the ice cream last week (see this post), I had all these egg whites that I could age to use for macarons.

Until last November, I had no idea what macarons were.  In my mind, I pictured the coconut cookies that my dad always ate on Passover.  They tasted so much of coconut and no one could stand them besides my father.  When I saw the Daring Baker’s challenge I was worried that my very first challenge was going to be something nasty.  But then I was redirected from a link on the site to Tartelette’s blog.  She is a macaron genius and she is French (maybe they are connected), and through her blog I learned what a real macaron is.  Her blog also opened my eyes up to the world of food blogging.  I started by looking through the blogs on her blogroll and then the blogs on their blogrolls, etc. etc.  Then I figured out how to get all the posts sent to my Google Reader so I don’t miss anything.  Then I found the Tuesdays with Dorie group which really got me baking.

The food blogging community is amazing, because it’s as if strangers are inviting me into their kitchens to taste what they made.  They don’t know me and I don’t know them, but now we have something in common.  It also helped because my darling hubby does not often realize how much effort goes into my baking and how big some of the accomplishments are.  His latest request is vanilla cupcakes with white icing.  So I guess keep an eye out for that post.

Whipped egg whites and dry ingredients ready for folding.

I made these cookies last Tuesday night, while Rocker Dude was off doing his DJ thing, and the baby was fast asleep.  I had egg whites that I had aged for about two days (something that Helene of Tartlette strongly recommends) and I made sure to buy ground almonds.  I had powdered sugar already and all that was left was some granulated sugar.  That is the basic French macaron recipe.  I decided to make gingerbread spice macarons because I had all the ingredients and Rocker Dude loves gingerbread.  I was extremely apprehensive and followed all the directions to the letter.  After piping the batter into circles (unfortunately, I did not make a stencil, so the circles were only pretty much the same size), I let them sit out for a good 45 minutes (something I did not do the last time).  This gave them a nice dry crust and enabled them to grow their characteristic “feet”.

Macarons drying before baking

I put them in the oven for the exact amount of time that Helene directs, and I thought they were done.  Then I let them cool.  But when they were cool they were completely stuck to the parchment paper.  Everytime I tried to take one off, I ended up with a thin outer shell, but the rest of the cookie was mushy and stuck to the parchment paper or the spatula.  It then occurred to me that maybe they need to be baked longer.

I let them bake for another 10 minutes or so and only let them cool slightly before removing them to a cooling rack.  That was the charm.  There were still a few that sort of stuck, but most of them came off cleanly with the whole cookie structure intact.  They were still delicate, but now they were more than just a shell.

Then I set about making the mousseline cream that went with the recipe.  It was going beautifully.  My whites whipped, the sugar syrup reached the appropriate temperature without a problem, and even when I poured the syrup into the whites, after a couple minutes it went back to being billowy and beautiful.   Then I put in the margarine.  That’s when it all went to pot.  The whites started breaking down and becoming soupy.  They sort of separated.  The recipe said that it was likely that they would break down, but just keep whipping and they would form up again.  I whipped and waited and hoped, but nothing happened.  I decided to toss the whole thing and do something else to fill the macarons.  So I tossed the broken down cream. (A few days later I learned that what I should have done is cool the bowl a bit and whip some more, the problem may have been that the mixture was too warm. Oh well.)

I decided instead to make a pastry cream using the same spices as I put in the macarons.  I know how to make pastry creams and they work well for me.  An hour later – pastry cream done and refrigerated.

I put the cookies together right before we went to go see Iron Man (fun movie by the way) and I ended up leaving them for the babysitter.  Here is what she said, “Vive la France!”  I tried them also and they were delicious.  One thing I did learn was once you make macarons, eat them right away.  The cream soaked into the cookie overnight and they became soggy.  Still delicious, but soggy.  So when you make macarons – don’t wait!  Eat them all right away!

Gingerbread Spice Macarons

Gingerbread Men Macarons:

For the shells:
90 gr egg whites (about 3)
30 gr granulated sugar
200 gr powdered sugar
110 gr almonds
1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

For the whites: the day before (24hrs), separate your eggs and store the whites at room temperature in a covered container. If you want to use 48hrs (or more) egg whites, you can store them in the fridge. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry. Combine the almonds, powdered sugar and spices in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add them to the meringue, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that flows like magma or a thick ribbon. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper lined baking sheets. Preheat the oven to 280F. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 20-22 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool. If you have trouble removing the shells, pour a couple of drops of water under the parchment paper while the sheet is still a bit warm and the macarons will lift up more easily do to the moisture. Don’t let them sit there in it too long or they will become soggy. Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store them in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer. To fill: pipe or spoon about 1 big tablespoon in the center of one shell and top with another one.

For the spiced mousseline buttercream:
3 sticks butter at room temperature
5 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

In the bowl of stand mixer, whip 5 egg whites until they have soft peaks. In the meantime, combine 1/4 cup water with the sugar to a boil in a heavy saucepan and bring the syrup to 250F. Slowly add the sugar syrup to the egg whites. If you use hand beaters, this is even easier and there is less hot syrup splatter on the side of your bowl and in the whisk attachment of the stand mixer. Continue to whip until the meringue is completely cooled. Slowly add the butter, one tablespoon at a time. The mass might curdle but no panic, continue to whip until it all comes together. Add the spices and fold them in with a spatula.

Pastry Cream:

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. cloves

1 large egg

2 large egg yolks

6 tbsp. sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 tbsp. cold unsalted butter

Pour the milk into a medium saucepan. Heat until the milk begins to simmer.  Remove from heat.  In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, egg yolks and sugar until well-blended and smooth. Add the flour and whisk vigorously.  Pour about 1/2 cup of the hot milk into the eggs, whisking constantly to temper the eggs.  Slowly pour the yolk mixture into the rest of the milk, constantly whisking.  Heat the mixture, whisking constantly to prevent the flour from lumping until it reaches a boil.  Continue to cook and whisk for another minute until the pastry cream is very thick.  Remove from heat and whisk in the butter and the spices.  Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the cream to prevent it from forming a skin and refrigerate until completely cool.

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2 thoughts on “Macarons! And how I got into blogging.”

  1. Yummmmmmmy! I so excited to try a 6 braid challah now that you’ve made it user friendly ; ) I always want to do it but I always forget how. May I make a request? Ever try making gluten free goodies?

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