Sunday, August 12, 2012

Never Give Up--Macaron filled with Chocolate Ganache

Over the past two weeks, I browsed a handful of popular food blogs for work and personal interest. Some of the blogs have more than fifty comments per post on average. It would make my day to see more than 50 visitors on Chez Ma Cuisine. What is their secret? How do they get people to procrastinate just to wander over some tortuous food photos.

Without doubt, they all have great photos and mostly shot from a DSLR. To me photos are everything. I am a "food gawker", and I make the decision to scroll on or exit the webpage based on quality of the photos. Like many others I am constantly refreshing Pinterest and Tastespotting.

A good photos correlates with quality writing. The more established a blog is, the better the writing. Dorie Greenspan, for example, has a calming yet instructional voice. I read through her posts and I'm craving for more at the end. She has so much to offer. Sometimes it is about the history behind a pastry or a friend she once worked with. 

Good writing read smoothly. I never think Dorie is writing a post. Her words flow out in my mind as if she's talking to me. I think people are most natural when they share their experiences because it is coming from their heart. When you write something close to you, the words aren't forced out of you. They flow out, like silk, like water, like time. 

A good blog is made up of many elements: from good photography to a well written recipe and fluent writing. My goal is to blog what is important to me and write so in a way that will make you know more about me.

Now moving on to sharing my most recent triumph chez ma cuisine. After battling with macarons for a year (yes 365 days), the French almond meringue cookie finally submitted to my electric hand mixer. It was last year around this time that I took a macaron class form Sur La Table. I was impressed by how macarons are made with three ingredients in simple steps but at the same time difficult to perfect. 

One of the many failed attempts
After class I went to practice making macarons. I don't know what I did wrong but either the top cracked or the cookie never had feet. Some people shared a few hints on how to tell what you did wrong, but a cracked cookie can have multiple reasons such as under mixing or overly heated oven. I've tried various recipes and ingredients. I used eggs left out in room temperature for one day, two days, three days, and up to a week. Nothing worked.

All this time I've been using my electric hand mixer. I thought of buying a used stand mixer. But people in the old days don't have kitchen appliances and they still made bread, tarts, and macarons!

I gave up on my maracon project when school started in the Fall of 2011. Recently, I revisited my macaron recipes from Sur La Table and decided to give this stubborn treat another go. I watched more youtube videos and focused more on their techniques. I could tell the difference between a soft peak and stiff peak. And that's the problem of my macarons.

My batter is always watery because I don't whip the egg white long enough. When I fill my pipping bag, the almond mixture just flow out like melted milkshake. Because of the excess moisture, the macarons never dry out at room temperature. Hence lack of feet and hard shell. 

Macarons have three ingredients and three important steps. To bake perfect macarons, each step must be fully executed.

1) Sift almond meals two times to get rid of big lumps. 
  • This will give you a smooth top and texture
  • Macarons are such delicacies that you don't want a grainy texture
2) Beat egg white till stiff peak
  • It doesn't matter how old your egg white is! Just make sure it's at room temperature
  • Start a slower speed
  • Hold off on sugar till you reach a foamy stage--egg white is white and have small air bubbles all over
  • Increase speed to medium after you add the sugar
  • When you notice the whip is leaving marks on the egg white, increase speed to high
  • Continue beating till you get stiff peak that doesn't fold over
  • The beating process can take up to 15 minutes on a hand mixer and a little less than 10 minutes on a stand mixer.
3) Fold almond meal and powder sugar into egg white
  • Use a spatula to fold from bottom to top (incorporating almond meals at the bottom of the bowl to the top)
  • Repeat till almond meal barely disappeared
  • Gently gather batter into a rough ball
  • Insert spatula into the center of the batter and smear out against the bowl clockwise
  • In the opposite direction, gather the batter back into the center
  • Repeat for 5 times, check for consistency
  • You want batter to flow off from your spatula in thick-ribbon like texture and the ribbon keeps its shape for 20 seconds
The recipe I used comes from Syrup and Tang:
Egg white 50g
Almond meal 65g (=1.3 x weight of egg white)
Powder sugar 80g (=1.6 x weight of egg white)
Sugar 40g (=0.8 x weight of egg white)

Read the instruction above
Measure out the ingredients
Line baking sheet with either silpat or parchment paper
Beat egg white
Fill pipping bag with a round tip
Pipe quarter sized rounds on baking sheet (I count to three and move on to pipe another macaron)
Hold baking sheet on both sides, drop on counter top to release air bubbles
Leave to dry out in room temperature for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours
Preheat oven to 350F
Bake for 12 minutes
Wait for cookie to cool before removing it from the silpat
Pipe filling on half of the shells, top off with the filling less shells
Wait at least 6 hours before serving.

1 comment:

  1. Aha, I know how you feel!

    Oh, how I envy that you have successfully made macarons! I have yet to try, but I`ve read so much on it! When I`m brave enough, I will definitely re-read this again!

    Thanks for the tips!