Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Macaron Mania

Macarons have been on my list of things I wanted to make for awhile now, but they're a daunting proposition.  Luckily I had Elina to help tackle the challenge :)  Prior to our macaron date, I did some reading online.  There's lots of "advice" out there, but I found posts from 6 BittersweetsAn Edible MosaicTartelette (Demystifying Macarons), and BraveTart (here and here) to be particularly helpful.  Feel free to check them out for more step-by-step photos and even some videos!

Things went pretty smoothly for our first time, but I still learned some things along the way!

Lesson 1:  Use 1/2" tip with a pastry bag or cut an appropriately small hole in a plastic bag to use for piping the macarons.

Lesson 2:  Don't overmix the batter!  On one batch, I forgot to add the food coloring until it was a bit too late, and my batter was the consistency of pancake batter.  This, combined with a poorly cut "tip" in my plastic bag and my macarons were hard to pipe and came out quite large.

Lesson 3:  Don't make your macaron shells too large.  They'll start to brown on top long before they have cooked all the way through.  Macarons that aren't completely cooked don't come off parchment paper easily.

Lavender Macarons w/Honey-Vanilla Mascarpone
adapted from Gourmantine and Tartalette
Yield:  20-25

I only used about half of the mascarpone for one batch of the shells...  I'd recommend making another batch of shells ;)  While my shells look under-filled, you could definitely still taste the filling, so I'm not sure I would change a thing!

For the macaron shells:
110g [aged] egg whites, RT*
dash salt
25g evaporated cane juice (or granulated sugar)
100g sifted almond flour
200g powdered sugar
1T dried lavender
food coloring, optional

For the Honey-Vanilla Mascarpone:
8oz mascarpone
2 vanilla beans
2T honey (I used clover honey and eye-balled it)

Sift powdered sugar into a medium bowl and then add sifted almond flour.  Grind lavender in a coffee grinder (or use a mortar and pestle) and then rub through the sifter to make sure you have a fine powder.  Whisk together powdered sugar, almond flour and lavender.

Using a stand or handheld mixer, whip egg whites and salt on medium-low until foamy.  Add the evaporated cane juice and continue beating, on medium high until you have flossy, medium-stiff peaks.  If you pick up the beater, the egg whites shouldn't drip off.

Add almond flour/powdered sugar mix to the egg whites.  Add food coloring to a rubber spatula (if using) and then get ready for the macronage!  Macronage, or the combining of egg whites with the almond flour/sugar mixture, actually deflates the egg whites so you don't have to be too careful with the folding.   Fold, vigorously at first, then a bit slower to evaluate the batter consistency.  The whole process shouldn't take more than 50 strokes (I didn't count).

What should perfectly-mixed batter looked like?  I've seen it described several ways, but the easiest way for me to test was to put a small amount on a plate; it should form a smooth dome when ready, if it forms a peak it is under-mixed and requires a few more folds.  You want to avoid over-mixed batter, which will be a bit runny and have the consistency of pancake batter.  Alternatively, you can use your spatula to lift and drop the batter onto itself; if the ribbon gradually disappears into the batter within 30sec, it's ready to go.

Spoon the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2" tip or a plastic ziploc bag.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and pipe batter into 1" circles, leaving ~1" in between each macaron shell.  I found a great template to use for piping the shells from Kevin and Amanda that I slide under the parchment paper to get the appropriate size.  Don't forget to remove the paper template before baking!  Tap the baking sheet (firmly!) on the counter several times to dislodge any air bubbles that might cause cracks when they're baking.

Let the macaron shells sit at RT for 30-60min, during which time the shell should become dry to the touch.

Preheat your oven to 300deg.  (I did this about the 30min mark, and by the time it was preheated it was about 60min after piping the macarons)

Bake macarons in preheated oven for 15-20min, or until the parchment peels away cleanly from the macaron.  If you see wet batter below the shell, it's not done yet.  Once the macaron shells have baked, let them cool completely on the pan.

The shells can be made a few days ahead and stored in a ziploc bag until you fill them.

To prepare the filling, split the vanilla beans and scrape out the seeds and add them to the mascarpone.  Add honey and mix well (I did this in the mascarpone container, but you could certainly use a bowl).

To assemble the macarons (should be done at least 24hrs before you need them!), match up similarly sized macarons.  Pipe or spoon filling onto the bottom of one macaron, then place another on top of the filling (I actually used a spatula).  I didn't measure the filling, I just didn't want to overfill them so the buttercream oozed out the sides when I transported them.

Store assembled macarons in a parchment-lined airtight container and store in the fridge for at least 24hrs (up to a week or so).  Let the macarons come to room temperature before serving (an hour or so should do).

*For one batch, I separated my egg whites/yolks and aged them in the fridge for four days before bringing them to RT the day I made them.  Another batch got separated and aged for two days at RT before use.  Both seemed to work just fine!

These were pretty incredible, and a favorite of many who got to taste the two flavors I made for the baby shower :)  (It was a Thing 1 & Thing 2 theme for twins, hence the color!)  You'll have to stay tuned for the recipe for #2!

Have you ever made macarons??  Any tips to share?  Do you have a favorite place to eat them?


Erica said...

Well, they sure are gorgeous! What a fun adventure. I've never made macarons

Fun and Fearless in Beantown said...

These macarons look awesome. This must have been a fun baking day for you and Elina!

Victoria said...

That is an AMAZING job with those macarons. Perfect tops and beautiful feet.

Lauren @ Healthy Food For Living said...

Yay for macarons!! They look perfect, Shannon =).

Cara said...

Is this the shower where you met Suzy? Yeah, I'd be all over the girl with the macarons too ;)

Kristen said...

making macaroons is quite an involved process, but the results seem worth it. these are beautiful!

vanillasugarblog said...

i'm very impressed.
i have yet to make these and am very scared.
that color is fabulous. the lavender made them that color? wow
you should be proud.

Ranjani said...

Beautiful! I've never made macarons before - I'm more of a whoopie pie girl =)

Emily @ A Cambridge Story said...

Wow, this was a definite success for your first time making macarons! I got a macarons cookbook for Christmas and still haven't used it. This is just the inspiration I need!

Laura said...

Wow, these look store-bought. And would be gorgeous for an Easter brunch.

Lisa (bakebikeblog) said...

thet are some super impressive macarons! well done!

Christine said...

These look great! I have yet to tackle macarons, but in the meantime I enjoy eating them.

Delicious Dishings said...

They look gorgeous! Awesome job for your first time. I've made them a few times and mine rarely look like that. The colors and flavors are great too!

Elizabeth said...

They're beautiful!! Super impressed with you

Colleen @ Culinary Colleen said...

Macarons are so hard to make! I had to make them when I was staging at a restaurant last year (I think the chefs were playing a cruel joke on me). Needless to say, they didn't turn out very well. I'm impressed that you made them at home!

Joanne said...

Macarons have been on my bucket list for FOREVER but I'm SO scared of them. Xiaolu (of 6 bittersweets) has tried to talk me out of my fear many a time. These just sound SO tasty....I really NEED to give them a go!

Taryn said...

I recently took my first (and second) stab at making macarons as well! The first batch I baked off right away, and while they tasted great they didn't produce the proper foot. The second batch, however, came out perfectly. Such a sense of accomplishment! Yours look and sound wonderful.

Katerina said...

You did an excellent job with these macarons. I live their color and their shape!

Kelly said...

I love the colors on those! They are so incredibly vibrant. They remind me of this awesome guide I saw in a recent Food Network Magazine:


It's more about tinting frosting but some of the colors they've created are absolutely gorgeous!

I will add another tip. I don't think you're supposed to let the batter sit for very long before you make the macarons. I made some with my girlfriends before Christmas and we made one batch and then, oops, went off to drink wine and then tried to make another batch. The first batch was gorgeous, but the second was flat and sad. Lesson learned.

Sacha said...

They're so vibrant! Your flavors were definitely unique, and they look great. The only other thing I can think to tell you is to always avoid humid days.

Elina (Healthy and Sane) said...

Haha, the large tip made for some hilarious piping the first time around. All's well that ends well though right, and these were incredible! So happy to have finally crossed this off my 30 by 30 list :)

Anonymous said...

Those look amazing! Loving the lavender taste!

Lazaro Cooks said...

Job well done. Beautifully executed and great flavor combo. My wife would be all over the Red Velvet ones.

Jen said...

These look great! Megan and I made macaroons last year and they weren't as hard as I had expected. I need to make them again some time.

Kerstin said...

Mmm, the one I had was so good - I was very impressed :) And I love the bright colors - so perfect for the baby shower theme :)

The Well Read Fish said...

Holy smokes. I am HIGHLY impressed!

Angel said...

These look great, thanks for the recipe, I learned a lot!

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