On Thursday I decided I wanted to try making macarons again. I thought I would do a trial to see if a new recipe would make a difference. It did! They turned out much prettier than my last batch. I didn't record the process this time. I was actually planning on doing that next week since I wanted to make a couple of batches for Easter, but I don't think I will have the time.
I did pull out my camera when I saw how nice they looked in the oven, so I have a few of the final product. I also have a some notes about what I've learned so far and what I need to work on. Originally, I wanted to make blueberry macarons using a recipe from Cathy Shambley at SlowFood Chef. The recipe is based on Helene Dujardin's Powdered Strawberry Macaron recipe at Tartlette. I actually found the recipe at Tartlette first and thought a blueberry/cream and strawberry/dark chocolate macarons would be perfect for Easter. Luckily, I googled some more and soon found out that Shambley had already tried the Dujardin's recipe with blueberries!
The recipes both call for drying the fruit in the oven at a low temperature for a few hours and processing it into a powder. Unfortunately, my blueberries were still too juicy after the suggested 2 hours, so I scrapped that and decided I would put them in a lemon curd. I will try the original strawberry version next because I love the idea.
Now, on to the shells and what I learned this time around.
- My attitude. I decided the best way to conquer the macaron was to have some patience instead of rumbling with them in my kitchen.
- I found almond meal at a nearby store, put it in the food processor, sifted it, and ensured it was very fine. It was much more like a flour this time, which made a huge difference in making the batter smooth.
- I got a new pastry bag tip so I had better control over the batter.
- I used a scale and measured everything precisely which added that extra level of accuracy.
- The second batch looked like real macaron shells! I did a little dance when I saw that they were smooth on top and had feet. No cracks!
- I found a vanilla buttercream recipe I like. I normally hate buttercream but the Cupcake Project's Vanilla Bean Buttercream is goo-oo-oood.
- I tested the timing again. One batch went into the oven with only 15 minutes of rest and the second batch had 30 minutes. I've definitely found my macarons crack if they don't sit at least 30 minutes.
- I used a food coloring gel this time. Instead of adding the gel directly to the batter, I reserved some of the whipped egg whites and added it to them first. Then, as I started to fold the almond flour mix into the egg whites, I added the colored egg whites back into the whole mix. I was focusing so hard on not over-mixing that I forgot about the colored egg whites, so I added them in at the end. . .which caused me to over-mix a bit. Ha! I think this is part of the reason why my shells are flat.
- I'm not fond of food coloring but I know that's the best way to get those gorgeous colors.
- The blueberry lemon curd was delicious but a little too squishy. No one wants macaron filling squirting out at them.
What I'm Trying Next
- Stacking my baking sheets. Apparently this helps insulate the top sheet and keeps the bottom of the macarons from baking too fast.
- Not over-mixing!
- Using an Italian meringue recipe. This uses a sugar syrup instead of granular sugar and seems to make fluffier looking macarons (Although, apparently the French meringue I've made is tastier. Hmm.) Pierre Hermé uses Italian meringue. What's good for Pierre Hermé is good for me.
- Finding confectioners sugar that doesn't have cornstarch in it. I'm not sure this will happen, but I'll be on the lookout for it. Apparently the cornstarch only makes the macaron look duller, so it's not that big of a deal.
Overall, I think this was a huge step forward. I think the results are beautiful and they tasted great. I can't wait to try more!
I still have a lot to learn, but I know I'm getting closer to the right recipe and technique. I'm also having lots of fun!