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Twilight, Travel, and Treats

Reflections of a Twihard on all things twilight, travel, and treats.

I'm at the end of a three week vacation and I'm happy to report I've used my time appropriately. Read a bunch of smutty books while vacationing over two Hawaiian islands and renewed my love of crocheting miniature food. And finally got around to learning how to make macarons.

For years now I've been aching to return to Laduree in Paris for a macaron. In the meantime we've considered taking a class to make macarons but instead of forking out the money for one I decided to venture it alone first.
"Why make macarons?" you may ask. My hubby swears that they taste only 10% better than cookies but are 100 times harder to make. For me the macaron is kind of like the Holy Grail of baking. It's fancy and elegant with simple ingredients and just takes the right technique. The last part is the elusive thing that I hoped to capture.

I used two different blogs for my research. Both are written by pastry chefs who have each made thousands of macarons. They contradict each other a bit so it took some fiddling with my own oven to figure out what worked.

First blog is PastryPal which is a great resource by pastry chef Irina Kogan. She wrote a Master the Macaron PDF which is a free step by step tutorial with full colour photos.

Amazing that she posts this for free. The reviews for it were good so I followed it to the letter and got pretty good results.

Next blog was BraveTart and this pastry chef Stella Parks has a lot of macaron info including a Mythbusters page to debunk macaron myths. She also has of course macaron recipes.

Stella is super friendly and will answer baking questions very promptly via twitter.

First attempt

I followed Pastrypal's Master the Macaron PDF .

My results:

Before oven - piped free hand

Out of oven - 180 deg for 17 minutes. Notice the wide feet

Please disregard the scary ones kissing at the bottom - they were a last ditch to use it all up - not a good idea.

Please disregard the scary ones kissing at the bottom - they were a bad last ditch to use it all up.

A good variety of sizes to help me decide what's best - that's a quarter for reference
Too lazy to make a buttercream today
After following pastrypal's tutorial exactly I was ecstatic that what came out of the oven looked like macarons! They tasted great and looked good but needed tweaking - alas my shells were hollow and the bottoms were sticking.

Mistakes? I was very grateful that Pastrypal's pdf even has a troubleshooting section. She had suggested baking at 280 degrees for 17 minutes to start. Her oven must be better insulated than mine. Bravetart is lovely and answered my tweet and suggested to up the temp.

Also I hand whipped the egg whites like Pastrypal did in the pdf but I'm obviously a whimp and not an experienced pastry chef because my meringue must not have been as stiff as hers were.

I also learned that Bob's Almond meal/flour has a lot of particles the size of coarse salt. So much of the bag was made of these I had to include them after sifting for almost an hour. The macarons were only mildly grainy on the outside though.

Regarding size I followed the pastry pal guide but think I prefer a slightly bigger macaron than her pictorial shows. I had a lot of trouble finding info online regarding the right size. Apparently Laduree Paris small macarons are 1.5 inches so I used that as my standard.

Second attempt

Made the following changes:
- ran almond flour through food processor pulsed a few times before adding to powdered sugar
- all parchment paper used - less risk of sticking than my old silpat and ability to draw 1.5 inch circles on the other side of parchment for piping guides
- insulated cookie sheet and regular baking sheet didn't seem to make much difference so used both
- per Bravetart's advice I whipped the egg whites until they were so stiff I could turn the bowl upside down and they stayed put
- turned oven up to 300 and watched them after 15 min - it took 19 minutes with a pan turn halfway since one half of my oven is hotter than the other.
- used a more flexible silicon spatula to make sure I didn't deflate the egg whites while folding them with the dry ingredients.
- between batches in the oven I cranked the temp to 320 for a few minutes to compensate for heat loss from opening the oven door
Things I did despite Bravetart's debunking them as necessary:
- I didn't age my egg whites in the fridge but did microwave for 10 seconds to dry them out a bit
- I left them to dry after piping until the skins formed - took min 45 minutes in our Vancouver sunny day

Well I got macarons that lifted off the sheet easily after a bit of cooling and were still chewy inside. Some were a bit "dome" like but not all so I may leave the shapes alone.

Glad this second batch was successful.

Things to change for the third batch
- sift icing sugar first as the Bob's Almond flour clogs up my sieve
- to smooth out the tops after piping for any macarons that have a bit of a peak after resting for 5 minutes as that peak will get baked and set

Next up is flavored macarons and also nut-free ones too since I actually have a minor almond allergy but can't help myself around fancy French desserts.


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Anonymous said...

Hi! Great post with references! I found it through troubleshooting my macaron baking. I have a wide feet problem. Just wondering if you know what factor it was that caused your wide feet on your first attempt?


twilightcupcake said...

Thanks Pat. I'm not sure but I think it's because I whipped my egg whites stiffer.