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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Macarons! NOT Macaroons!

Dear readers,

For those of you who have had the privilege of going to Paris, you have probably seen the immense popularity that the "macarons" hold in today's French society. What ever you do, do not confuse the French delicacy with a mound of shredded coconut, held together with egg whites! The French Macaron is a special treat to have when first arriving in Paris. The hard shells of the disks, keep a nice surprise of moist, chewy, almond flavored meringue. And of course, what would be the "macarons" without their delicious fillings, which always seem to balance and compliment the disks, which keeps it snuggled inside of them.

Before we continue, let's go back to 1533, where the "Macaron" is thought to have been brought from Italy by Catherine di Medici and her pastry chefs. Of course at this time, the simple cookie was only a single cookie made out of ground almonds, egg whites and sugar.

In 1792, this cookie gained even more popularity when 2 Carmelite nuns started selling it in Nante, (Nancy) as a way to support themselves as durint the French revolution. The pair, seeking asylum at the time, were then known as "the macaron sisters".

It wasn't until the 1900's that Pierre Desfontaines from café Ladurée in Paris, had the idea of putting two macarons cookies together with a filling. Since then, café Ladurée created hundreds of flavours of this elegant treat with it's silky smooth centre.

As pioneers of the pastry industry come back from Europe with a desire to recreate the Ladurée Macarons, popularity for this dessert is uprising. But it can take years to recreate the perfection needed for a perfect macaron every time.

The first step is to find yourself a great basic recipe for the cookie part of the macaron. After that, your imagination will for sure run away from you a million miles an hour. Flavors for the macarons, can range between a basic chocolate cookie with ganache filling, to the complexity of a black sesame cookie and azuki bean filling. Also ranging from simple raspberry to combining black olives with white chocolate, the combinations are endless.

After learning the techniques and recipe in school to create the macaron, here are my attempts at finding something that works for me, before filling out an order for later this month.

Let's get ready:
With my piping bag (with tip) ready, granulated sugar measured out and on standby by the egg whites in the mixer and my icing sugar and almond powder sifted together twice sitting in the bowl, I am ready to rock and roll. I also have handy my food colorings and have already lined by baking trays with parchment paper. After this "mise en place", i'm ready to start with step 1.

Step 1:
Whip up egg whites to medium-hard peaks. Add your coloring to respect the filling going inside of them, by keeping in mind that you want a soft, pastel color for your macarons. Whip 2 seconds to incorporate the color.

Step 2:
Place the beaten, colored egg "whites" with the icing sugar and almond powder mixture in the bowl. Now the next step is crucial! You must master the technique of "macaronner". Yes thats right... they invented a special technique that specifies to this step of making the macaron.
Macaronner consists of mixing together the whites and the almond powder mixture together untill it all becomes smooth and shiny. This requires energetic beating of the mixture with a spatula to take the air out of the whipped egg whites. This will result in the mixture to become a little liquid, but do not worry, it's part of the process.

Step 3:
Scoop the mixture into your piping bag, equipped with a no.8 or no.10 tip. Carefull because the mixture will run out of your bag if you are not careful.

Step 4:
Pipe it out onto the prepared trays, in dollops the size of a penny (around a centimeter big), for it will spread out. Make sure to pipe it with your bag at a 45 degree angle for the mixture to not run out all at the same time onto your tray. At the same time, you want your macarons to be perfectly round and not oval.

Step 5:
Another crucial step, the drying of the macaron. Once they are piped out, you have to let them dry out for at least 20-25 minutes for them to have a skin formed on top. During the cooking of the macarons, the skin will rise with the whites growing underneath it and creating a feet all around the cookie. This is a key element to the perfect macaron.

Step 6:
Bake them off between 300 and 320 degrees Fahrenheit. Every oven will differ, and to obtain the perfect macaron, you will have to experiment. Start with 310, probably a best bet to start with. You will want for the top to not move too much when shaken from inside the oven, but at the same time, you do not want any browning to occur on top of them. Uniformness of the original unbaked color should be present at all times.

Step 7:
When they come out from the over, place them directly into the freezer to peel them off from the parchment paper with more ease and to conserve the shape and not destroy them.

Step 8:
Assemble them with the filling. The filling should be light but firm at the same time. The ratio from cookie to filing should be between 1:1 and 2:1. Anything else might result to a messy product.

So there is a quick overlook at the elegance, simplicity and complexity of the French Maracon!
Please do not confuse these with Coconut Macaroons! Thank you! :) Here's a few pictures of my trial macarons.

Eat well, sleep well and till tomorrow!


1 comment:

  1. Thank you, beautifully explained. I will definitely try this recipe, a third attempt. I want to perfect this amazing treat.