I know I have posted before on the macaron but this post goes a little further towards de-mystifying this elusive creature and also experiments with some sensational all natural colouring and flavourings.
Firstly - only the French could invent something so delicious with the most simple recipe, that if you follow it to the absolute letter - doesn't work!!
Many of you out there, like myself, probably made these once fluked a good first batch and thought pfft whats all the fuss about ? Its simple. Yeah right. Try another batch and see how that works out for you.... Thats where I was. Fluked an awesome first batch - wrote em up and chalked them down to experience thinking I was pretty good and everyone else must be really really stupid.
Well that all goes out the window very quickly when you try to re-create that magic again and again and again and you get, cracked shells, soft insides, no feet, spread mess over whole baking tray, you name it I had it. What was I doing ??? I was following the recipe to the letter why wasn't it working ??? After much gnashing of teeth, reading the internet, getting bogged down in technique, exact measurements I was about to give up. Then I stopped, had a coffee and a deep breath and thought about the macaron. And it is a 'RON' not a "ROON" save the roon for the coconut biscuit - these are strictly the gutteral, unmistakably French sounding ron.
It is French, no ? It looks simple, but isn't, no ? It doesn't like to be copied exactly. Once again...its French! So employ a little French attitude, get a good old shrug happening and the curl of your lip and then tackle them again...
Measure your ingredients up front for the almond meal and the icing sugar (recipe to follow but I use 160g almond meal and 160g Icing/confectioner sugar) then commence the tedious job of forcing this unwilling mix thru a sieve. This has to be the WORST of making the macaron. The sieving is important as thats why the shells are smooth. You will notice mine could definitely be smoother. This is achieved by sieving your dry mix about 3 times. Honestly life is too short for this task to be completed three times and if you have the patience for it - more power to you and your aching hands and forearm!
This entire process is dramatically hastened if you can employ one of those fancy looking plastic scraper thingys you see all the masterchef people using as a spoon will take about 40-45 minutes but the scraper will bring it down to about 30 minutes.
Once you have your dry mix set it aside and we'll talk recipe and flavouring.
I was fortunate enough to be stumbled over in the blogging world by a wonderful NZ Company called Nutrafresh (http://www.nutrafresh.co.nz/) who produce a wonderful array of almost Willy Wonka inspired great tasting sparkling fruit and vegetable powders.
We've all watched them on Masterchef make the puree, dehydrate or freeze dry it then blend to powder to create intense colours and flavours - well now we can have it at home all done for us. No chemicals, no additives just 100% fruit puree or vegetable juices dried and powdered to give intensity in flavour and colour. As soon as I saw these powders I thought of the humble macaron and thought - Oui! Thats gonna work brilliantly and you know what- it did! Thank you Nutrafresh!
Here's What I did. Using the French Macaron Method - notoriously more fickle than the italian meringue version but a lot simpler.
French Macarons - Using Nutrafresh Fruit & Vegetable Powders
160g Almond Meal
160g Icing / Confectioner Sugar (pure icing sugar not Icing Mixture which can have thickeners added)
65g Caster Sugar (approx)
About 4 Eggwhites...
1 level tsp Nutrafresh Fruit or Vegetable Powder of choice to colour or a little gel colour.
These measurements make approx 2 batches of approx 10 Macarons (20 shells) each batch
- Measure your dry ingredients in a bowl and if you have a food processor blitz them for about 3-4 minutes with the blade attachment to try to make it as fine as possible.
- Using a plastic food scraper (not a spatula) or large spoon, press the mix thru a fine sieve. This is laborious but there is no way around it. If you have the time and/or patience 3 goes thru the sieve is optimal for really super smooth shells.
- Set your dry mix aside and here's where you need to go a little on trust. Make a meringue - thats all Im gonna say. Think about it. Break about 2 eggwhites from large eggs - not the super XL ones - approx 60g but don't get hung up on that. Whisk until they form the soft peaks. Sprinkle a tablespoon or so of caster sugar in and keep beating until it starts to go a bit glossy. Add about another spoonful of sugar keep beating and see if your peaks are getting good and stiff. Taste your mix, is it sweet enough - if you want it sweeter add a bit more sugar. If you are colouring your shells you add it here. I used approx 1 level tsp of Nutrafresh Beetroot Powder for pink shells. When I made the other batches I used 1 tsp of passionfruit for Yellow plus a little gel colour to deepen the hue. Check its stiff enough that you can hold the bowl upside down briefly.
- OK here is where you have to trust your instincts and your feel for the mix you are about to create. This is 'Macaronage' Magic time...
- Take approx 1/3 of your dry mix and add it to your coloured eggwhite mix, and using a spatula start incorporating it by pulling your spatula thru the centre of the mix to the edge of the bowl then scooping and turning it over on the the bottom. Repeat about 25 times. Look at the ooziness of your mix. You are not looking for runny cake mix, you're not looking for too dry or solid. It should be smooth with a little movement as it settles after each drag and turn. Adjust and add a little more dry mix if its too runny. DON"T overmix it - you shouldn't need more than 40 drag and drops - if you do - then you may be wondering why you have issues with the macarons later on.
- The next step is the piping of the circles. If your piping skills need some practice then draw your circles onto the baking paper then turn it over so you can see them thru the other side. The shouldn't really spread too much. I usually get about 5 in each short line. Fill your piping bag with the mix. You'll know straight away if its too runny as it will be hard to fill. I bend over the nozzle end of my piping bag and seal with a small rubber band then stand it in a super tall glass - easy. At this point turn your oven to about 120C - its a slow oven you want.
- Pipe your circles. If you have little tails on the top of the shells - when u have finished wet your finger slightly and push them down. Now you need to let the macaron develop its skin. No skin means no feet - remember that. You need skin then feet will follow. Sit the tray aside for anything up to half an hour. Depending on the weather on the day skins may form quickly, but after half an hour they are still sticky - it's just not gonna happen - so bake them anyway they'll still taste good.
- Pop your tray in the oven. Some people say never use your fan..bah blah bah - I always use the fan and its fine. Just know your oven and know that you want a slow oven so they won't cook too quick on the outside but not so cool they won't rise.
- You'll know in the first 8 minutes if you have success, watch for the feet. If you got a skin the feet will begin to form as the tops rise pulling up the skin creating the feet. Then you just need to keep a watch - they will take about another 5-8 minutes cooking after the feet to ensure they''re cooked thru.
- When you remove them pull the baking paper off your tray onto a wire cooling rack. I never wait too long before loosening them as I fear they will stick. Mine never stick. Get a knife or a metal spatula and gently run it under each and just lift slightly. Always pull a little to the side not straight up or you might just leave its insides behind.
- When they are cooled they are ready to fill.
- Repeat with the other half of the mixture.
Macaron Ganache Fillings
Blueberry + White Chocolate (enough to fill 10-12 macarons)
200g White Cooking Chocolate
100 ml Pure Cream
1 Level tsp of Blueberry Nutrafresh Powder for colour and flavour
50g Fresh blueberries cut in half
- In your microwave - place your white chocolate squares and the cream and heat on 60% power for approx 2 minutes - remove and stir with a fork ensuring chocolate is fully melted.
- Stir through your Nutrafresh Blueberry Powder until fully incorporated.
- Mix in your halved blueberries - these will just add some extra texture and interest
- Allow the mix to cool and it will start to thicken slightly. When thickened but not hard, use it to sandwich your shells together.
Passionfruit + White Chocolate Ganache or Beetroot & White Chocolate Ganache
Follow steps as above but omit the blueberries. Unless you are serving your Passionfruit macarons immediately - do not be tempted to add fresh passionfruit to the mix as it will make the shells too soggy.