Sunday, October 10, 2010

Holy Pillows of Air, Batman!

Macarons

Parisian Macarons.

Oh, how I loathe... and love these airy, pillowy, and sugary delights.
I've attempted to make these sweet sensations in the past and was met with more than frustrating results.  For those of you who are familiar with my blog will recall not one, but two failed attempts.

Vanilla Macaron 2 
For this week's challenge...

Challenge #4: Picture Perfect
Sure, you can take a pretty picture. But your task here is to go above and beyond and use photography to create a step-by-step, instructional photo tutorial."

(thank you all so much for voting!!! I'm truly shocked and honored to have made it this far!)  

...I thought I'd challenge myself a bit considering I often show a "step-by-step" & "how-to" through photography on a semi-regular basis.

First, a bit of clarification on the primary ingredient: Almond Flour/Meal. 

Blanched Almond Meal

After the first few trips to the grocery store and every other grocery-selling store out there I quickly found out who carried and didn't carry Almond Meal/Flour.


Blanched Almond Flour
(Yes, they're the same thing)

One of those places I went to was Trader Joe's.  I had called them to see if they had almond flour before I hassled myself in a pointless trip.  

Me: "Hi, do you guys carry almond flour?"
TJ Employee: "Let me check... We have almond meal."
Me: "They're the same thing!" (Or so I thought)

I went across the street to discover that their "almond meal" looks like this:



Almond Meal 2


The difference is clear right?  One word was missing from the label on the bag and that magical word is BLANCHED.

Almonds 2

Almonds 3

Almond Meal/Flour that is typically used in producing French Macarons are made with Blanched Almonds or Slivered Almonds.

Blanched Almonds

 Blanched Almonds 2

Blanched Almonds 3

Blanching is a process in which they remove the outer skin.  This process will cost you somewhere around $6 or $7 more than the almond meal with the skin on.

Almonds 4

I've actually made them before with the skin-on almond meal and it does make a difference.  Stick with the blanched stuff.  That's what the pros use and my goal is try to stick with the most authentic method as much as monetarily possible.

On to the recipe.

In the other attempts at the macaron I used the same recipe which I got from an LA Times article in this past Easter.  It was written by my favorite bakebook author, Dorie Greenspan

(Taken from Dorie's Facebook Page)

Her books are fabulous.  She lives between two of her homes, one in New York and one in Paris.  And... she's good friends with Pierre Hermé.  If you don't know who he is, let's just say that he's a pastry god whose flour-coated shoes I am unfit to wipe.  Actually, he's so good, I bet he doesn't even get flour on his shoes!  Either way, I am unworthy.

Raspberry Macaron 2

In the recipe she states that the recipe is based from his book, "Macaron."  The link is correct... IT'S IN FRENCH PEOPLE.  That's why this article is such a gem!  Through Dorie we are able to take a sneak peak into the secrets of the macaron as done by the French.

Before I break everything down, I'd like to state that this was INCREDIBLY hard to make.  It took me SIX attempts.  YES.  SIX.


Disasters 2

Disasters 1

Each batch yielded 3-half sheet trays.  That's a lot of friggin macarons.

I could go on and on about what I did and what probably caused the cracks and blah blah blah but I'll spare you the extra text.

I'll just say that there were a lot of scraps.

Mess Ups
(This is about HALF)

by Dorie Greenspan/Pierre Hermé


1/2 Cup (3-4 large) Egg Whites (Room Temp, Divided in Half)
Food Coloring (Optional)
1/2 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract

1 1/2 Cups Blanched Almond Meal/Flour (5.3 oz)
1 1/3 Cups Powdered Sugar (5.3 oz)

3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
3 Tablespoons Water


Ingredients

After about 3 attempts this recipe wasn't quite working so I turned to the net for further guidance.  I came upon David Lebovitz's site (an extremely talented baker as well as a good friend of Dorie's! I wonder if gifted pastry geniuses all hang out together...).  He listed some resources and this "Almost Foolproof Macarons" was one of them.


The recipe looked almost exactly the same as Dorie's but with a slight exception: 

4 more tablespoons of granulated sugar. 

Here's the breakdown (the method was slightly adapted to make it work for me and diverges somewhat from Dorie's):

0.
Stencil 2
Stencil out 1 1/2" circles on parchment paper (3).

1.
Egg Whites Divided
Divide the Egg Whites.  Add Vanilla (to the cup on the side).

Almond Meal and Powdered Sugar 2 
Sift the Almond Meal and Powdered Sugar together.  Set aside.

2.
Egg Whites and Sugar
In a standing mixer whip half the Egg Whites until foamy 
then rain in the Sugar.
Whip until it holds soft peaks.
Put the mixer on low while you wait for the Sugar to boil.

AT THE SAME TIME...

Boiling Sugar 2
Bring Water and Sugar to a boil.  
Brush the sides with a brush and water.
Once the Sugar mixture comes to 230 degrees, 
slowly pour into the beating Egg Whites.

Stiff Peaks
Beat until stiff peaks.


3. 
Mixing
Mix the Almonds, Powdered Sugar, Egg Whites, Vanilla, and Meringue.

Dry, Egg Whites, and Meringue 4

4.
 Pastry Bag 4
Prepare a pastry bag with a round tip.

5.
Piping Batter
Fill bag and pipe.

6.
Batter 23
Let dry until you can touch the batter with it not sticking to your hands.
Put a fan on it to make it dry faster.
Preheat oven to 320 degrees, NOW.

7.
Ok Batch 3
Bake for about 15-18 minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown.

8.
Filling
Completely cool.  Match similar sizes and fill with desired filling.  

Raspberry Preserves

Raspberry Filling
And added raspberry preserves to some of the buttercream.

9.
Macarons 3
Sandwich together, place in an airtight container, 
and refrigerate for 24 hours before serving.


Depending on where you live, weather, oven, and a host of other variables my method might not work for you.  That's why this simple recipe of only 6 ingredients will cost you an arm and a leg at places like Bouchon.

Bouchon_Macarons 


But when it works, it's beautiful!
Macarons 2 

Good Luck!!!

38 comments:

  1. Beautiful! I have always wanted to try to make these, just for the challenge, but as a diabetic, I never get to actually EAT the sweets I bake, and it seems like so much work for something pretty to look at (though my kids would love them I'm sure, they're happy with Toll House!). But with the almost fool proof method maybe it would be worth the risk!

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  2. nice job, nadia! this proves yet again how macaroons require skill as well as luck. :D looks DELICIOUS. (this is a view from china too!)

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  3. Awesome. It's such a craze but I've never tried it. I'm glad you found out about the secret 4 T of sugar.

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  4. Great job with your macs... totally worth those six attempts!! :)

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  5. Oh my gosh! I love this post and your macarons turned out lovely. I tried to make macarons this past week and it was an utter FAIL. This is super helpful.

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  6. I am sure I'd be on attempt 1, 329 by now. Yours look perfect. GREG

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  7. what a wonderful recount of your macaroon experience. Tahnk you for sharaing. Definitively voted!

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  8. These look perfect! Sorry it took so many attempts, but you came out with a perfect batch in the end!! You've got my vote!

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  9. Good for you! Having had my fair share of kitchen disasters, it's always inspiring to find another foodie with a good sense of humor! Makes us feel human and give ourselves permission to make mistakes. I'm gluten-free (Celiac) and love macarons, but have never been bold enough to even Look at a recipe! This was a fabulous and entertaining post, and I will be attempting these soon! Thanks and good luck!!

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  10. Ah! I've tried and tried to make these and your tips are genius. I too used almond meal from Trader Joe's and did a whole mess of other things that made them fail. Wonderful post!

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  11. Simply lovely. I can't wait to try making these myself one day!

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  12. Thanks for the info, and for the delicious recipe too :)
    wish you good luck

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  13. Kudos for your persistence! I would have quit and moved on to chocolate chip cookies at attempt 3!

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  14. Love your visual tutorial. Good luck with the challenge.

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  15. A very, very good tutorial. :) I will use this one when I attempt macarons. They scare the crap out of me...but now that I (finally) have both a digital scale and a stand mixer, I've run out of excuses.

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  16. These are stunning! When I'm feeling brave enough to attempt my own for the first time I'll be stopping by again! You took the mystery out of them for me.

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  17. Congrats on your macarons! I'm still scared to try making them - but I'm grateful for your step-by-step instructions!

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  18. This looks heavenly, in both the sense that it's light and airy, and also that it looks freaking delicious. Did anyone benefit from your failures? I bet your scraps are scrumptious. Good luck this week, voting for you!

    Lick My Spoon

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  19. I have always wanted to know about these. Thank you so much for sharing. Now I just wish I could find some already made in Durango!!

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  20. Until about a week ago, I thought macarons was just a funny way of saying/spelling macaroons but then my sister enlightened me by bringing some macarons over. So delicious! But I would have never thought to try making them myself.... until now, thanks to your lovely photo tutorial!

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  21. Excellent post - you got my vote for this! Good luck :) Feel free to hop over to leave a comment :)

    Have a wonderful day!
    jen @ www.passion4food.ca

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  22. You didn't get deterred after failing so many time.. you are so brave!
    I made once and it failed and I think it'll take me some time before I'll gather the courage to try again..
    I voted for you btw.. great post.

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  23. Definitely worth the 6 tries - amazing ! Looks just like the ones from La Durée !

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  24. Judy (Hot Polka Dot's Mom)October 13, 2010 at 6:51 AM

    I appreciate tutorials that include the good, bad and the ugly. When skill and proper technique are critical to the outcome, I like to know the pitfalls and how to avoid them. Great post.

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  25. Although I have very little baking experience, your blog makes me want to attempt making macaroons. You break it down so well. :)

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  26. I love how you showed us the failed ones. Makes me think that giving it a try won't be so bad, if I already know I am going to fail at it hah

    My votes in for you and good luck!

    jenny at www.foodcoma911.com

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  27. I have made macs a few times....with about 50% success. I bow down to your expertise because I know it ain't easy.

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  28. At least they turned out beautifully in the end. They're SO beautiful that I think all your effort was definitely worthwhile.

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  29. Girlfriend you're macarons look FIERCE!!! Gorgeous! They could walk the runway :D You can send me those scraps...bet they're good w/coffee ;) Just voted!

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  30. I tried to make macarons--ONCE--with disastrous results. I love this tutorial! The photos, the step-by-steps... Making me want to try again!

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  31. Oh gosh, such effort. I would never even dream of attempting macarons! And if you're looking for someone to help you out with those scraps, I'd be a happy volunteer :)

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  32. Thank you guys so much for all your comments and votes!! I made it through to the next round!! You guys are amazing!!!!

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  33. i was behind a blog! but now i'm all caught up. pillows of air...looks SO cute. organic raspberry spread...mmmm

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