20 February 2013

Les Macarons, Parte Deux


Last week, a co-worker and I decided to try a macaron-baking class at Sur La Table, a new kitchen store in the area.  I tried making macarons on my own before (and blogged about it here) getting only about 50% of the way there.  There is a TON of information about making them online, but for some reason most of it just seemed mystical and not really helpful to me (although it always really tried to do the opposite.)  So I thought perhaps a class was the way to go.  I'd get some guidance and some pointers, and come home with recipes, too!

The class was held after work.  In 3 hours, we made 3 kinds of macarons: hazelnut, regular almond, and raspberry.  The instructor was very confident and encouraging, but his advice was not always the most sound, so they only came out so-so. They tasted very good--don't get me wrong--but didn't look right at all.  (I thought I had a picture but I guess I don't.)   I decided to continue experimenting at home, and this weekend I got to it. 

First up was trying pistachio again.  I love pistachios, and I had an annoying little bit left rolling around in the cupboards.  So I grabbed and cleaned out my coffee grinder and ground them in there with a little powdered sugar, and then subbed that for part of the almond flour (I had storebought already ground almond flour.) I then followed the recipe we did at the store, taking care to make my batter a bit runnier.  I baked them all on one giant sheet, and I used parchment paper to bake them on (usually you use a Silpat, but I only have one and it is small).  Here's the result:

Pros:  nice "macaron-y" shape, with the little feet.
Cons: they spread out a little on piping, so they ended up touching (as you can see in the front).  Some of them also got a little too brown. I also got peaks, which I tried to get rid of, as I had been instructed in the class, by dabbing at them with a damp finger.  This just caused discoloration at best and little eruptions at worse, as you'll see in the next batch:

The second batch was the basic almond recipe, no other additives.  The ones we made at the store kind of looked like these:  fat and chunky, with peaks.  They look more like hamburgers than macarons.  I'm not sure what makes them chunky--they didn't seem to be piped any higher than the others--but the little bump at the top was from dabbing at a peak with a wet finger.  I discovered that doing that seemed to ruin the cookie's ability to dry properly.  I let them sit an hour and they all dried EXCEPT the one little spot on top.    That spot turned into that thing on the top of the cookie.

I also tried the instructor's edict to always, always, ALWAYS bake two pans at a time with this batch.  That didn't work so well for me either--one batch burned on the bottom, even though I rotated and switched pans half through, and I baked them for only 8 minutes rather than the 10-15 suggested.  So much for that.  Maybe with some other oven.

Finally, at 12:30 this morning, I put my final batch in the oven--a big stinking pan of hazelnut macarons.  And:

THEY CAME OUT NEAR PERFECT!  YAY!  I used the one pan, watched the bake time closely, folded the batter a little longer to get it runnier.

I filled all the cookies with Italian Meringue Buttercream:  chocolate and rosewater for the pistachio cookies, chocolate and strawberry for the almond cookies, and chocolate and vanilla for the hazelnut cookies.  Took them to work today and they went over quite well.  I'm pleased.  I still have a few kinks to work out but I think I am more on my way. 

Now:  anyone know what I can do with 16 lonely egg yolks?


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