Sunday, June 28, 2009

Pt 2 Macarons - Brooklyn Style

Macarons left to right - mixed berry, almond honey paste, and lime curd.
I made it all from scratch.

I had almost nothing I need on the macaron equipment and ingredient list, and no experience. No fear, I'm a brave Brooklyn home baker spending her weekend tackling the french treat. I spent my weekend preparing and attempting to follow my recipe. I can barely follow a recipe, so I made my own way.

First - Acquiring & Creating ingredients
I spent Friday looking for almond flour after work. Dean and Deluca's has it, $9 for about 2 cups. Whole Foods on Bowery does not have it, though they have hazelnut flour. I looked online, and it lthe flour can be bought for prices around $10-15. No way. I went to the grocery store and bought 1 1/2 lbs of raw almonds. I toasted them in my oven, cooled, and pulsed them in my food processor. Pulse being key. Clumping means you have begun to go too far, so stop. This homemade flour solution is barely acceptable. Commercial almond flour is finer and drier. Mine has texture and color, but that sounds more like my life, yah.

Confectioner's sugar is a snap to find at the store. Extra fine sugar can be made in a food processor (dump regular granulated sugar in and buzz it for 1 minute.) Parchment paper for the cookie sheets is easy, and I got mine at Sur La Table. I also picked up some jam, honey, blueberries, and limes at the store for filling.

I separated my egg whites on Saturday morning as suggested. I saved the yolks to make filling. Both stayed in the fridge.

Second - Filling
This is a whole separate post, but I suggest doing this before you bake your cookies. I feel like it frees up your mind to ponder the nuances of the macaron.

Next - Almost Ready
Sunday morning I got the egg whites out of the fridge about 2 hours before I wanted to begin. I cleaned all of my cooking utensils to prevent contamination of any lingering savory flavors. I assembled my pastry bag, which incidentally I am missing parts for. I was left using a star tip instead of a round tip, and it worked fine. I lined 2 cookie sheets with parchment, because I don't own a silpat. The parchment must be cut to fit slightly smaller than the cookie sheet so curling edges don't deform your macarons.

Not perfect in shape, but light and chewy

Fourth - Dough
The big annoying job is sifting the almond flour (grainy and homemade by me) with the confectioners sugar. I only have a strainer with semi-small holes. My cookies as a result have semi-large crumbs of almond giving them a speckled appearance. Next, I whipped my egg whites, perfectly. Yes, the only step I correctly followed. Folding, my advice, just go slow, and use a spatula. I didn't dye my dough. I couldn't bring myself to make a mistake and create some awful puke colored cookies.

Loading and piping the dough out of the pastry bag is tricky. The slack dough likes to ooze out of the bag before you are ready*. Its tempting to pump out the cookies quickly. Many of my cookies were oval or odd and not even sized. I was happy to walk away from them for 20 minutes to let the skin form.

*Note: My directions indicate beating whites to a medium peak, but I'm finding lots of recipes indication whipping to stiff peaks. I will try this next time. I think my oozing dough might have been under whipped.

Fifth - Baking
The macarons I baked on a thin sheet cookie did better than the insulated sheet, and I don't know why. My first batch started to crack, so I put a wooden spoon in the oven door, and no more cracking! The smell was perfect, and I was pretty happy to see a nice bubbley foot, which is the rough bottom edge of the macaron. Damn this is a complicated cookie.

Nice foot! Some of my macarons cracked. This one is a little over-done.
Pale edges and bottom, not golden, have a chewier taste.

The recipe yielded about 90 cookies, to make 45 macarons, minus a handful of broken cookies. I filled with almond honey paste, lime curd, and berry jam. They are going to be served to lucky people at a 4th of July event this week. I'm keeping them in my freezer for now. My cookies are not french or perfect. They are rustic looking, but very very very good. The lime curd is my favorite. I feel like I have barely gotten to know this complicated cookie, shall I may try again.

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