Friday, November 16, 2007

The Elusive Macaron

I’ve always wanted to know what the hype was with Macarons. I’ve seen countless postings on this seemingly ‘hard to make’ French cookie in the last year or two but have never had the guts to attempt making them. Furthermore, I had never tasted them before until my recent trip to Singapore a couple months back. And even then, I thought, ‘Yeah, It tastes pleasant’, but it didn’t get a “WHOA!” out of me. Despite that, there was something alluring about it still. Maybe it was the different colours and flavours they came in. I couldn’t be sure.

I remember seeing some really gorgeous photos of macarons on Tartelette – the brainchild of the lovely and talented Helen and decided to refer to them again. Her Pistachio macarons were a sight for sore eyes. She breezed through the recipe like it was the easiest thing to make. I must say I had my reservations still because of the many different ‘must-do-in-order-to-achieve-success’ tips I’ve read on other blogs that she had done without. I doubted that I could pull it off the way she did. After all she is THE Tartelette, the Awesome baker!

I must tell you now that I DO NOT take failure gracefully and I’m hardly the type of patient person that will persevere with a recipe over and over until I succeed. On the contrary, when I fail in the kitchen, I SULK and I MOAN and GROAN, and I seek solace in the comforting arms of my husband and children. Yes, I’m not afraid to disclose the fact that I am somewhat of a DRAMA QUEEN.

It was not until I stumbled upon Veronica's Test Kitchen that I finally had the courage to embark on macaron making. Veronica’s obsession and persistence in mastering the macaron was truly inspiring, from her very funny and entertaining documentation of her failed attempt to her step-by-step journey to success ‘Macaron Chronicles’. And so began my exploration with the macaron. Suddenly, making the macaron didn’t seem so intimidating anymore. I followed Veronica’s findings faithfully and had success on my very first attempt. YAY!

I made hazelnut macarons by substituting half the amount of almond meal with hazelnut meal, just like Veronica did but instead of the Caramel fleur-de-sel filling she used, I thought that I’d start off with an easy chocolate ganache filling. I ‘aged’ (leave egg whites at room temperature) the egg whites for 43 (Veronica recommended aging the whites for 24-48 hours) hours before starting the recipe. Even so, I noticed the ‘skin’ of the macaron shell was very thin, which probably meant that my eggs were SUPER fresh and that I’d need to age them more in the future. Also, I carelessly spaced the macaron batter too close and a couple stuck together on the edges, no drama though, I just carefully pulled them apart. The other thing too, was that I didn’t expect the macarons to spread so much – I ended up with HUGE macarons! Other than that, everything was hunky-dory.

Hazelnut Macarons with Chocolate Ganache
(Taken from Veronica’s Test Kitchen)

62.5g almond flour
62.5 hazelnut flour
225g icing sugar
100g egg whites
25g granulated sugar
Pinch cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150C). Run the flours and icing sugar through the food processor and sift twice. Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites and beat at medium speed. Slowly add the granulated sugar and continue beating until the whites attain medium peaks and are glossy.
Add the dry ingredients slowly to the meringue, taking about six additions all in all. Pipe the batter to a diameter of an inch and let rest for 30 minutes before baking. Bake for about 11 minutes or until done, turning the sheets halfway through.

Draw a circle template on the reverse side of the parchment paper. Keep your tip positioned about ½ inch above and in the middle of the circle guide, the batter is going to spread out more evenly into the circle you want. If your macarons stick, peel away the parchment rather than force the spatula to lift the macarons out.

Chocolate Ganache
85g semi-sweet chocolate melted with 1/3-cup heavy cream
Refrigerate until consistency becomes spreadable.