We don't have Ladurée or Pierre Hermé here in the Philippines. But I got my first taste of French macaron from Bizu Patisserie.
French macarons are very different from the macaroons that my mother loves to make, which uses desicated coconut as the main ingredient. And it is spelled with a single "o". French macarons uses "tant pour tant", or the combination of almond powder and powdered sugar, folded in whipped egg whites or what we know as "meringue". It is then baked until the "foot" comes out. Foot, you ask? Yes, a French macaron is not a French macaron without it's famous feet...it's a cracky ringlet surrounding the sides. I found this photo of the anatomy of a French macaron from Serious Eats:
Anyways, this post is about my chaotic trials of making these French delicacy. I've had about 4 tries so far...and I'm getting there! Yay me! :)
I've read tons of recipe and instructions on baking French Macaroons. And boy, how I thought it was as easy as 1, 2, and 3!
One of my Etsy customer (and friend!) Marie Christine, was sweet enough to send me a cookbook of French biscuits, with a macaron recipe in it. The whole book is in written French though, but it's not so hard to understand because there's a step by step pictures in it...and not to forget about Babel Fish online to help with the translation.
There are two ways to make French macarons, one is to use Italian meringue which requires boiling of sugar before adding to the whipped egg. The second one is using dry sugar on the whipped egg.
On all of my 4 trials, I used the "dry" way, because boiling of sugar needs to be precise and I don't have a candy thermometer for that. But I've read that using the "boiled" technique makes the meringue more stable than just using dry sugar.
1st Try: "Humidity" is the culprit?!
My first try making French macaron is a complete disaster. I swear I followed the instructions exactly and weighed each ingredients exactly...heck, I even used a digital scale! Folded the dry ingredients on the whipped egg until it can fall off down the spatula like a continuous ribbon. Piped it on parchment paper. Set it aside for 15 minutes. Baked it at 190C. And voila! It came out flat, no foot and became even flatter as it cooled. And not to mention it got stuck on the parchment paper. And it's funny that I blamed it on the "humidity". Some people here in the Philippines (and some others from Singapore) who also tried and failed, blamed it on the "humidity". So yeah, I thought "humidity" is the culprit.
2nd Try: I apologize to "humidity"...sorry! :P
Since I thought that "humidity" is to blame for my first failure. I brought all the ingredients and tools (except for the oven, hehe!) up in my air-conditioned room. (and this actually enraged my mother! LOL!) I mixed and prepared everything in my air-conditioned room. Set it aside, this time for 30 minutes. Brought them back in the kitchen to bake again at 190C...this time it's no longer flat, but alas, still no foot. So, I guess the "humidity" is NOT to blame this time! :P
3rd Try: The wonderful Silpat...and Calphalon!
I've got an email from my French friend and she said that I should let it stand or set aside for 1 hour ... not 15 minutes, not 30 minutes, but 1 hour. And that it's better if I use a Silpat.
A Silpat is a French brand of silicone baking mat you put on top of your baking pan/sheet. It helps even out the heat and it's non-stick.
I couldn't find a Silpat here in Manila so I settled for another brand that I found, Calphalon...it's not cheap! :P And guess what? After purchasing Calphalon, I passed by this shop that sells Silpat! And it's 600pesos cheaper than Calphalon, and also comes in different sizes. I still bought one, though!
So, on my third try, no more air-conditioned room just plain old kitchen...I either under whipped the meringue, or over folded the ingredients and the meringue, making everything a bit runny. (And I accidentally put a lot red food coloring! :p)
But I still continued and piped it on the silicone mats I bought. Let it stand for 1 hour. And then baked it on 180C. The recipe said to bake it for only 8-10 minutes, but it had passed already and I'm still not seeing any foot. So I baked it for another 10 minutes. And at long last, there I saw the glorious feet ...and I jumped for joy! Woot! Woot!
But my joy ended after I took it out of the oven. The outer shell cracked, the inside is wet and soggy, and all of it got stuck on both the Silpat and Calphalon ....non-stick, huh? blah!
4th Try: Never Say Die!
I still have some almonds left from my third trial so I might as well give it another shot. I'm getting there, I saw already them macaron feet!
This time though, I tried David Lebovitz recipe of chocolate French Macaron. And this time I didn't fold the ingredients into a "continuous ribbon, runny consistency." I just made sure that it is smooth, folded well so that no egg whites is showing. Piped it on the silicone mats, and let stand for 1 hour. Baked it a 180C for 18-20 minutes.
I made an experiment with this trial. I took out the upper rackof the oven, and placed my Silpat (with the piped macaron meringue) directly on top of it (no baking pan/sheet), then placed back in the oven.
In the middle rack, I place the baking pan/sheet. On top of that baking pan/sheet is the other silicone mat with the piped macaron meringue.
At 180C, after 8-10 minutes the feet already showed on the macarons at the top rack. On the middle rack, however, there's barely any feet and started to crack. I let them stayed in the oven for 10 more minutes.
(^Macarons baked on middle rack at 180C: cracked and no feet.)
After that I took them out and let cool a bit. The macarons seemed to be stuck on the silicone mats.
So I poped them right back in the oven for another 15 minutes at 170C. Took them out of the oven and let cool completely. Now it's easier to lift them off the silicone mat, although some still sticks a little specially on the middle part.
I filled them with chocolate ganache. And, tadah!....My "I-almost-got-it-right" French macaron! :)
The outer shell looks perfect and smooth. The feet is there (yay, me!) even though it's not that high or evident. The outside is crunchy and the inside is soft and chewy, almost-meringue like texture.
Making French macaron is not so easy at all. For those who got them right on the first try, are either geniuses or just plain lucky. The temperature and baking time alone may vary depending on the size of the macaron. And not all ovens are created the same. I only have a small oven and it's nothing like those industrial ovens that professional bakers use. I guess, if one should fail the first time, they should try again with a different temperature or baking time until they get it right.
I'm quite happy with my last try. But I will definitely try making these macarons again until I get it perfect and right!...Never say die! Tomorrow is another day! =D
Here is a link of Macaron recipes from Tartlette (that I also have yet to try out!):