Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Magical Macarons! Maracons - Part 1...

That’s pronounced, “Mawk-a-rone” ….not “Mack-a-roon” (although lots of people say macaroon anyway) - (and this post will be presented in 4 parts as I found out the HARD way Blogger only accepts so many pics per post!). While a macaroon is a coconut mound of a cookie, a macaron is a delectable, French sandwich cookie that has a light, wafer-crisp shell with a dense, moist and chewy inside and has a creamy filling of salted peanut butter, chocolate ganache, salted caramel or anything else you choose!

Holy cow….if any of you know what macarons are, you know that lots of people avoid attempting them. For having very few ingredients (almond flour, powdered & granulated sugar, cocoa and egg whites), these cookies involve many steps, many particulars and can scare people away. I’ve eaten a macaron only once when a gal at work brought some in that she’d made. I was in love after the first bite and immediately started investigating them. I have to admit, at first I was a little put off – from aging the eggs whites for a few days to possibly having to grind my own nut flour to allowing them to dry before baking not to mention any sort of humidity or missteps could affect their success (or failure) in myraid ways….. Maybe they were too daunting to try – so many blogs described trouble after trouble!

Well, macarons floated in and out of my head over the months since my first tasting and this last week, the ‘floater’ finally stuck. I studied like I never had in school! I read every blog I could find, noting kinks in others attempts. I watched several youtube tutorials – one which was so awesome, featuring a French chef going through the whole process step by step. Now, I don’t speak French, but had read so much about making these little lovelies that it was pretty clear what was being said (special thanks to Javene and friend to translating those couple of key items!). As it turned out – all the things that people are intimidated by can be avoided pretty easily or really aren’t anything worth be scared off by! I can say with surety that I was extremely clear on how to get these beauties to turn out. I was up to the challenge and I had no expectation other than success in mind.

I looked forward to my Sunday baking session like one looks forward to Christmas morning….. I was that excited! So ladies and gents….I present – The Making of Macarons!!
This pic may not be monumental to you – but is was monstrously instrumental to my peace of mind in the initial steps on the macarons and I’m a big ‘prep-girl’ in general. All ingredients (recipe at the very end of this post) in these cookies are measured in grams, not cups and tablespoons etc like here in the good old US of A. So, thanks to my sister who lent me the most awesome digital scale that had metric capabilities, getting exact measurements was a cinch. You can convert the measurements by going to various on-line sites but I was concerned with them being right on since baking is such a science – especially with these babies. Anyway…I did myself the favor of measuring out everything the night before, keeping each group of components stacked together. Oh – the top container closest to the waiter cookie jar has the 7 egg whites in it. I separated the eggs on Friday night (two days prior to baking day). All cold items were kept in the fridge, not on the counter (of course!).
On Sunday (baking day!), I began by combining the almond flour (you can buy it at Fred Meyer in the nutrition center or at Whole Foods – if you don’t buy it, you must grind raw almonds in a blender or food processor until very fine), powdered sugar and cocoa
Once combined, it looks like this – kinda mealy with lotsa lumps.
To get rid of those lumps, sift the mixture into another bowl – about a quarter at a time. I used a bowl scraper to help work it through.
You’ll have little pebbles left over.
Here’s a close-up. You can toss these. I did not try to force them through as they’d have just made tinier lumps – I didn’t want any.
See how fine this looks?! Niiiiice……
Step two….Whip it good! You whip the aged egg whites with granulated sugar – added in two parts.
Whip the whites for 5 full minutes on top speed so they get super high and tight (tightie-whities?!?!)!

Next, fold in the flour mixture – added in three parts – folding until each addition is well incorporated.

No comments: