Experiments · Fiesta Friday · Gluten-Free · Misc. Desserts

Macarons (GF)

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Macarons. Macarons are those famous treats that both delight and frustrate. From what I’ve learned testing some recipes for these sweet treats there’s a lot to remember when it comes to making Macarons, and missing even one step can produce some rather interesting results. But because I had such success with the beignets I was emboldened, and I knew I had to give Macarons a go for this FF!.

It’s been a really fun challenge, and I feel as though I’ve learned a lot of skills on the side from practicing these recipes. For one thing I seem to have recovered the ability to separate eggs with my hands. I know it’s normal for a lot of people to do it, but for a long time I have been known for “Hulking out” on eggs, accidentally half crushing them when attempting to crack them delicately, and so on. I have a rather strong grip for someone with tendinitis and such apparently! But it was fun to be able to separate eggs bare handed again, as I didn’t then have to worry about the yolk breaking or washing the egg separator afterwards! And there’s something very zen about separating them with your bare hands, oddly enough.

I have also become a lot more confident in my ability to make meringue base. Twice now I have managed to get beautifully stiff, glossy peaks, which I have then been able to do the trick of holding upside down over my head without ending up with a terrible mess afterwards! The first time I was tentative about it, but the second time I took the risk and just upended the bowl over my head to see what would happen. The egg whites didn’t so much as wobble.

They were perfect! But getting used to Macarons has been interesting. I have now learned the importance of a very uniform batter, as not having it uniform will mean the tops will crack. I have learned the importance of texture, and how the batter must be able to run from your spatula in one smooth, unbroken sort of ribbon like lava or honey. I have also learned that the tap you give the baking sheet of Macarons against the counter can’t be all that gentle, as that won’t shake the air bubbles out and will mean little air pockets inside your Macarons. Lastly, the importance of letting the Macarons sit at room temperature to form a skin on the top. I still have a lot to learn, but I have gained a lot along the way!

What Worked

When folding the batter, I cut through the middle with the flat of the spatula and drew a big J in the bowl as I folded and turned it, this seemed to work better for the texture of the Macaron mix. Using a large, round piping tip or cut in the piping bag as recommended works well, because the mixture will be thick enough you don’t have to worry about it running out all over the place and you don’t want a gigantic ball of mixture, you just want a semi-flat circle. Extra sifting and grinding is useful because lumps in the flour – be it almond, pistachio, hazelnut, etc, can make the batter not come together well or be less uniform. I sifted my second recipe’s dry mix an extra two or three times and used my little smoothie blender to work the lumps out. Using a stencil the first time to get a feel for the shape and spacing of the Macarons.

What Didn’t Work

Not folding enough with the first batter. I didn’t fold enough to get the batter completely uniform, so some of mine cracked. With the second batch I counted how many folds I needed until I had that honey/lava texture, and I did about 40-45 folds after adding the second half of the flour mix before I was satisfied with the texture. I think the first time I was worried about over folding, but seeing the improved texture reassured me. Not using a wide enough piping tip/cut in the bag the first time wasn’t so great, as I noticed that it was so much easier to pipe more uniform Macarons using the larger cut/piping head as recommended. With the second batch I didn’t give them as rough a bang as I did with the first batch, so there were still some air bubbles trapped under the skin.

A Tip

There is a lot of information about Macarons out there, and it can seem overwhelming, but having done some research actually really helped me out a lot. Also I find in general that recipes done by weight/volume tend to be more successful than recipes not using such exact measurements. But that can also be personal preference.

Adapted from Flavor the Moments’

Chocolate Hazelnut Macarons

Makes: 15-20 macarons, Prep: 40+ mins, Cook: 15-16 mins

Ingredients
  • 100g finely ground hazelnut meal
  • 15g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 200g icing sugar sugar
  • ½ tsp instant espresso powder (optional)
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 100g egg whites (about 4 large egg whites)
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
  • 30g granulated sugar
Ganache
  • Chocolate hazelnut spread – make sure it’s gluten-free
Method
  1. Separate your eggs first, and place the whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and allow the whites to come to room temperature prior to whipping.
  2. Make a template to make piping your Macarons the same size much easier. I found one online, printed it out, traced it onto the baking paper and then turned the baking paper over so no pen got onto the Macarons.
  3. Place the hazelnut meal, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, espresso powder, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until combined. Sift into a medium bowl. If there is a sizeable amount of large bits of hazelnut, process in the food processor until finely ground, and sift into the bowl again.
  4. When the egg whites are room temperature, add the cream of tartar. Beat on medium speed until frothy. Gradually add the granulated sugar while continuing to mix, then increase the speed to medium high and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form. Your whites are done when you dip the wire whip into the whites, turn right side up, and the whites stand straight up. I even held my bowl upside down and nothing fell out, luckily.
  5. Add half of the dry ingredients and fold with a rubber scraper from the middle down, then up and over, turning the bowl clockwise with each fold. Repeat with the other half of the dry ingredients, being careful not to over-fold and deflate the whites.
  6. Place the batter in a large piping bag fitted with a large round tip and pipe onto the circles on your prepared baking sheets. Rap each baking sheet against the counter once to remove any air bubbles, and allow to sit at room temperature for 30-45 minutes to dry out.
  7. Position your oven racks to the top and lower thirds of your oven. Preheat the oven to 160C fan-forced. Just before popping the Macarons in, turn the temperature down to 150C fan-forced.
  8. Bake the Macarons for 15-16 minutes, rotating the pans from front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking time. The Macarons are done when they just begin to separate from the parchment or are firm to the touch and spring back when pressed lightly.
  9. Cool completely on a wire rack.
  10. Gently sandwich some chocolate hazelnut spread between the Macarons, and place in an air tight container in the refrigerator overnight to allow the Macarons to absorb some of the filling and soften slightly.
 Adapted from Delicious Magazine’s
Makes: 20, Prep: min 45 mins, Cook: 15 mins, per batch
Ingredients
  • 175g icing sugar
  • 125g ground almonds
  • 3 large free-range egg whites
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste

Vanilla Buttercream

  • Up to 3 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • Up to 50g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • Up to 3-4 tbsp thickened cream

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/fan140°C/gas 3. Whizz the icing sugar and ground almonds in a food processor to a very fine mixture, then sift into a bowl. If there are any lumps, tips the mixture back into a processor or blender and repeat the blending and sifting process until no real lumps remain.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt to soft peaks, then gradually whisk in the caster sugar until thick, stiff and glossy peaks form. You should be able to turn the bowl upside down and not have the mix fall out.
  3. Fold half the almond and icing sugar mixture into the meringue and fold well. You essentially want to fold like you’re drawing a letter J in the bowl, turning the bowl at the completion of each J. Add the remaining half and repeat the process until the mixture, when you hold up your spatula, runs from it in one thick ribbon like honey or lava, and it looks well combined.
  4. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm plain nozzle, or cut a 1cm hole in a piping bag.
  5. Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper. Pipe small rounds of the macaroon mixture, about 3cm across, onto the baking sheets. Give the baking sheets a sharp tap on the work surface, as this will work out the air bubbles.
  6. Leave to stand at room temperature for 10-15 minutes to form a slight skin. This is important – you should be able to touch them lightly without any mixture sticking to your finger. Bake for 15 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and cool completely.
  8. In a bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy, then beat in the icing sugar. Add the vanilla bean paste, and the cream, a tbsp at a time, and beat until smooth. You want to add the cream slowly, because you really only want to be adding enough to make the buttercream smooth.
  9. Use the buttercream to sandwich the Macarons together, and then pop them in an airtight container in the fridge and let them rest overnight.
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