Saturday, May 10, 2014

Macarons for Mom - a basic macaron recipe

Your mom called. She wants some macarons. If I made them, you can, too.

Remember when everyone was oohing and ahhh-ing about macarons? Well, I hadn't even tried them, yet.

Remember when it seemed like every blogger on the planet was making macarons? Well, I never made them, then.

But, give me some gadgets, and I'm all "Bandwagon? What bandwagon? This is all about testing!"

In this case, I was testing the Macaron Baking Kit from Mastrad. This kit doesn't include cookie mix. Instead, it's all about the gadgetry. There's a special baking mat, a re-usable silicone pastry bag and tips, and a booklet with some recipes to get you started.

And I've got a kit to give away - check the end of this post for details.

So, I plunged right into macaron-making, using the more simple French macaron recipe in the book.

I've heard people talk about how difficult macarons are, but maybe I just got lucky because the whole process went well. The instructions in the little cookbook made sense, and the cookie batter looked just like they said it was supposed to.

I put batter into the pastry bag with the tip they suggested and started piping onto the baking sheet they supplied.

And that's the real genius of this kit. The baking sheet has little circles that show how big the mararons should be, but there's also a little tiny ridge around each circle to help contain the batter.

It's not much of a ridge, but it was just enough to keep the batter in place.

I had a little extra batter and used a regular silicone mat - and that's where I saw the difference.

The macarons on the Mastrad mat (say that five times fast) stayed within the boundaries of the little ridges on the baking mat, but the macarons on the plain mat spread out.

In the end, both tasted fine, but the ones baked on the Mastrad mat looked more like proper macarons (the top cookie in the photo), where the others were flatter (like the bottom cookie) than they should have been.

The other advantage was that since the cookies baked on the Mastrad mat were all the same size and shape, they looked much more uniform when I put them together with the filling. The cookies that I free-formed varied in size and they weren't all completely round. So they didn't all match up as perfectly.

See? I piped that peanut butter filling right into the cupcake!
The silicone pastry bag came with extra piping tips, including a long, nozzle-like thing that I used to pump filling into some cupcakes that wanted to be filled. I'm crazy like that.

There were other decorative tips, too, so you can get more use out of the pastry bag than just using it for piping macaron batter.

I waffled on the filling for the macarons - the only flavoring I added to the cookie itself was a splash of almond bakery emulsion - I wanted the almond flavor to be prominent. But then ... filling.

I went with ganache. Just because. I mean, how can you go wrong with chocolate?

For this recipe, you need a scale.

Recipe adapted from Mastrad recipe booklet

130 gram (4.5 ounces) almond meal (I used Bob's Red Mill)
230 grams (8 ounces) powdered sugar
130 grams (4.5 ounces) egg whites
65 grams (2 ounces) white sugar
Flavoring (optional)

Put the almond meal and powdered sugar into your food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until you have a fine powder. Sift the mixture into a bowl. I had a few small bits that weren't fine enough, but not a whole lot.

Put the egg whites in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk (or you can do this by hand) along with 15 grams (1/2 ounce) of the granulated sugar. Whisk until the eggs have the texture of shaving cream. Add the remaining sugar and whisk to stiff peaks.

Add the sifted powder to the egg white. Use a spatula to gently fold the powder into the whites, going from the center of the bowl outward and turning the bowl to mix it all in. The finished mixture should be smooth and shiny and slightly runny.

When I mixed, it looked pretty rough and clumpy at first, but it smoothed out, as the instructions said, It also deflated a lot, but apparently I did it right.

According to the directions, if it's over-mixed, it can get too runny, but if it's under-mixed, the macarons will split during baking. I added 1/2 teaspoon of almond bakery emulsion during the mixing.

Transfer the mixture to the pastry bag fitted with the large round nozzle. Place the mat on a baking sheet and pipe a 3/4 inch circle in the center of each indented circle on the macaron mat.

The mixture should spread to the edges of the indentations. I was a little shy when I piped the batter, so I needed to go back and add a little bit more to some of the cookies.

Tap the baking pan on the counter to remove any air bubbles.

Let the macarons rest at room temperature for 15-30 minutes. They're ready to bake when you can touch them lightly and they don't stick to your finger.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 285 degrees.

Bake the macarons at 285 degrees for 12-15 minutes. There will be some very light browning on the edges. Leave the oven door ajar for the last 2-3 minutes to allow any steam to escape.

Let the macarons cool completely before removing them from the pan.

Once the macarons are cooled, you can fill them as desired.