My daughter Aileen is an amazing cook. So fast! Part of her strength comes from not being afraid to fail and her willingness to experiment. I asked her if she would make pink heart-shaped macarons for this Valentine’s Day post. She made five batches to get them to her liking! They all tasted great, but unlike say, a homemade apple pie, macarons have to “look right”. Aileen is still working on the definitive fail-safe recipe, but here’s what she learned. I hope that her experience will help you in your own macaron making.
Macaron veterans already know that there are two macaron methods – the French method and the Italian method. In the French method, you whip the sugar into the egg whites and fold in the dry ingredients. In the Italian method, you divide the egg whites in half. Half of the egg whites are whipped and mixed with melted sugar. Dry ingredients are stirred into the second, unwhipped half. Then the two egg white mixes are folded together.
Many bloggers and commenters prefer the French method, but Aileen found that the Italian method was more stable, and worked best for her. The Italian method requires more measuring though, including the temperature of the melted sugar. On her first try melting sugar, she stirrred the hot sugar and it crystalized. The next time she did not stir the sugar and it melted fine.
You’ll see that some of the macarons are grainy. Aileen didn’t want to overmix the macarons because then they wouldn’t rise. She ended up undermixing – hence the less than smooth texture on the red macarons that she made with freeze-dried strawberries and filled with fresh lemon curd. (When mixing is right, the batter should fold and merge into itself.) These were my favourite. I just love how the rich, tart lemon curd contrasts deliciously with the sweetness of the strawberry macaron shell. I like the cheeky red and yellow colour combo too. It’s not what you usually see on Valentine’s Day.
Batch number three came out of the oven looking perfect, but the next morning we found then all wrinkly. Determined not to overbake, she had slightly underbaked.
The mats that you use to bake on produce different results. Parchment paper made the bottom brown more quickly. Regular slicone baking mats tend to contain mesh reinforcement, and this rougher surface caused the macarons to stick to the mat and come out a bit bumpy on the bottom. The smooth, thin silicone macaron mat produced the most even bottom and cooking distribution.
Batch number four (on the ruby-coloured background) looked good enough for a picture and we used them for the Valentine’s shoot. They had an air pocket between the top crust and the rest of the macaron though. Aileen filled a few with lemon curd and they were delicious! I actually prefer them to sandwich macarons. She made a fifth batch after I finished the work for this post and they were perfect. They looked just like batch number four. The only difference was that when you bit into them they had no air pocket. Sorry we can’t tell you the reason because as far as she knows, she made it identically to her fourth batch.
So there you have it – after five tries, perfect macarons and we can’t tell you why. Good luck with your own macarons and have fun!
Happy Valentines’ Day!
Martha Stewart’s Vanilla Swiss Buttercream filling is also on the above link, but to my taste it was bland and too sweet. It needs to be used right away or else it separates.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Martin Luther King, Jr.