Sunday, March 29, 2009

First Macaron Attempt

I have never been more proud of something I've baked than these Parisian macarons. A less-successful attempt today made me a little sad, but I am still very happy with my first two batches.

After reading about them on countless blogs and websites, and trying many professionally-made macarons that were disappointing, I was very hesitant to even try. But friends and relatives (who had not read about the difficulties of macaron baking) talked me into it, so I decided to make it a vacation project.

I have now tried three recipes out of the millions out there. I know a truly scientific baker would use the same recipe and vary one discrete factor each time, but I just couldn't stop myself from trying something entirely different each batch. Still, I've learned 2 initial things that I think are key:
1. use aged egg whites - set out in a bowl at cool room temperature for 24-48 hours minimum
2. use no more than 50 strokes to incorporate the dry ingredients in the whipped egg whites

I'll let you know as I discover more helpful tips!

Here's the first recipe, from a great online magazine called Desserts Magazine. The macaron article was written by the foodblog author of Tartelette, and it is a wonderfully detailed and informative article.

I overwhipped the egg whites and sugar, but that didn't seem to cause major problems (the instructions were a bit vague; David Lebovitz's egg-whipping instructions below were clearer).

And I was delighted to find they had baked with the desired little "feet," the ridge around the bottom.

Unfortunately, they stuck to the parchment when I peeled them off (which could have meant they were underbaked, or that I needed to follow David Lebovitz's trick of steam removal). Still, they tasted just fine with buttercream in the middle. I have never been so impatient to see something come out of the oven!

David L's chocolate macaron recipe had slightly different proportions, and said to bang each cookie tray on the counter several times before baking instead of leaving the unbaked cookies to sit for an hour before baking.

They also developed lovely little feet, although the outside of the shell was a little too crunchy and not shiny enough.

But, again, with chocolate buttercream in the middle, no one complained.

This macaron-making journey is just beginning, but I look forward to keeping aged egg-whites around until my hand is well-practiced in the art of macaroning. I'll keep you posted!

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