Last week's FBC has left me feeling revived, refreshed and very inspired to try and make this blog the best it can possibly be, and probably the most important lesson: to inject more of myself into it. It was very energizing meeting others that share the same passion, love and insanity that is food blogging. Over the next few weeks, there are going to be slight changes to this blog, all thanks to FBC, the people I met and all we talked about.
I've also been getting emails over the past few months asking for 'behind the scenes' pictures of (the madness that is) my working process so I'm adding a picture to the end of this post that shows what a mess my floor looks like when I'm taking pictures with all the props I try and incorporate into each shoot. Email me or leave a comment to let me know if you'd like to see more detailed photos. Of my props. No, no, not MY props. Oh, you know what I mean.
Now, I'm almost ashamed to say it, but I've been baking since I was 8 years old (no, that's not what I'm ashamed of!) and I have never once made French macarons (macs). They are quite different from coconut macaroons in that one is spelt with one o and the other is spelt with two o's, and when I saw that Jamie & Deeba had started a whole new blog called MacTweets for people like myself who have never dared attempt to make these French beauties before, I knew that it was the ultimate baking challenge and I had to at least give it a try. Besides, how hard could it be? It's just a bunch of egg whites!
Oh, how wrong I was.
Before you even begin, can I suggest that you do what I didn't: research and read everything you can about making macs before you actually make them. By the time I got mine right, I'd read THIS, THIS, THIS, THIS, THIS, THIS, THIS, and of course THIS.
Also, what I found *really* helped was watching the following videos on how to make macs, because I can't stress enough how important it is to see what the texture of your batter is supposed to look like before you pipe it. Everyone says it's supposed to flow like lava, but you wouldn't know exactly how fast or slow that flows unless you're standing next to a volcano or watching the Discovery channel 24-7. And for that matter, how would you know if it's the lava that's freshly erupted, or the lava that's cooling down? Anyway, just watch THIS, THIS and THIS (videos of batter by the way, not lava!).
The last video is in French, but trust me, just watching that hottie will make you want to make macarons it doesn't matter if you don't speak the language. Mute it if you have to, but just watch - you'll learn so much about mixing, piping and handling the macs, I promise.
The important bits:
- Egg whites: You must age your egg whites to achieve a harder macaron shell that doesn't break easily. The usual ageing time is between 24-48 hours, and I feel like I aged ten years waiting for them to age. Alternatives to the ageing process (egg whites that is, neither of which I've tried by the way) are microwaving your egg whites for 10-15 seconds or adding roughly 10 grams of dried powdered egg white to the fresh egg whites.
- Macaron feet: Yes, feet. And no, you haven't landed on some internet fetish site (not that I know what those are - ahem). When you bake your macarons, they form what have come to be lovingly known as 'feet' around the bottom of each macaron shell. Whether you get feet or not depends on a combination of things - your almond flour and how much of it you use, how much you stir your macaronage, and how your oven bakes.
- Silicone: I can highly advise you to invest in good silicone implants baking sheets. It will prevent your macarons from sticking to the baking paper. If you do use baking paper, you might need to slightly dampen the underside of the paper, but only after the baked macarons have cooled.
- Know your oven like you know your man: When is he warmest? When is he coldest? When does he give you what you want? Is he fiery? Temperamental? Impulsive? Does he bring out the best or the worst in you? I have a very hot, erm, oven, and even though I got feet every time, my macs always turned too brown. So I had to experiment by lowering temperatures and placing the baking tray on different shelves in the oven. In the end, what worked for me was preheating the oven to 160˚C, then lowering the temperature to 140˚C, placing the tray on the top shelf for 10 minutes, then turning the tray around and placing it on the middle shelf for 10 minutes. And that's just my oven... can you imagine what I do with my man?!
Recipe, macaron tips & tricks, and a picture of my messy floor when I'm taking photos after the jump!
Blackberry and Raspberry Macarons with Lime and Ginger buttercream filling:
Makes around 40 macaron shells
3-4 egg whites (roughly 90g) aged for 48 hours
130g almond flour (ground almonds)
200g powdered (icing) sugar
For my macaron flavours: (these can be altered or replaced by any flavours or colours you like)
5g freeze-dried raspberry powder
5g freeze-dried blackberry powder
1/2 tsp organic beetroot paste
1. Separate your egg whites and keep them in bowl covered with a plate or some kitchen paper at room temperature for 24 hours. If you would like to age them for longer, place them in the fridge. Sift almond flour and powdered sugar together.
2. Whip the egg whites up with a mixer until stiff peaks form. Slowly add the sugar and keep mixing until it is all incorporated and the mixture turns glossy. Do not over mix the egg whites at this stage otherwise the macs turn out too dry.
3. Add the almond flour to the egg whites and incorporate them into the mix. For the best way to do this, see the video links above. Also add your flavours and colours at this point. I split my batter in half and added blackcurrant powder to one, and raspberry powder to the other half. I also added some beetroot paste to the blackcurrant batter for added colour.
4. Place a teaspoon full of the batter onto a plate. This is the point at which it is supposed to flow like lava. If the top smooths out slowly, leaving a flat surface, then your batter is ready. If there are still peaks or ridges on the surface, give your batter a few more turns. Again, watch the videos I highlighted above to see what the macarons look like once piped onto a baking tray.
5. Place your batter into a piping bag fitted with a plain small tip. Pipe roughly 4cm rounds. Preheat your oven to roughly 150˚C. Again, you must know your oven. See my tip above for what worked for me. Leave the macarons out at room temperature for a minimum of 45 minutes until their outer surface forms a skin. Then bake for 15-20 minutes. Again, you might have to turn them around or place them on a lower shelf half way through the baking process, depending on your oven.
6. Allow the macs to cool thoroughly before attempting to remove them. If you used a silicone sheet, they should lift off easily. If you used baking paper, the macs might stick to it, so just dab a few drops of water under the baking paper, then lift them off.
7. Place some jam, jelly or buttercream of your choice in the middle of a mac shell and cover with another shell.
2 egg whites
220g butter, at room temperature
For my filling favours: (these can be altered or replaced to suit any flavours you like)
Zest and juice of 2 limes
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1. Hand whisk the egg whites until foamy. Mix in the sugar, and place mixture over a water bath. Keep whisking by hand until the mixture turns whitish, is piping hot and the sugar has dissolved.
2. Remove from water bath and mix with an electric mixer on high speed. Keep mixing until the bowl starts to cool down.
3. Add butter, one tablespoon at a time at first, then two tablespoons at a time. Make sure to incorporate the butter properly into the mixture each time you add butter.
4. Add the ginger, lime juice and zest.
5. Place buttercream into a piping bag, fitted again with a small nozzle, and pipe a small amount onto a macaron shell. Cover with another macaron shell. Refrigerate for best results.
Tips and tricks:
- Macarons keep in the fridge for around a week. You can also freeze them but it's best to freeze the shells only, without fillings.
- Before placing the macs in the oven to bake, I found it best to keep the tray over the oven, while the oven was preheating. This formed harder shells faster.
- Before piping the macs, I've seen in the videos above that people outline perfect circles with a pencil and compass on baking paper, as a guide when piping.
- You can either follow the recipe and add the almond flour to the egg whites, but what I found works quite well is adding the egg whites to the almond flour, then mixing.
- To get the right lava consistency, can I also suggest having an extra beaten egg white nearby, and also some extra almond flour. This way you can always add a little extra of each or either to achieve the best batter texture.
- If using baking paper, pipe a small amount of batter onto the four corners of the baking tray, then place your baking paper on top. This will stop the paper from sliding or moving.