Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Macaron success!

Have you ever had a really crappy day?
Like a really, really bad one.
I'm having one today, I'm having a really bad vertigo day. Like, flat-on-your-back vertigo. I haven't had one of these days in a couple months, and I guess it's good to have one every once in a while to remind me of how far I've come.
You know what makes me feel better?
Remembering how I kicked some macaron butt last week :)
I was terrified to try. I mean, have you heard about how hard it is to make these things?
I didn't want to go to all the effort before I tried them, but then I tried them in London. And I saw what all the fuss is about.
I also made lemon curd for the first time. My dad recently told me he thinks my lime curd could bring world peace, so I decided to give the lemons a try.

I messed up the first batch, because I believed that wax paper was an okay substitute for parchment paper. Guess what? It's not. But that's okay, cuz the next day I tried them again, and this time, they came out really well!
I don't know much about the specifics of macarons, like what the heck their "feet" are, but these were pretty darn delicious.
Follow this recipe exactly. It's from Bravetart, and Stella knows exactly what she's doing.
I used a vanilla bean instead of extract, so that's the version of the recipe I followed. If you'd rather use extract, click the link for that one :) Same goes for the almond flour. I found some at Martin's, and I decided to use it for my first voyage into Macarondom, rather than make my own.
Another note: you NEED a kitchen scale for this. If you haven't already gotten one (which you should have, because they're awesome), get one!
French Macarons
Courtesy of Bravetart
Yield: ~40 macarons
Almond flour- 4 oz (115 g)
Powdered sugar- 8 oz (230 g)
Egg whites- 5 oz (144 g)- age and temp not important; you'll need 5 eggs
Granulated sugar- 2.5 oz (72 g)
Vanilla bean scrapings
Kosher salt- 2 g (1/2 tsp)
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F, line two sheet pans with parchment paper and prepare an 18" pastry bag with a large round decorating tip (I used jumbo-sized). Use a shot glass or a cookie cutter to draw 1.5" circle with a permanent marker on one side of the parchment paper, then flip over (use the side that wasn't drawn on).

2. Sift almond flour and powdered sugar into a large bowl. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the egg whites, granulated sugar, vanilla bean scrapings and salt

4. Whip on a medium speed (4 on a KitchenAid) for 3 minutes (they won't seem foamy at this point, and that's okay). Turn speed up to medium-high (7) for 3 minutes, then 8 for another 3 minutes. Crank it to the highest speed "just to show it who's boss" for 1 minute.

5. At this point, you should have a very stiff, dry meringue. Click the link of Stella's page for a picture of what the mixture should look like right now and for what steps to follow if it's not stiff enough right now.

6. Dump in the flour and powdered sugar (all at once) and fold them in with a rubber spatula. Use a folding and a pressing motion. In this case, you actually want to deflate the meringue. You don't have to treat the meringue super carefully.

7. After 25 turns/folds/strokes, the mixture will still look really lumpy and stiff, but after another 15 strokes, it will be "just about right." Undermixed batter will be quite stiff. If you spoon some out and drop it back onto the mix, it will just sit there and never incorporate. Overmixed will be too runny, do not overmix them! Just right batter will be thick enough to mound up on itself, but it needs to have enough fluidity to melt back down after 20 seconds.

8. Transfer half the batter to the prepared piping bag and pipe into the circles, stop piping just shy of the borders of the circles. Once you've piped all the batter, transfer the rest of the batter and pipe it.

9. Take hold of the pan and hit it HARD against the counter. Rotate the pan 90 degrees and rap two more times. This will dislodge any large air bubbles that might cause the macarons to crack.

10. Bake for about 18 minutes, or until you can cleanly peel the parchment paper away from a macaron. If, when you try to pick up a macaron, the top comes off in your hand, it's not done.

11. Once the macarons have baked, cool thoroughly on the pans, before peeling the cooled macarons from the parchment. If you're using buttercream, pipe a quarter-sized mound onto half of the shells, then sandwich them with their naked halves (try to match them up as best you can). Buttercream must be a lot easier to use, next time I make macarons I'll use it instead of curd, but I'll post that recipe anyway because it's damn delicious :)
Lemon Curd
(Only 1/2 of this recipe is needed for the macarons, but you should make all of it cuz it's delicious)
Courtesy of Completely Delicious
Unsalted butter- 1 c, cut into cubes
Granulated sugar- 1 c
Lemon juice- 1 c (Get 3 lemons, then use store-bought lemon juice for the rest)
Zest of 3 lemons
Egg yolks- 10
1. Add 1/2 c butter, 1/2 c of the sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice to a wide saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
2. In a large, heat-safe bowl, combine the egg yolks and the rest of the sugar. Slowly add the heated mixture to egg yolks, whisking continuously.
3. When fully combined, return the mixture to the saucepan and continue to cook until the whisk leaves a trail in the curd. Whisk in the remaining 1/2 c of butter until it's melted and smooth.
4. Remove from heat and strain into a dish. Place plastic wrap directly on top of the curd and set in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Let the macarons sit overnight in a plastic bag or tupperware, then spoon a little of the curd on one macaron, then place its match on top. Be super careful handling these, they're very delicate!

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