Hello everyone I would like to request your expert advise on mararons. Although I have come to the party a bit late I am finally jumpimg into the French Macaron craze that occupies so much interest on so many blogs. I have read tons of recipes, articles, and discussions online and in magazines. While I found them very informative and was enlightened, I was equally confused and overwhelmed. There is no doubt that everyone agrees that this is a difficult little critter to get down. So here are the things that I feel that I “know” followed by some questions of what I don’t knowas well as what doesn’t make sense to me. Any help would be graeatly appreciated.
I culled all of the information down to these key points centering around making the shells:
1) The eggs whites must be at room temp and are best when left out for 24 to 48 hours uncovered - which evaporates some of the water from the whites and strengthens the protiens - before whipping to achieve the best meringue. A pinch of salt or cream of Tarter helps here.
2) The almond meal/flour must be put through a food processor or spice grinder with the confectioners sugar to achieve the consistency of a fine powder. It must then be sieved to make sure that there are no lumps or large granuals left in the mixture.
3)You must fold the dry ingredients into the meringue firmly but carefully to break down the mass but be sure not to overmix. The mixture should be thick but still have a “flow” or movement to it like the consistency of “magma”. This is a very tricky, make-or-break stage and I ruined my first three batches because of over-mixing.
4)Once piped onto the parchment/silpat the macarons should be left to sit anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, uncovered. Some people let them sit for up to 3 days - too much for me. There is also great discussion as to wether silpat or parchment is better. It seems that the same problems exist with both of them, it just depends on who you talk to. At any rate thay are hard to remove - at least I thought so. The trick here is some water splashed under the parshment which causes steam on the hot pan and helps them to lift. I found this impossible and ended up with wet macarons. A trip in the freezer worked better for me.
5) Most people set the oven temp low at 300 or 325. Pierre Herme has a chocolate Macaron recipe that calls for the oven to be set at 425 then lowered immediately to 350 when the baking sheet goes into the oven. He also calls for putting a wooden sppon in the oven door to keep it ajar after the sheet goes in. Then bake them for 15 minutes. No other recipe that I saw started with this high temperature that then gets lowered - however this worked for me.
6) Upon removal the macarons are to be place in an air-tight container and refrigerated for a few days for optimum results.
So now the questions:
1) Since most macaron shells are left unflavored I don’t understand why there are so may recipes out there with differing amounts of ingredienst rather than one standard recipe. I would get it if it was a quantity issue but most of the recipes on line are for small quantities and still vary. If you did flavor the shells with cocoa powder or a vanilla powder or an extraxt what kind of recipe adjustmet would you have to make? Any?
2) Since the recipe that finally worked for me was Pierre Herme’s can I simply omit the cocoa powder with no further adjustments for unflavored shells or do I need to add more almond flour to compensate for the loss of the cocoa powder?
3) Even if I use another recipe should I stick to the oven temp of Pierre Herme (425 then down to 350) since it worked rather than going to a 300 degree oven.
4) Lastly can I substitute dried egg whites for the aged liquid ones? It seems so difficult to have eggs sitting around like that and I can’t imagine how a professional bakery can do this. It seems that the humidity issues alone would cause difficulties that need to be overcome for a professional kitchen to churn these babies out. How can you overcome the humidity and get quantities etc without resorting to powdered whites?
Anyway, sorry for the long post but any help here or tips to the best macarons would really be appreciated. Yes this is the perfect obsessive-compulsive recipe for any perfectionist to loose their mind over but that is not the real reason I am so determined to get this right - it is because the taste is like a quick trip to heaven- and they are so darn pretty!