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French Macarons
Posted: 06 April 2009 03:33 PM   [ Ignore ]
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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!

Thanks, AndyNYCK

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Posted: 06 April 2009 04:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I don’t have any advice to add, other than Good Luck! I’ve never been able to make macaroons. I keep telling myself that I will lock myself in my kitchen someday until I get them right.

David Lebovitz has a pretty good method and a recipe on his blog that I’ve been eyeing. He basically had the same problems as you, and it took him 3-4 batches to get them right.

http://www.davidlebovitz.com/ you’ll need to do a search for macaroons…

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Posted: 06 April 2009 04:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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ANDY/NYC:
  Good Afternoon my friend. I can answer a few of your questions…however it is much better if you get a copy of this book “THE FRENCH COOKIE BOOK” by BRUCE HEALY. excaim  To secure this edition go thru your local library. They will get it for you from another branch if necessary.
It has just about all the info about French macaroons there is to know & why. Andy I hope this info will help you succeed in your cookie baking.
Enjoy the rest of the day.

  ~FRESHKID.  tongue laugh

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Posted: 06 April 2009 06:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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AndyNYCK - 06 April 2009 06:33 PM

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!

Thanks, AndyNYCK

Hi AndyNYCK,

I recently did a macaroon marathon myself (see http://reviewofrecipes.blogspot.com/2009/02/french-macarons.html) I found quite a few blog sites that were helpful and included them in my blog. (Syrup & Tangs blog was Cook’s Illustrated worthy)

1) Just as there are many recipes for chocolate cakes, carrot cakes, etc… there are for Macarons too… everyone plays with the recipe and comes up with their own spin on them.  I’ve tried several recipes and found success with all of them so far. 
2) Yes, you should replace the loss of cocoa powder with almond flour.
3) You’ll have to find out through trial and error.  Some recipes may not react well with the high temps.  (I haven’t used Pierre Herme’s recipes. I used a 350 degree oven)
4) I’ve heard that professional bakeries use egg white powder but I don’t know this first hand.

I hope you’ll share the recipe and techniques when you come up with the best macaron.  grin

Happy baking.
Tammy

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Posted: 07 April 2009 12:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Hi again and thanks for the replies!

Thanks Freshkid, I did read in some blog about that book and that someone used it as their guide. I am not familiar with it but will definately seek it out and see what I can gleen from it - hopefully success!

Thanks Tammy. for the info and the link to your blog. I am going to pour over your method as well since I am going to try another batch on Wednesday. I thnk that you are right about the personal aspect of the recipe. I emailed Helen at Tartlette - who makes amazing macarons - and she said the same thing. In the end that is what I am looking for - a foolproof recipe that I can rely on ! As to the replacement of cocoa powder do you think a direct and equal amout substitution is good or would you use less almond flouer because it is more dense?

I will keep you all posted on my progress since I plan on trying pistachio macarons on Wednesday providing it doesn’t rain.

AndyNYCK

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Posted: 07 April 2009 12:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I’m so glad to know there are other OCD bakers out there! wink I’ve been working on cupcakes over the last few days - still have more work to do!! Hope the macarons turn out. You’ll have to post again with tips once you get them figured out!

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Posted: 07 April 2009 12:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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ANDY/NYC:
  Good morning my friend. Yes Andy, if you delete the cocoa powder (Which acts like a flour sans gluten properties) you should replace it with a flour…oz for oz. However Andy, as you know you must then adjust the chemical leaveners (Baking Soda) which I am sure is in your recipe…you will not require as much. tongue wink
  Whatever you decide I am certain you will succeed in your endeaver. Good luck to you & enjoy the rest of the day.

  ~FRESKKID. tongue laugh

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Posted: 07 April 2009 01:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Andy, I just wanted to add that the book FreshKid recommended, Bruce Healy’s “French Cookie Book”, has 11 different types of french macaroons- should help you with flavor substitutions, etc.

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Posted: 07 April 2009 01:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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HI and good morning to All,
Thanks Freshkid, that is important information as I was planning on lowering the amount of Almond Flour substitution for the cocoa powder. Thankfully the leaveners are the egg whites in the merangue in this recipe so thay can remain the same and I don’t have have to mess with that. Leaveners are a weak point for me as I always find it difficult and intimidating to change the quantities.
Also thanks to Julie. Eleven recipes would put me in heaven!!! I checked online and the book is available on Amazon which is great since this one sounds like a keeper. I also checked into the new book by Pierre Herme titled “Macaron” but it is only available in French. Now I am off to seperate egg whites for my Pistachio experiment!

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Posted: 07 April 2009 02:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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If everyone can wait until the Fall, Rose’s new book devotes a chapter to cupcakes/small cakes.

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Posted: 07 April 2009 03:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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AnneH - 07 April 2009 03:38 AM

I’m so glad to know there are other OCD bakers out there! wink I’ve been working on cupcakes over the last few days - still have more work to do!! Hope the macarons turn out. You’ll have to post again with tips once you get them figured out!

I once saw a show where Daniel Boulud or one of his guests said that chefs are ADHD and pastry chefs are OCD smile Not that I am anywhere near pastry chef status but I understand exactly what he means!!

Andy, I highly recommend Syrup & Tangs blog. He has worked out the base formulas for both types of macarons, so you can take it and play around with the flavorings and/or nut combos.

Aged egg whites are KEY! The only time my macarons failed was when I used fresh whites - no feet, pouffy, and dull tops. My oven temps have varied between 300 and 325 (both worked), have tried it with fan on and off (no difference) and tried it with the oven door propped open or fully closed. I haven’t tried Pierre Herme’s temps yet so don’t know if that will work for me. It obviously works for him!

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Posted: 07 April 2009 03:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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SHIMI:
  Good afternoon. Please forgive me for asking this dumb question. I do not know what “ADHD & OCD means. Can you help me???

  ~FRESHKID.

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Posted: 07 April 2009 03:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Hello FreshKid, I think ADHD is Attention Deficit (not sure what the H is ) Disorder and OCD is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Hope that clears it up!

p/s I’ve always enjoyed reading your posts.

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Posted: 07 April 2009 03:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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SHIMI:
  Hello again. Thank you for the quick responce. I get the general intention.

~FRESHKID.

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Posted: 07 April 2009 04:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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shimi - 07 April 2009 06:53 PM

Hello FreshKid, I think ADHD is Attention Deficit (not sure what the H is ) Disorder and OCD is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Hope that clears it up!

p/s I’ve always enjoyed reading your posts.

Hyperactivity.

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Posted: 07 April 2009 04:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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ROZANNE:
Good afternoon my learned friend. Thank you for the clarification. 
  Enjoy the rest of the day.

  ~CASS. wink

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