The French Macaron – 1

I finally did it. I finally sucked it up and attempted making those picky little sandwich cookies called the macaron. Oh, how I love the little guys but with the hefty price tag ranging from $1.75 to $3 per cookie, I had been wanting to try making them myself for quite a while. My wallet simply can’t support my love for macarons! The only thing that stopped me was how notorious the macaron is for failing (multiple times) for even the most seasoned bakers. However, I guess all it took was a new resolution:

Macaron 1

On my past trip to Asia, we stopped by South Korea and, subsequently, my old home of Daejeon. One of our stops was at an Italian restaurant called Flying Pan, which was one of a chain of restaurants owned by Sungsimdang, the oldest (and most famous) bakery in the city. When I came back, I told myself I would make whatever the month’s drawing was… and February was the macaron.

So, I was a couple of days late, but I still made it! Here are the few faces of my macaron babies (notice the cracked shell in the background, haha):

Macaron Set

This is not quite listed under recipe because I’m still trying it out. I would say this would be my online foray into what would be my cooking (in this case, baking) journal. I want to try out as many macaron recipes as I can until I can find one I am comfortable enough with to call my go-to macaron recipe (is there such thing??). It may take me years, but I will get there one day! 

First thing’s first: I am the most amateur of amateurs. Sure, I love food and I do cook and bake on a regular basis. However, I sort of jump all around. I don’t have a foolproof recipe or anything and I constantly experiment so I’m not an expert at any one food. I didn’t know much about the macaron except for the fact that they are delicious, delicate, and the princesses of all cookies (from what I know). After I made the macarons, I found out that there are actually 2 methods of making the shell: the Italian method and the French method. The Italian method uses a sugar syrup to make the meringue and the French method uses powdered sugar. The Italian method is also known to be the “safer” method of making macarons. Guess which method I ended up trying on my first attempt?

Either way, my first attempt was helped along with the fact that I had a Lékué Macaron Kit (a friend of mine had given it to me as a wedding gift), so I was pretty excited to finally use it. After I used it, I love it. Love it, love it, love it. My second batch was made free-form on parchment paper… they didn’t look nearly as nice. ^^; The little circle ridges on the mat really help with making them uniform!

Green Tea Macarons with White Chocolate Ganache
(makes around 30 macarons)

INGREDIENTS
3 Extra Large Egg Whites (aged at room temperature for 1 day, covered with saran wrap)
5 TBSP of Granulated Sugar (I used Evaporated Cane)
1-1/4 cup of Icing Sugar
1-1/4 TBSP of Matcha (Green Tea) Powder
3/4 cup of Almond Flour
1 pinch of Salt
1 to 3 drops of Green Food Coloring (optional)

8 ounces of White Chocolate
5 TBSP of Heavy Cream

DIRECTIONS

  1. Add the icing sugar, matcha powder, and almond flour to a food processor and process until fine. Then filter the dry ingredients through a mesh sieve and stir it with a whisk to make sure there are no overly large bits.Macaron Dry SetNote: I found that it might have been better to just sieve the dry ingredients to begin with. I have a large food processor and a lot of the dry ingredients just ended up clumping together at the bottom.
  2. In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium until it begins to foam and it is taking shape. Then slowly add in the salt and granulated sugar in a slow, steady stream. If using the food coloring, add it here as well. Continue beating, gradually increasing the speed until a stiff meringue forms. You should be able to make soft peaks. Be sure not to over beat.Gently fold the dry ingredients in 2 batches with a rubber spatula and make smooth sweeps to the bottom of the bowl. This will deflate the meringue and after 40 or so sweeps, a glossy ‘batter’ should form. When you drop some of the batter back into the bowl, it should take about 10 seconds for it to merge back with the mix. Do not overmix.Macaron Wet SetNote: I never made a meringue before so I was worried that it wasn’t “stiff” enough. However, I just kept on beating it (about 8 minutes or so) and it seemed to turn out okay.
  3. Prepare your baking sheets with either a macaron mat or parchment paper and fill your pastry bag with the batter. I had my macaron mats so there were little circles telling me where to pipe my shells. Pipe the shells (about 3 to 3.5 cm) spaced one inch apart or just follow the template (or macaron mat) if using one.Macaron 7Don’t bake it yet! First, slam the baking sheet with the wet shell batter gently (is it even possible to slam gently?) several times on the counter top. This will make the air bubbles come to the top and will also help to form those feet at the bottom of the shell that is a component to the perfect macaron. Gently poke the bubbles that rise with a needle. Then, let it sit there for about 40 minutes to an hour until the shell isn’t wet anymore (if you poke the tops, nothing should stick to your finger). This will help with the smooth shell and prevent cracks from forming on top.Note: I read that the Italian version is better with having a “dry” feeling shell after the resting period. I let mine rest for about 45 minutes and some of them seemed slightly wet. Only about 6 or so shells formed cracks on top, mainly on my second batch, so the statistics aren’t that bad… I also didn’t mind too much because I got to test taste those. 🙂
  4. Preheat your oven to 300 F and bake for 16 to 20 minutes – one pan at a time. They are done when you lift one and the top doesn’t detach from the feet.Macaron 8Note: I’m actually confused on the bake time. I slightly overbaked the first batch (but that batch turned out the better looking shells) so the tops were slightly golden. The outside shell was on the crispy side, but the insides were somewhat chewy (but not as chewy as I would like). However, I did have some slight difficulty removing them from the mat (some parts [mainly the middle] stuck a bit). When I let it cool for a little longer (around 15 minutes), they released more easily. I think I should probably let them cool completely before attempting to remove them…
  5. Meanwhile, make the ganache. Heat up the heavy cream over medium heat until almost boiling and pour over the white chocolate. Let it sit for a couple of minutes before mixing. I also ended up using the help of a double boiler to melt down my ganache more thoroughly (my chocolate wasn’t completely submerged in the hot cream so it didn’t readily melt).Macaron 9Allow to cool completely in the fridge before filling the piping bag.Macaron 10Note: the ganache was good but it was a little too sweet for my taste. I will probably use a different filling next time.
  6. Prepare a work area and pair all the shells with matching shells, flat side up. Pipe a coin-sized amount of the ganache filling in the center of each shell and top with the other shell, pressing gently.Macaron 11Note: I need to work on figuring out the best amount of filling to pipe onto it. Perhaps I used too much cream, but some of the filling started oozing out… especially when they were sandwiched.
  7. Allow to sit in the fridge for at least overnight before eating. The flavors will come through and the filling will help soften it.

Macaron 12

This confection probably was the most stressful thing I have ever made (it may have been because I worried myself too much). The ingredients were simple but the amount of time you need was ridiculous. Basically, make sure to set aside time for these. However, they were absolutely delicious (everyone loved them) and although far from perfect, they weren’t a complete fail, either. There were some cracked shells, a few semi-hollow ones, and some weird-looking feet that formed, but as a first attempt, it could have been a lot worse.

Also, they seriously are better the next day. The shell was almost perfect – the outside part lightly gave way to the chewy center… ah, the mingling of flavors. The shell itself was subtly sweet and the matcha flavor was definitely present. The white chocolate filling balanced it out (except for the ones that had more filling than needed… then it was on the sweeter side). I will probably be making a batch of macarons every month or so until I figure out the secret to making these delicacies.

On my next attempt, I will try out the Italian meringue method… and change the filling. I already have my eye on a recipe, but I also want to try out a different flavor combination. We’ll see!

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