October 13, 2011 § 8 Comments
Pleased with how my first batch of macarons turned out (you can read about it here), I decided to make some more. The actual second attempt was a recipe from Mad About Macarons! (by Jill Colonna) but I want to focus more on the modified version of Stuart’s Bakery recipe that I used in the first batched. To help keep things straight (at least in my brain), I am labeling this modified version as 1.2 since Stuart’s was the first recipe I tried (the “1”) and the second attempt (the “.2”). We loved the taste and the chewiness of those but I wanted a crispier outer shell. I compared Stuart’s recipe to other recipes and noticed that Stuart’s use less sugar, almost as much as 35g less. I was wondering if that was the reason why the outer part was so delicate. So I decided to adjust the sugars to test out my theory.
Before I get to the modified version, let me just touch quickly upon my first Jill Colonna’s Mad About Macarons! recipe attempt (which of course will be v2). I followed the chocolate recipe exactly (which happens to have the exact ingredients as Stuart’s recipe, just different amounts). A couple of things went wrong in this batch. First, I did not deflate the batter enough, which was too thick and turned out to be the ugliest looking macs I’ve ever seen. The batter, after piping, did not flatten out to a nice smooth surface. The peaks were standing firm so I used a damp finger to try to flatten the tops a bit. Of course I didn’t do this fast enough and some of them were already starting to dry some had funny bumps on top after baking. The under-mixing also left too much air, which is what I think caused some hollowed cookies. The second thing that went wrong was that I did not pulse the almond flour, powdered sugar and cocoa in the food processor before mixing and I didn’t sift. So the texture of the cookies were not as smooth as the first batch. I used liquid food coloring like I did the first batch but halved the amount. The lighter pink was cute but the surface was rather dull and lumpy.
You can see how fugly the finished macarons turned out. I do like the shape of the hearts though. Oh yeah, I got feet! At this point, I’m convinced that as long as the piped batter is allowed to rest and develop the outer crust, feet will develop.
As far as taste, the Mister liked these more than I did. These were way sweeter than the Stuart’s version (given that it did have more sugar) and tasted less like red velvet. Not bad but a tad too sweet for me. I do like the crispier and more hearty outer shell of these though. If I could get the outer shells on the Stuart’s macarons like this, then we would have a winner.
So now my modified version of Stuart’s recipe. I wanted to start off slowly on the sugar adjustment. I decreased the powdered sugar and increased the regular (superfine) sugar by 5g each. Although weight is identical, the total amount of sugar exchange isn’t exactly equal since powdered sugar is anywhere from 3-5% cornstarch. So the increase in sugar is 3-5% of 5g. Negligible in my mind. But this might tell me if powdered sugar vs. superfine sugar makes a difference in the final product.
Here is the egg whites after adding the food color gel and you can see a bit of the stiff peaks in the center. It took about 8-9 drops of red food color gel to get to this color. The final color is actually darker after sitting for a while. Kind of reminds me of how color changes when using it in fondant. Anyway…
I counted the amount of folding this time and at about 50 folds, the batter was still quite thick so I’m guessing I used a much more delicate folding technique than the first go-around. It took another 7-8 good folds before I got to the nice smooth and glossy “magma” stage. Here’s a little tip if you don’t know it. Use a tall container to hold the piping bag while filling it. I usually use my hand but I find it much easier to go this route with thinner batters. See how the color has gotten darker in just that short amount of time? Weird, huh?
I tried two different kind of piping techniques. One was off to the side but that was the least successful at making nice rounds. What worked best for me was going from the top and piping straight down.
Here are the first batch out of the oven, cooled and waiting to be filled. Ah, much better looking than the first batch and bigger feet too! I like the deep red but I think I prefer the more vibrant red from the liquid food color.
The outer crust was a bit thicker although it was still not anywhere near where I would like it. Some of the cookies turned out hollow. I’ve read that it could be due to over-mixed egg whites to not enough deflating of the batter (aka, too much air bubbles). So I’ll have to try to figure out what’s causing that
Oops, my finger schmooshed the top of this one. Guess I’ll have to eat it.
The inside is nice and chewy and the flavor is dead on red velvet. This batch is actually chewier than v1 so I’m wondering if the increased of sugar and decrease of powdered sugar had something to do with that. Further testing will be needed.
I’m waiting to see if the outer shell will firm up more after a couple of days in the fridge. The Mister says he likes the taste of these but prefers the “crunchiness” of the Colonna version. What I might try next is adjusting the sugar of Colonna’s recipe to see if I can get it to taste more like red velvet.
So lessons learned to this point:
- Always blend the almond flour, powdered sugar and cocoa together in a food processor and sift.
- Do a test dollop of the batter to check for consistency before bagging.
- Test for firmness before baking.
- Both gel and liquid food coloring work, but I like the more vibrant red from the food coloring liquid.
|Red Velvet Maracons v1.2|
- 200g Confectioners (powdered) sugar
- 125g almond flour/meal
- 10g cocoa powder
- 100g eggs white (aged and at room temperature)
- 35g superfine sugar
- Red food coloring (optional)
- Pulse Confectioners sugar, almond flour and cocoa powder in a food processor until everything is well combined. Sift ingredients into separate bowl.
- With a hand mixer (or electric mixer), whip egg whites at medium speed. When the egg whites are very foamy, start adding the sugar very slowly while continuing to beat the whites. Once all the sugar has been added, continue beating the whites to firm peak stage. Add red food coloring (if using). Beat until just at stiff peak stage (see Notes below). Don’t overmix the whites.
- Add the sifted dry ingredients to the egg whites in 2 batches. Fold the dry ingredients into the egg whites after each addition using a rubber spatula to mix until the ingredients are completely incorporated. Continue to fold the batter until the batter is smooth and has a bit of sheen to it. Be careful not to overmix the batter. You can do a test by piping a small round on a plate and if a small beak remains after piping, fold the batter a couple times more. If the batter forms a round cap but doesn’t run, it is ready.
- Place batter in a piping bag and pipe out 1-inch rounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone mat. Leave about 1-inch of space between each round. Let rest for minimum of 45 minutes (up to 2 hours) at room temperature. The outer part of the shells will be firm. Also make sure the sides of the shells are also firm. This will help with feet development.
- Preheat oven to 325°F while the shells are resting.
- Place one baking sheet on center rack of the oven and bake between 14-18 minutes at 320°F. Rotate half way through baking. Check shells at the 14-minute mark for doneness by doing the “wobble test.” Gently touch the top of a shell with index finger and wiggle it back and forth GENTLY. If there’s a slight wobble to it, bake for another 2-3 minutes. Remember that larger shells will need to bake longer.
- Let the shells cool on the sheet pan. Remove shells gently with a spatula. Put a dollop of cream cheese frosting or other desired filling on top of half the cookie. Then top with another shell to complete macaron.
Special equipment needed: electric mixer and food processor (for best results)
Soft peak stage is when egg whites peaks form tips that curl over when the beaters are lifted. The peak should keep its shape and not disappear back into itself.
Firm peak stage is when egg whites form peaks with tips that mostly straight up with the very tip curls ever so slightly.
Stiff peak stage is when egg whites form peaks with tips that are straight up.
Macarons can be kept in the refrigerator in an air-tight container for up to 7 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw frozen macarons for 30 minutes before serving.
September 30, 2011 § 8 Comments
Ever since having the macarons from Big Joy Family Bakery and Cafe, they’ve been on my brain nonstop. Okay, maybe me and Canine Cologne have been on a Happy Happy Joy Joy kick lately but can you really blame us? Anyway, the Mister said I have that “obsessive” look in my eyes. I have no idea what he’s talking about. So my current obsession, I mean, uh, “focus” has really been about making macs at home. Come on, this is CAB Cooks after all, right? So after some research, I picked a couple of recipes to try as well as a new book (which I’ll post on a later date). I decided to try a French meringue method first over the Italian meringue method even though mixing would be the challenging part. Italian meringue method requires melting sugar and water then adding the molten sugar to whipped-egg mixture. This method is the most forgiving as far as mixing but then I’d have to deal with a candy thermometer and an extra step. I figured maybe another time after I’ve had some success with Parisian macarons or if that just completely failed.
So which recipe did I decide to cut my teeth on? Red Velvet of course! There are a few variations of red velvet but they all pretty much have the same basic ingredients: sugar/confectioners sugar, egg white, almond flour, cocoa powder and red food coloring. The one I chose to try first is a recipe from Stuart’s Bakery in Vancouver, BC. It’s actually a chocolate macaron but it’s suppose to taste like red velvet. Well sure, red velvet has cocoa powder in it. The Stuart’s Bakery recipe can be found on Follow Me Foodie. I pretty much followed the recipe. I figured that was the best way to go since this was the first try. That way I can learn from it and make adjustments. Hey, this could be the start of my “machronicles”!
I was going to buy some almond flour but since I had 2 lbs of raw almonds already on hand, I decided to just make my own. The almonds were $3.99/lb where almond flour can cost up to $11/lb. So I’m saving a bit of money by grinding my own. I blanched about 3 cups almonds in boiling water for 60 seconds. Then rinsed under cold water and then I started popping the almonds out of the outer peels. Easy but a little time consuming. I just did all this while watching one of my recorded TV show. I let them dry overnight which was way more time than I really needed, usually a couple of hours would have done the trick. I used the Vitamix to do grinding since it does a better job at making nut flour than the food processor.
As far as the egg whites, I had frozen egg whites that I was saving for an angle food cake. This would actually be an interesting test since these whites have been in the freezer for a few months now. I thought they might actually be good for macarons since they are “aged” whites. So I weighed out enough for one batch in the fridge for a couple of days. I also separated out some egg whites using eggs in the fridge that were getting close to their carton date just in case the defrosted whites resulted in disaster or something. Well it turns out the frozen egg whites worked just fine, which is awesome.
I read somewhere that chocolate macarons without any food coloring tends to bake up gray. But since I was planning on adding (a lot of) red food coloring, I wasn’t too worried about the color. I was going to use red food gel but since the recipe called for the standard, so I went with that. Although much less is needed with gel, I can pick up regular food coloring at my grocery store. I settled on a red that is similar to red velvet cake batter which was about half the bottle.
The one thing I kind of overdid was the folding. Several recipes called for mixing rather than folding the dry ingredients into the whipped egg white. Stuart’s recipe called for “gentle” folding. I kind of did in-between until I got what others called the “magma” state. It’s suppose to create ribbons, which is what I got. The macaron book I have said to mix it for no more than 5 minutes. Huh?? Okay, I can’t imagine how runny that would have been in this case. First lesson learned: too much deflation from too much folding and mixing. I counted about 50 folds/mixes so next time I’m going to cut back on the folding and see what results. Overworking the mixture will result in flat shells, which is what happened.
Piping the shells was a little harder since the batter was a bit runny. I read that the perfect batter should just start to run out of the piping tip when the bag was full. Well mine was running out like magma almost as quickly as I was filling the bag. The texture also made piping even-sized shells a little more difficult. But most of them turned out round-ish. They sat and rested for about 30 minutes before I put the first tray in a preheated 325 degrees F oven. I was quite excited to see “feet” developing. Rotated about half way through baking.
As far as baking, I checked at 8 minutes time and did the “wobble” test. That’s when you gently touch the top and wiggle it back and forth GENTLY. If there’s a slight wobble to it, they need to bake for at least another 4 minutes. I also noticed that one of the shell was starting to crack a bit on top. I read that cracking is usually due to the oven being too hot. So I dialed back the temp to 322 degrees F.
I kept the oven light on so I can keep an eye out on them. So total bake time was around 13 minutes. Pulled it out and let them cool. Then I put the second tray in, which meant the second tray had an extra 13 minutes of resting (~43-45 minutes). I think the second tray turned out better than the first one and I’m guessing the extra rest time is what did it. The outside of the unbaked shell probably got a bit firmer so the shell was able rise a little more during baking. Second lesson learned, let them rest longer than shorter.
When I removed the first batch of shells off the parchment paper, although none stuck, there were some residue on my spatula. Hmm. They were also very brittle and hard to handle without cracking the outside. Double hmm. When I turned one over, I realized that some of them were slightly under baked. Since the second batch was still in the oven (with the adjusted temp at 323 degrees F), I decided to do the wobble test at 10 minutes, which I determined (guessed really) that it should go for another 5 minutes, which turned out to be just right. So third lesson learned, bake it to the minimum time that the recipe calls for and use my best judgement. Oh and there’s another lesson in here. I’ve read that some chefs will pour cold water into the pan to help release the shells from the pan. Not necessary if the shells are baked to the proper time. They come up just fine.
Here’s a shot of the underside from both batch.
As you can see in this photo, the one on the left was the under baked one and the one on the right was from the second batch and was just right.
I used a simple cream cheese frosting for the filling since I was going for a traditional red velvet taste. I creamed 4 oz of cream cheese and 4 oz of unsalted butter (both at room temperature), then added 2 1/2 cups of confectioners sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. This was still way too much filling for 27 macarons so I will cut the recipe in half next time. The filling was a little stiff so next time I’m going to add a teaspoon of milk to help lighten it up a little. It didn’t help that the macarons’ surface were a bit fragile and was cracking at even the most gentle of pressure. I did read from Follow Me Foodie’s article that this recipe lacks the harder surface like some other macarons.
Although the recipe didn’t call for letting the macarons sit overnight, I read that they taste better the next day or even 3-4 days later. So we waited. Just kidding. I had to try one at least to know what it tastes like the first day for comparison. Right, I did it for comparison only purposes. Overall taste was really good, even better the next day and the next. The outer shell was delicately crisp and the inside had a wonderful chew. By the third day, the outer part got a bit firmer and it was still chewy on the inside. The flavors actually kind of melded together even more and really tasted like a red velvet cookie. Last lesson learned from this session, keep grubby fingers away for at least 24 hours before eating the macs. I actually had some Big Joy Family Bakery macarons on hand so I decided to do a side-by-side taste test between their red velvet and mine.
Okay so mine isn’t as cute or puffy as the bought ones but the flavor is pretty damn good. I’ll just have to work on the shells.
The Mister said he’d pay money for mine so there you go. BTW, these can keep in the fridge for up to a week or frozen for up to 3 months. Just thaw for 30 minutes before serving.
Postscript: Check here for an updated recipe.