The 'M' word (Aaaaaaaah!!)

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

I must say, it's pretty hard to contain my excitement here (can you tell?). Last night, I made my first batch of macarons - chocolate flavour, as requested by brother dearest. I made a half batch thinking, "What the hell am I going to do with 40 of these puppies?" - only to have them half eaten post-assembly. Well, nevermind...

Macarons have gotten a huge amount of press, including from yours truly (see my first ever post) and a lot of emphasis has been put on perfecting the process. I'm pretty sure I could do better next time but for the moment I'm gloating over the fact that I made something that resembles an actual macaron (woot!).

Oh yes, you better believe I did it. Food styling seems like such an awesome job - that and being a food critic (just putting it out there...)
There's nothing better than getting some new equipment to get you back into the kitchen (did someone say Kitchenaid mixer?)- not that I needed convincing otherwise. But the day before yesterday my online order arrived containing my piping bag kit - 6 tips and disposable bags (because they do get wrecked after each use. Gone are the days when I've had to use the $2 POS (not point of sale) bag from the supermarket. Now I can look like a pro without being one haha!!

I wrote before about the book I bought, and unfortunately Maréchal harks on the fact that you need to make an Italian meringue (cooked sugar) for better results. Not having a sugar thermometer, nor knowing anything about the stages of cooking sugar - soft ball/hard ball whatever.. I wasn't really game to try. But apparently the wait time is ~30 mins. So in actual fact I've made a hybrid macaron using two recipes including one from the book but employing the french meringue technique (uncooked sugar) described by GT. Granted, the massive downside of doing it this way means that you have to croûtage i.e. dry to form a shiny crust (does it sound like I know what i'm talking about?) for 4 yea hours, that is. Believe you me, that was one long wait - occupied for a lot of it by me just looking at them and testing to see if they'd crusted yet. Note: it's kind of obvious, they're not so runny anymore and develop a film on top that lightens the colour.

The longest time. 4 hours later: the croûtage stage is finally complete!
There was a moment of panic, at this point though when they hadn't formed feet yet. I was lamenting that I had botched the batch until sensible mum told me they'd form in the oven...phew! Funny how I was so worried about stuffing up (this exercise was a big time investment!). Lo and behold, baking at 150°C for just over 10 minutes. My macarons had feet - rejoice!

After crisping up in the oven for ~10 minutes. I will admit I was pretty much glued to the oven door - watching them grow!
I probably could have cooked them for a bit longer but it's difficult to tell from the shell side up. After they had cooled and I was lifting them off the paper, they were sticking a bit too much for my liking, so maybe a few more minutes next time. It's important to tweak the cooking time according to your oven. Maybe it's a good idea to have an oven thermometer even. Baking is great for people like me who are utter control freaks (I tease). 

Assemblage: divide the batch into half and pair them up with another shell that is approximately the same size. I had made a dark chocolate ganache to fill these babies earlier and took it out of the fridge to discover it was as hard as a rock. Even after softening it a bit over the stove, the ganache was still pretty solid and not oozy enough - mental note. Anyway, I piped away (I'm still pretty unco at it but practice makes parfait!) and stuck the  other halves on top - ta dah!

The colouration on the shells is a bit odd I know - I'm guessing it's from using a french meringue/oven heat weirdness.
I'm not showing you all my ganache inside because it looked gross and i'm not really one for toilet humour... :P The reason why you can't see it well in the pictures is cos I got overexcited and piped the ganache pretty cold. When I put them together the ganache stayed pretty much exactly how I piped it and in the centre of the base. Minutiae really but ooh well!

I only managed to assemble 16 macarons out of a supposed 20. Definitely because of my piping inconsistency - I'll just have to try again then :P

Le goût (the taste): I must admit that they tasted pretty good. Yes, the shells were sweet (as all meringues are I suppose) but the bitter quality of the ganache - which wasn't sweetened, helped to counterbalance that (i'm sounding like a contestant off Masterchef - ick!). The shell didn't quite have that textural crunch that we all look for but that's okay, a couple more minutes in the oven and we should be sweet (pun intended)! Let me tell you, 16 macarons do not go a long way in this household.

For the diehards: this is a peek into the anatomy. Btw how is my hand modelling? Lol.
To sum up, this was me diving head first into the art/science of macaron making. All in all, I'm quite pleased with the results - I had been deliberating on how/when/which to make for ages so this was me biting the bullet (in both senses). It's pretty hard work to do this and that right but the results speak for themselves (and your taste-testers will love them!). On a more practical point, calculating my potential profit from this venture, I could have made $40 (piddly when you think about it) from this batch of 16. The cost of raw materials is relatively small (depending on the quality of chocolate you use) but the labour of love is priceless. Strangely, you grow attached to them, especially when you've spent 6 hours making them - they become like children (and I ate two of them)! xo

Fin. Look out Adriano (not)!


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