Monday, 29 October 2007

CHOCOLATE MACARONS: A TRUCE


I call for a truce. Hey, I'm not waiving no white flag in this macaron war! To be honest, I'm not liking the eating part of the macaron battle. Initially, they're delicious...but after the third tray, I'm kind of sick of them. I love chocolate, but the chocolate macarons I made just don't ring my bell. I much prefer the pistachio macarons or even the matcha macarons I made previously in other battles.


I used the Chocolate Macaron recipe from Veronica's Test Kitchen. I thought everything looked a bit "runny" compared to the sugar syrup method I used in the matcha macarons previously and even runnier than the pistachio macaron recipe too. I had followed the recipe exactly and even left my egg whites to age as recommended. Despite the ominous texture of the batter, I just plugged along and piped the macarons and waited the allotted 2 to 4 hours...after which they still seemed too tacky. The weather wasn't even humid that day, so we couldn't blame the usual rainy Vancouver weather. The macarons did have a skin but I was skeptical that they would hold up in the oven.

After a few minutes of baking, I noticed the tops starting to crack open (the skin was indeed too thin) and this first batch failed to grow the frilly "feet" properly. It was late in the evening and I decided to give up for the night. I left the two remaining sheets of piped macarons on the kitchen counter uncovered and thought that I had nothing to lose if I just left them overnight and baked them the next morning. If they didn't have a thick skin by morning, then I'd be surprised!

The next morning, the macarons had dry skins that I could touch without any tackiness. They looked adequately strong and I popped them in the oven and voila! Smooth flat tops, frilly feet and slightly chewy interior. Perfect. It figures.

I still find leaving raw egg whites out kind of icky, regardless of what they say about the antibacterial quality of egg whites...but it worked. I guess for this recipe that's what you have to do. This is why I'm apt to go with the sugar syrup method or the pistachio macaron recipe. There isn't this huge amount of time you have to invest in making these suckers. When it comes to baking, I'm kind of a last minute kind of, spur-of-the-moment kind of gal.

My advice to anyone attempting macarons is this: there's only one thing you have to check before popping macarons in the oven and that is that their skins have to be thick and strong enough to withstand the heat. If you deem the skins too thin when you touch them, or if your first sheet of macarons didn't create feet, don't despair. You have a chance to salvage the other macarons. If the skins are too thin, the macaron batter will heat up, and bubble up through the top and crack the surface, resulting in a flat cookie without feet and instead with cracks on the top.
Some options to wasting hours of time waiting for macarons to dry:
1. (my preference--find a good recipe) Use a recipe that doesn't require one to wait around for hours before baking your macarons. That way you don't have to invest a huge amount of time waiting for them. I am loathe to leave egg whites out and even more adamant that one shouldn't have to waste hours of one's time waiting around for things to dry. In the case that you have a troublesome recipe, you can still make your macarons do what you want them to do. Take action by using your oven to dry the macarons (all the trays in the oven) with the oven door open. I usually heat up the oven a bit and then turn the oven off. You must leave the oven door open; not allowing moisture to be trapped inside. You don't want to bake them, you just want the tops to dry out. Then check the skins to ensure they are strong enough to bake.

2.Another option for some people is what I accidentally did which is make the macarons in the evening and let them sit out to dry on the counter overnight. Then bake them in the morning. When you do this intentionally it just seems smarter, doesn't it?

Macaron tips:
-bake them one sheet at a time
-watch the first sheet like a hawk so you can adjust things for your subsequent sheets
-stated oven temperatures are a guide. they're not set in stone. adjust the temperature (usually lowering it) to ensure that your macarons don't brown too quickly. in fact, they're not supposed to brown at all
-eat the failures (or give them away and call them "cookies") because they taste good too

Macarons aren't that tough to make after all. Just use your noodle.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I had the same problem as you per your description. Only difference is that I still don't get frilly feets even though I dried them overnight to obtain that strong thick skin. Any idea what went wrong for my case? This is my 4th attempt, :-((

cakebrain said...

When I don't get feet, I think it means that the batter isn't dry enough (that's just my speculation--I don't really know!). The only batter that's worked for me really consistently is the one I've used for both my pistachio and black sesame macarons. Chocolate doesn't always work because the cocoa powder affects the moisture content of the batter. Have you tried drying the macarons in a slow oven with the oven door open? That works. But sometimes you get lopsided macarons then. Do you live in a humid environment? When there aren't any feet, blame it on the recipe proportions. Find a recipe that works for your oven and your environment. There are tons or recipes out there, but everyone lives in a different climate and everyone has a different type of oven too. Check out tartelette's blog because she's the macaron expert in my opinion. She's even written an article in "Desserts Magazine" with macaron tips. It's in issue #2 I believe. http://www.dessertsmag.com/index.php?option=com_flippingbook&Itemid=91&book_id=3

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