A dedication through macarons
In a previous post, I professed my love for macarons. I do have a huge soft (sweet) spot for this tinky tiny morsel of Frenchy tastiness! It had been a while since I made a batch of macarons and I was in the mood to be inspired, so I made a mental note that this weekend was the weekend to make them. Most of the macarons I’ve made so far, have had a ganache filling, because a ganache is easy to make – heat some cream, pour it over some chocolate, mix to melt chocolate and voila; there’s your ganache! So, I was a little excited when I saw a blog post about Red Velvet macarons by Jo The Tart Queen. I’ve made Red Velvet cake once before, and I absolutely loved the white chocolate cream cheese icing that went with it (if you would like the recipe, click here), so I thought that this flavour might be an interesting one to try. If you’ve never made French macarons before, it’s really hard to get your head around how much you need to fold in your dry ingredients. To help me with this, I found an amazing troubleshooting guide on the HowToCookThat blog. Once you’re able to recognise what your mixture should look like after folding in the dry ingredients, you’ll make perfect macarons every time! The recipe I like to use for the basic macaron shell comes from Cath Chen who is the owner of the blog Confessions of a Glutton. Check out Cath’s blog because she has some really interesting macaron flavours, and other great recipes too. I really like using Cath’s macaron recipe as a starting point because it makes roughly 15 macarons and that is the perfect number to share between two people! So, what about the dedication bit? Well, I have a friend, who is of Texan background, that has requested I make a Red Velvet cake for her birthday (which I am happy to oblige) and this recipe made me think of her, so I thought I’d dedicate this blog post to her. This one is for you Brenna 🙂
Basic macaron shell recipe
110g icing sugar
60g almond meal
60g egg white, aged (approximately 2 large eggs)
40g caster sugar
Colouring, if required (I use Wilton’s concentrated colouring gel)
Vanilla cream cheese buttercream
75g Philidelphia cream cheese at room temperature
40g unsalted butter at room temperature and cubed
60g icing sugar, sifted
¼ tsp vanilla extract
A little bit of milk to thin the buttercream, if necessary
Note #1: To age the egg whites, carefully separate the whites from the yolk into a small bowl. Cover the bowl with cling wrap, poke a few holes in the cling wrap and chuck the bowl into the fridge for at least 24 hours. This will help reduce the moisture content of the whites and relax the proteins, which (from what I’ve read) makes a better meringue. When you’re ready to use the egg whites, take them out of the fridge and let them come up to room temperature before making the meringue. I usually like to age my egg whites for about two days.
When you’re ready to make the macaron shells, combine the icing sugar and almond meal and sift the mixture twice. Discard any bits too big to pass through your sifter; you don’t want these bits in your macarons because they’ll make the shells look ‘gritty’.
Transfer the egg whites into a larger bowl. If you’re planning to add colour to your macaron shells, now is the time to do it. I’ve read that using colouring gel instead of liquid food colouring is better because it doesn’t affect the moisture content of the egg whites, which will ultimately dictate how well it whips up. Using an electric hand mixer, start beating the egg whites on medium speed until foamy, then switch to high speed and gradually add sugar. Keep beating the egg whites until stiff peaks form. To check whether or not your meringue has formed stiff peaks, turn the hand mixer off, pull the mixer straight upwards and turn the mixer on the side. If the meringue does not fold over itself, then your meringue is perfect. Another trick you could try is to turn your bowl upside down; if your meringue holds tight and doesn’t move, it’s ready to go!
Gently fold half of the icing sugar/almond meal mixture into the meringue until combined. Add the other half of the icing sugar/almond meal and gently fold until the mixture has an oozy, magma-like consistency. This will take about 50-60 folds.
Line two large cookie sheets with non-stick baking paper. Transfer the macaron mixture to a piping bag that has a piping nozzle with a 1cm round tip fitted. Hold the piping bag at a 90 degree angle to the cookie sheet (that is, directly upwards). Squeeze out the mixture to form a 3-3.5 cm circle, then stop squeezing and move the bag in a half circle from a ‘six o’clock’ to ‘12 o’clock’ position. I find this technique of piping the best way to get your macarons in that perfect round shape. Make sure you leave a few centimetres between the macarons as you’re piping, to allow for spreading. Once you have piped your mixture, tap the cookie sheets (hard) against a flat surface. This will get rid of any air pockets in your shells. Leave the macarons to rest and form a ‘skin’ for 30 minutes. 15 minutes into resting time, preheat oven to 140°C/120°C (fan forced). The surface of your macarons should be dry and not sticky when lightly touched. Shove the cookie sheets into the oven for 12-15 minutes. The ‘feet’ should start appearing after 5 minutes.
To make the the buttercream, chuck the cream cheese into a bowl and use an electric beater to beat until smooth. This shouldn’t take long because you’re just smoothing out the cream cheese and not trying to incorporate air into it. Add the butter and beat to combine. Add the icing sugar and vanilla extract and beat until it all comes together and is smooth. It should be of piping consistency. If the buttercream is a little dry, add a tiny amount of milk and beat it in to thin it a little. Don’t add too much milk though, otherwise it will be too runny.
Leave the macaron shells to cool slightly on the tray then give the shells a gentle wiggle to lift them off the baking paper. Once they have completely cooled, match up the shells, pipe or place a dollop of the vanilla cream cheese buttercream on one of the shells and sandwich the filling with the other shell.
Note #2: Jo mentions in her blog post that these macarons taste like an ice cream sandwich, and it’s true! If you’re not going to eat them straight away, store them in an airtight container in the fridge. From what I’ve read, filled macarons can be kept in the fridge for up to a week (I can’t vouche for this as the macarons are usually all eaten by the second day!). When you’ve pulled them out of the fridge, make sure you leave the macarons to warm up for 10 minutes before eating them. Nom nom nom!