And Then, There’s Swiss

In what is beginning to feel like a never-ending quest for perfection, I’ve realized that there is a third method for making French macarons. When I made the Grapefruit Macarons, I didn’t realize that they used this method, also called the Swiss Meringue Macarons. The difference in this method is that the egg whites and sugar are mixed together, then heated au bain marie (double boiler method) until the sugar has melted and incorporated into the whites, then beaten to stiff peaks before adding the icing sugar and almond.

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Perspective does strange things… my whisk is NOT that long and skinny. Honest!

In doing even more reading, I found that this method is the least well known of the three but is more stable than the French method and more delicate than the Italian method. Of course, you know that I had to give it another go, right? I’m stubborn that way.

I found a couple of online pdfs, one from Chef Joseph Cumm, and another from Chef Ryan Zimmer; both recipes are similar in their ratios. This time, I’m following Chef Joseph’s recipe. I’ll be adding red powdered food colouring to the batter and will be filling them with a raspberry chocolate ganache (already made and cooling). His pdf even has a troubleshooting guide at the end.

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The tops are a little rough looking; I probably should have whizzed the almonds and icing sugar before running them through the sieve but I like to live dangerously. Coming out of the oven, the shells are very fragile and I wasn’t, apparently, very careful.

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Once I let them cool, they were better. I learned a little “trick” on one of the (many) videos I watched – push the bottoms in a bit. It gives more room for filling and pushes the insides up to the top, helping to fill in the hollows.

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I filled these with dark chocolate raspberry ganache.

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I’m not sure how long I can wait before trying these. I have to say, making macarons can be a bit confusing. In everything I’ve read, there’s been conflicting information. The oven’s too hot. The oven’s too cool. The meringue is over beaten. The meringue is under beaten. The macaronage isn’t processed enough. The macaronage is processed too much.

Will I ever reach macaron perfection? Does it really matter? No matter how they look, they still taste the same. Will I keep making them? Oh yeah. As often as I have over the past few weeks? I don’t think so.

But I WILL keep researching.

 

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Valentine’s Day

Ah, Valentine’s Day, the day that one of my co-workers calls “Singles Awareness Day”. Yes, she’s single. That surprises me, actually. She’s smart, she’s funny… kind of like my daughter… who’s also single. However, I digress.

I’m not a huge holiday celebrator; never have been, never will be. I do like having an excuse to make things, though. Especially when those “things” are sweet, yummy, and, let’s face it, pretty. Macarons fit the bill perfectly.

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(Yeah, I know, I’m on a macaron kick. No one around here is complaining… except John; he’s convinced I’m trying to kill him, with sugar as my weapon of choice. Now that I’ve got it down, though, I’m having fun! And that’s all that matters, doesn’t it?)

I wanted to make some heart shaped macarons flavoured with raspberries. I went hunting, by foot and by phone, for freeze dried raspberries in this town. I couldn’t find any. I’ve ordered some on Amazon but they won’t arrive until the end of next week. I did, however, find freeze dried pomegranates. They also have that nice, tangy, fruity flavour I was looking for.

When I found a recipe for red, white, and blue (raspberry, banana, and blueberry) macarons, using the Italian method, I printed it up and compared it to other macaron recipes.

Ok, this is where I digress again.

Remember in my last post, I wrote about the formula for macarons? Well, in my searching, I’ve realized that there are about four main formulas (or is that formulae?). There’s the Syrup & Tang formula that I used to make the Coffee Kahlua macarons last weekend. There are three others: Annie’s Eats, Mercotte, and Not So Humble Pie. They’re all similar but all vary slightly in the percentages but not by much. In my spreadsheet, I’ve taken all four ratios and averaged them out. The averages are: 1 (being the egg whites); 1.33 almond flour; 1.33 icing sugar; 1.53 white sugar; .35 water.

The recipe I used for the Pomegranate macarons is the exact ratio of the Annie’s Eats formula (1; 1.23; 1.23; 1.37; 33). Incidentally, the only measurement that is consistent across the board is the water at 33%.

For the macarons, I ground up the freeze dried pomegranates and ran them through the sifter with the icing sugar and almonds; I also added a little red gel colour to get the pink I was looking for. I also made a pomegranate curd and made a small batch of French buttercream, using more ground pomegranates as colour and flavour.

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The batter was piped on to parchment paper using a heart template. Everything went well but…. I still have hollows. (insert frown here)

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Ah well, I’m not going to make them over just because I have hollows. After drizzling half the hearts with white chocolate ganache and filling with a dollop of curd and buttecream, I think they look perfect for Valentine’s Day.

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Now, what will we have for dinner?

Macs Done Different

Up until now, each batch of macarons I’ve made have been done using the French method – sift the almond flour and icing sugar together, beat the egg whites with sugar, mix the two, pipe, dry, bake. Pretty standard, pretty basic. There are other methods.

Yesterday, I didn’t just make the Pistachio Macarons (which are absolutely delicious, by the way… not overly sweet, with a creamy filling), I also made a (large) batch of Grapefruit macarons. I didn’t realize the batch would be as large as it was but it’s not a problem. I froze more than half of them. Anyway, this method was a little different than all of the previous batches I’ve made. This time, the egg whites and granulated sugar were heated over a pan of simmering water until the whites were foamy and the sugar melted. Then, they were beaten together. As well, the icing sugar and almonds were mixed with half the egg whites. After the heated egg whites were beaten to firm peaks, the two masses were mixed until the proper texture was reached. Then, everything proceeded as usual.

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Everything went pretty well but the final batter was a bit on the thick side and my arm was a pretty tired from the mixing. I even resorted to using the paddle on my mixer, on the lowest setting to get the batter to the correct texture. It was still a bit thick.

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I ended up with five and a half trays!

To fill these, I made a batch of grapefruit curd and this is where things fell apart. I didn’t let the eggs, sugar, and juice mixture get thick enough before adding the butter. It tastes fine but is a bit runny. I ended up piping a ring of grapefruit buttercream and filling the ring with the curd before assembling them and refrigerating them. After resting in the fridge overnight, the curd has imparted its flavour into the shells.

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This method, after having read dozens of recipes, is unique among those I’ve come across. It’s the only one I can recall reading that combines the egg whites and sugar and heats them together. I’ve seen that method used in buttercream recipes (Swiss Meringue Buttercream) but not in Macarons. As I wrote above, it worked but it was a lot of effort and sweat getting everything incorporated.

(There is another method I’ve yet to try, the Italian Method. In that method, half the egg whites are mixed with the almond/icing sugar mixture, the other half of the egg whites are beaten to stiff peaks, to which a boiled sugar/water syrup is slowly poured into the egg whites, which are then beaten again until peaks reform and egg whites have cooled. Then the almond paste, and colouring, are incorporated into the meringue until the proper consistency is reached. From there, all methods are the same.)

The resulting macarons, even though the batter was quite thick, turned out pretty good. Some of the shells were near perfect, rising straight up with feet but no ruffles. Others were a little… tipsy. I encountered something I’ve not seen in any of my previous batches. Some of them slid off their feet!

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I’m not sure why that might have happened. I did get some hollows as well so perhaps I have to raise my temperature slightly. Maybe? Opinions anyone?

As for the flavour? Well, the grapefruit flavour is definitely there but not as strongly as I thought it would be. The curd did infuse into the shells but the flavour pop I was expecting just isn’t there. I’m sure, if the curd had been done properly, that flavour pop would have taken these over the top.

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