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?

Macarons – Italian Meringue Method

After my last post, I decided it would be a good thing to, at the very least, try the Italian meringue method of making macarons. First, though, research was required. I came across an interesting website that explains both methods quite extensively. It also has (yes, yes, yes!) formulas for both. You know, if you have this much egg, how much almond, icing sugar, etc. depending on your method of choice.

I’ve taken his formulas and input them into an Excel spreadsheet, making it really easy to come up with a recipe for any flavour of macaron I could dream up. I won’t post my file but I will definitely post a link to his tutorials (at the bottom of the page, there’s a link to part 3, the Italian method).

Using his formula, I’ve come up with the recipe below. I’ll be switching out about 5 grams of the almond flour for about the same weight of finely ground coffee. My filling will be a French buttercream (which uses egg yolks) flavoured with Kahlua.

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Coffee Kahlua Macarons

  • 2 egg whites (mine weighed 65 gm)
  • 91 gm icing sugar
  • 91 gm almond flour (sub 5 gm for 5 gm ground coffee)
  • 91 gm white sugar
  • 25 gm water

I followed the instructions for the Italian method, found on the Syrup & Tang website. So, how did it go?

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Just look at those cute little feet!

Well, I found that working with that small amount of egg whites (one for the meringue and one for the almond/icing sugar mixture) was a little difficult for the size of mixer I have (Kitchen Aid Pro). I probably should have used my hand mixer. I ended up adding about 1/2 of a third egg white to the final mixture in order to get the magma-like consistency (what the heck does magma look like anyway?) needed for piping.

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Look, no hollows!!

Apart from that, I was very pleased with the way these turned out. This batch was, with the possible exception of the Pistachio macarons, my best batch yet. I think I’ll be switching methods, using the Italian (sucre cuit) method rather than the French method, from here on in.

Now, what flavour should I try next?

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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