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What’s in a Macaron? By Any Other Meringue Method Would Taste as Delicate?

Posted by on Mar 22, 2011 in French Macarons, Home, x | 5 comments

I wanted to compose an article for AskMissA.com which the reader would be intrigued and curious. The French Macaron debate; which method is considered superior has been an issue contention. The tantalizing enchanting macaron has been apart of the European culture for centuries, most like so has the argument of the proper construction of these adorable little biscuits. I have a fool proof recipe for both methods; by no means will my  article stop the debate, hopeful this will put a little light on the issue!

In the last five years French macarons have made their way across the pond; I am not referring to macaroons, a thick coconut cookie, but the delicate almond based patisserie. Although the history isn’t clear, it is thought by most around 1533  Catherine di Medici brought her recipe and technique from Italy to France for this unique pastry. Pierre Desfontaine, in 1900′s is responsible for elevating the macaron to the innovation sandwich style biscuit of today.

Since I do not want to bore you with a history lesson, I will now get to the ganache of the situation. Pierre Herme is probably the most well known and revered macaron designer of our time, and uncharacteristically shares his wealth of knowledge to the novice bakers. I, myself have been humbled by the power of creating the macaron, in theory it sounds easy, but until you know the composition of the batter it can be a long tedious experience. It wasn’t until Pierre Herme’s instructions on both meringue methods (french meringue and Italian meringue) did I finally create a successful macaron.

It is a surreal excitation in those first few minutes, as you look through the window of the oven and finally visually watch the feet develop on the bottom of the macaron. I might have gone ahead a few steps; a successful French macaron  consists of a round smooth top, chewy inside, and a crinkly foot on the bottom, a beautiful sight. The hardest element to an extraordinary macaron are those wonderful crinkly feet, without the foot, the macaron is just a cookie nothing more or nothing less. I have heard stories of individuals actually dancing the “macaron dance” when they realize their macaron have developed feet.

Now, one would believe so long as you have achieved a perfect macaron, the method chosen would be irrelevant, well you would be wrong. Macarons have two types of method and the culinary pastry community split down the middle. The French meringue method consist of developing  the aged egg whites with sugar and salt to stiff peaks, and gradually folding the tant pour tant (a fine mixture of almond flour and icing sugar). The Italian meringue method consists of using aged egg whites, heated sugar syrup, and salt, whipping the egg whites till warm stiff peaks, folding the egg whites in thirds into the tant pour tant. The French meringue method has been considered the supreme method, until Pierre Herme began prepping his macarons with an Italian meringue.

Both methods will produce a delicate light biscuit. I have preformed my own ” blind macaron experiment;” although my experiment was elementary the results proved the taste was exactly the same with both methods, however the colorants reacted differently. I personally use both methods depending upon the weather conditions. Humidity is an enemy to the stiff light meringue; the italian method allows you to achieve a fluffy stiff peaked meringue when the rain visits your neighborhood.

Italian Version:

Strawberry-Vanilla  Macaron:

For the macaron shells:

99 grams egg whites,  about 4 egg whites/ divided in half, at least 3 day old separated

48grams egg white/ about 2 eggs whites, room temperature

2 grams/1/8-teaspoon egg white powder, optional & helpful

104 grams/7/8 -cup icing sugar

88 grams/7/8 almond finely ground

Sugar Syrup:

26 grams/ 1/8- cup water

103 grams/ 1/2-cup sugar

1 vanilla bean, scraped for seeds keep skin

10 grams/ 1-Tablespoon super fine sugar

50 grams egg whites, about 2 eggs whites room temperature

1/8 -teaspoon cream of tartar

Pinch of salt

7 grams strawberry powder

Powdered pink food coloring, a dash to 1/8-teaspoon

Prepare your mise en place, this is extremely important, everything should be weighed or measured and set aside prior to beginning.

Pour half of the egg whites into the bowl of your mixer.

In a small pot over low heat, combine sugar, vanilla skin, and water. Swirl the pot over the burner to dissolve the sugar completely. Do not stir. Increase the heat and boil to  softball stage (235 to 240 degrees). Use a candy thermometer for accuracy. Wash down the inside wall of the pot with a wet pastry brush, to prevent the sugar from crystalizing on the sides of the pot.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the eggs whites, salt and egg white powder on medium low speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar (if not using a copper bowl), increase the speed to medium, and beat until soft peaks. Add vanilla seeds, and  begin to slowly add the 10 grams of sugar to the egg whites. Whisk egg whites to medium firm.

With the mixer running, pour the hot sugar syrup in a thin stream over the fluffed egg whites. Beat until the egg whites are stiff and glossy. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry. The meringue should resizable a whipped cream texture, as my daughter says.

Place the almonds, powdered sugar, reserved powdered  strawberries in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground.

In batches of three add a third of the meringue to the almond mixture, give it a good fold to break some of the air. Keep folding till the almond mixture is mixed into the meringue, and then fold another third of the meringue into the batter, continue to vigorously fold till there are no white streaks. Now add the last third of meringue to the batter fold till the mixture is thick, shiny and ribbons fall from the spatula.  Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip  with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto silicone mats lined baking sheets.

Let the macarons sit out for about 1 hour to make sure the shells develop a skin. A well-made macaron features a crinkly “foot” on the bottom of each shell. I have found the best baking pans have ventilation holes.

Preheat the oven to 300 F.

Reduce the heat to 280ºf.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their size.

Bake the macarons for 5 minutes, then quickly open oven, turn the pan, and close the oven. Bake them for another 5 minutes and open and close the oven again. Continue to bake the macarons until the tops are rounded and firm and a “crinklely” ridge, and the foot  has formed around the base, about 5 minutes more (check the macarons after a couple minutes, as the baking time will vary by oven).

Let cool.

Slide the silpat off the hot baking pan and onto a cooling rack and set aside until the macarons are cool.

If you have trouble removing the shells, gently twist the macaron and peel the silpat from the macaron. (Do not pull).

Don’t let them sit in the pans for too long or they will become soggy. Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store them in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer.

French Version:

Strawberry- Vanilla Macarons:

125 grams egg whites

1/4 -teaspoon cream of tartar

1 vanilla pod, scraped for seeds

125 grams/ 5/8 cups  sugar

125 grams/ 1- cup icing sugar, or powder sugar

112 grams/ 1 1/16-cups grounds almond flour

25 grams strawberry powder

Preheat the oven to 300 F.

Reduce the heat to 280ºf.

Prepare your mise en place, this is extremely important, everything should be weighed or measured and set aside prior to beginning.

Place the almonds, powdered sugar, reserved powdered  strawberries in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, on low speed, whip egg whites till foam forms, add salt, cream of tartar and continue to whip. Slowly add ½ the super fine sugar, raise the speed to high till soft peaks form. Add vanilla bean and another ½ of sugar, continue whipping till stiff peaks form.

Gently fold, using a rubber spatula, the sifted almond flour mixture into the meringue. DO NOT over fold the meringue or it will deflate.

Pipe with a plain tip, and bake for about 20-25 minutes.

Bake the macarons for 5 minutes, then quickly open oven, turn the pan, and close the oven. Bake them for another 5 minutes and open and close the oven again. Continue to bake the macarons until the tops are rounded and firm and a “crinklely” ridge, and the foot  has formed around the base, about 5 minutes more (check the macarons after a couple minutes, as the baking time will vary by oven).

Slide the silpat off the hot baking pan and onto a cooling rack and set aside until the macarons are cool.

If you have trouble removing the shells, gently twist the macaron and peel the silpat from the macaron. (Do not pull).

Don’t let them sit there in the pans for too long or they will become soggy. Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store them in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer.

Strawberry and Vanilla Crème Fraiche Cream:

125 grams Crème fraiche, very cold

31 grams mascarpone cheese

23 grams powder sugar

1-teaspoon Fragolli

2 (66 grams) egg whites

Pinch of salt

Smidge cream of tartar

10 grams of super fine sugar

1 vanilla bean, split open and seeded

Place the bowl of a standing mixer along with the whisk attachment in the freezer ½ hour before preparing the filling.

In the very cold bowl place cold crème fraiche begin to whip to a very soft peak and add mascarpone cheese. Continue to whisk on medium high, slowly add powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and vanilla beans till stiff peaks form, be careful to not go to far and break the filling.

In a copper bowl whip egg whites (on medium low speed), a pinch of salt and cream of tartar till foam appears, and then increase the speed to medium. When medium peaks start to form slowly add sugar, strawberry extraxt and increase speed to medium high and whisk till firm peaks form.

Fold the egg whites into the crème fraiche cream.

Prepare a piping bag with a tip of your choice and pipe filling onto 1 macaron and than sandwich with another macaron.

Macarons are one of my favorite French biscuits to create recipes for, unlike most pastry chefs I do not have a method preference, as I explained earlier both the French and Italian methods are heavenly tasting and visual tantalizing. Macarons have gained a reputation of being intimidating, but both of these recipes are full proof, so have fun and create a few dozen dreamy French macarons.

Voila!

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5 Comments

  1. Bobbie, these macaron treats are marvelous! I must say I am very impressed with your interest and input of macaron methods!

  2. Wonderful Macarons! I love seeing people make macarons who actually know how to make them, living in France I am surrounded by macarons if I ever come to the states I want to try yours!

  3. Hey, I saw your article on askmissa congratulations!

  4. Read your article on askmissa; you are such a wonderful writer! zlove the macs

  5. Came across your recipe for macs…don’t understand the first part 99 grams can you convert that into how many whites or cups and then the second line is also egg whites…then you have 26 grams..1/8 what? Would love to make these..just need it to be a little clearer..thank you

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