Recipe: Vanilla macarons
"Macaron batter is made by mixing ground almonds and meringue, but you can make various types of meringue, depending on the ingredients you use," says author Hisako Ogita. "The following steps are for regular, or French, meringue, which is made by whisking egg whites while gradually adding sugar."
Makes about 2 dozen macarons
2/3 cup (3 oz/85 g) ground almonds
1-1/2 cups (5 1/4 oz/150 g) powdered sugar
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
5 tbsp (65 g) granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract, or seeds from 1/2 a vanilla bean
1 Cut a sheet of parchment paper to fit your baking sheet. Draw 1-inch (2.5 cm) circles on the paper, spacing them at least 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) apart. This pattern will be your guide for squeezing out the batter.
2 In a food processor, grind almonds and powdered sugar to a fine powder. Sift the mixture through a medium-mesh sieve twice. Set aside.
3 In a stainless steel mixing bowl, beat egg whites on high speed until they are foamy. Gradually add the granulated sugar to the egg whites and beat on high until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 1 minute. Add vanilla and stir lightly. When the meringue is stiff, firm and has a glossy texture, it is done.
4 Add half of the sifted flour mixture from step 2. Stir it with a spatula, scooping it up from the bottom of the bowl.
5 Add the rest of the flour and mix it lightly while forming a circle.
6 Macaronnage (the term for mixing flour and meringue to make macarons): When you run out of flour, press and spread out the batter against the bowl’s sides. Scoop the batter from the bottom and turn it upside down. Repeat this process about 15 times. Pointer: If the macaronnage step is repeated less than 10 times, the baked macarons will lack luster. However, when it is repeated more than 20 times, oil stains may remain on the pastry’s surface after baking.
7 Macaronner (term for mixing the batter until it is firm and drips slowly when it is scooped out): When the batter becomes firm and drips slowly as you scoop it with a spatula, the mixture is done.
8 Attach a 1/4-inch (1 cm) tip to a pastry bag. Twist the bag to hold the tip tightly. This prevents the batter from leaking out.
9 Place the pastry bag, tip first, inside a deep measuring cup and pour in the batter. Clip the bag top to prevent the paste from coming out. You could also use a string or rubber band.
10 Place the sheet used in step 1 on the baking sheet and squeeze the batter onto the center of the circles. Make small circles since the batter tends to spread.
11 Rap the baking sheet firmly against the counter or other flat surface. This helps the macarons hold their rounded shape and helps the pied, or little “foot,” to form. Pointer: As macarons bake, small pleatlike frills form at the bottom of each. This pleat is called a pied, or foot. Without it, the pastry cannot be called a macaron. Some bakers attribute the pied to the macaronnage, some to the oven temperature, and some to a good rap of the baking sheet on the counter before baking.
12 Let dry at room temperature, uncovered, for 15 minutes. A slight crust should form on top. If the batter circles do not stick to your finger when you touch them, the drying process is complete. On a dry and sunny day, the drying process takes approximately 30 minutes. On rainy days, it helps to dehumidify the room.
Baking the macarons
1 Place oven racks in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
2 Stack the baking sheet holding the batter circles onto an empty baking sheet and slide both into the oven. Pointer: Using two trays, one inside the other, prevents the bottom of the macarons from overbaking, and from puffing up too much or cracking.
3 Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the trays once and switching them from top to bottom racks and vice versa, until slightly crisp and crackled on top. If the insides of the macarons are still soft after 15 minutes, lower the temperature to 300ºF/150ºC, cover the tray with foil and bake for another 2 to 3 minutes.
4 Place baking sheets on wire racks to cool. When the macarons are completely cooled, remove them from the baking sheet. Pointer: Macarons can be stored for about one week in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
Making the butter cream
This vanilla-flavored butter cream is made from whole eggs. This recipe is enough for about 45 macarons. You can freeze the unused cream.
3 tbsp (1.4 oz/40 g) granulated sugar
1.4 oz (40 mL) water
7 tbsp (3 1/2 oz/100 g) unsalted butter
1 Cut butter into pieces ¼ inch/5 mm thick and place in a heat-resistant bowl. Heat in a microwave oven for 10 seconds.
2 Take the bowl out of the microwave oven and check the hardness of the butter. If the pieces are soft enough for your finger to press into them, the butter is done. If they are still hard, heat them for another 5 seconds.
3 Stir the butter with a spatula until it becomes smooth and creamy like mayonnaise.
4 Put water and granulated sugar in a heat-resistant container and stir well. Heat mixture in microwave oven for 1 minute. Remove from oven and mix until the sugar is completely dissolved. Heat for another 4 minutes. Remove from oven and stir with a spoon. Pointer: Wear oven mitts or gloves during this process because the container can become very hot.
5 Scoop some syrup with a spoon and drop it into a small amount of water. Then try to scoop the syrup out of the water and make a ball using your fingers. If you can do this, the syrup has the right amount of density.
6 While heating the syrup, break an egg in a bowl and beat it lightly with a hand mixer. Drop the syrup, like a thread, into the bowl and whisk it at a high speed. Change the speed to medium and then to slow, continuing to whisk until the bottom of the bowl is no longer hot and the mixture becomes white and heavy. Pointer: Place a wet cloth under the bowl so that the bowl does not move when you whisk.
7 Divide the butter made in step 3, adding it to the syrup in 2 or 3 batches. Whisk with a hand mixer at medium speed each time you add butter. When the butter is well mixed, the process is done. Pointer: While whisking the butter and syrup, bubbles may appear that seem to separate the butter from the syrup. You may think you have made a mistake but just continue whisking until the butter becomes creamy.
8 Stir a drop or two of vanilla extract into the mixture until blended. Spread the cream between the cooled puffs. Cover the remaining cream with plastic wrap and place it in the freezer for future use. Write a date on the package. It can be frozen for one month.
How to sandwich the cream between macarons
Spoon some cream on the flat side of a macaron puff. The cream will be more evenly sandwiched between puffs if you use a pastry bag. Cover the bottom puff with another puff, flat sides facing in. Gently press the top puff into place.
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Excerpted from I Love Macarons. Copyright 2009 by Hisako Ogita. Excerpted with permission by Chronicle Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.