Sunday, March 6, 2016
If you are a long time reader, you might remember a couple of posts from back in the day when I decided I needed to learn to make macarons. You will remember that I had some mild success after 8-10 batches. The last successful batch I made was a nearly perfect batch of peanut macarons - I was able to get good shape, good feet, and they didn't brown, but they were still fairly hollow inside. After I got that "almost perfect" batch, I pretty much stopped making them forever because they were so difficult. I also never wrote down the recipe I used (it was in a notebook that I am pretty sure is lost now) so over the past couple years I tried a couple times to recreate it, to pretty much always abysmal failure.
Then, about a month ago Brahm and I got hooked on The Great British Bake Off, a lovely baking competition show featuring a bunch of polite British home bakers attempting the most amazing feats of bakery. We started watching at the recommendation of a friend and after just a few episodes, both of us, like the entire United Kingdom apparently, were suddenly inspired to up our baking game. While Brahm has focussed on tarts so far, I was intrigued by the use of Italian meringue in so many items and finally worked up the nerve to try this method for macarons, which serious food bloggers all swear is the superior method. I'd learned about it through Annie's Eats but having always wanted to try making chocolate macarons, I first attempted this recipe (including Italian meringue for the first time). I had approximately half success - half of the macarons cracked, I know they were slightly overmixed, and half were a little misshapen but pretty good for a first attempt:
Having gained confidence I attempted the Annie's Eats recipe linked above, to complete failure. Every single macaron cracked and they seemed to be overbaked as well. I did not take photos of that batch. They were obviously undermixed (likely all the meringue was not combined with the almond paste properly) and who knows what else.
I did a bit of reading and figured I might be making my meringue too thin, so I tracked down this recipe and followed it almost exactly, other than adding a bit of cream of tartar to stabilize the egg whites better, and also added a couple grams of corn starch so the shells would dry out faster. I sifted all the dry ingredients and took greater care to get my meringue stiffer and...
Not perfect but much improved! Three days of practicing piping these and a better textured batter helped get them uniformly shaped. I think the lopsided ones are due to using my oven in convection mode (will not do that again) and I think the batter was just slightly undermixed, but at least distributed evenly. For sure the best looking batch I have made, and they also seemed to be the least hollow!
I'm definitely confident using this method and making Italian meringue and I don't plan on ever attempting the French method again because why?? And bonus, to make one batch of these (half the Love and Macarons recipe) took only about 20 minutes to prep, 15 minutes to rest, and 13 minutes to bake. They were out of the oven and filled, and the kitchen cleaned, in under an hour.
While I am 1/4 English (I'm actually a Mayflower descendant), I've never felt particularly in tune with that part of my ancestry. Watching The Great British Bake Off, I can see how it's not just a baking competition but also quite patriotic for Brits. I do have several quintessentially "British" hobbies but have never thought about them that way before, and cheesy as it sounds now I do feel a little more in touch with my British heritage.