27 December 2011

Kitchen Disasters, Part II (French Macarons)

This is a story where everything that could go wrong did.  If you are looking for a recipe because you are ACTUALLY going to make macarons, this blog is not for you.  Nothing to see here, move along.

So how is this related to Part I?  Well, I had all these egg whites.  And actually, while I didn't realize it at the time, I found another use for all that ridiculous baking chocolate.  So, real recipe here, and my take on it below. 

Macaron Batter
1 c. powdered sugar
½ c. powdered almonds (sliced almonds, pulverized)
3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
5 tablespoons granulated sugar

Chocolate Filling
½ cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped grated
1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces

To make the macarons:
Preheat the oven to 350º F and line some pans with parchment paper.  PARCHMENT paper.  Not wax paper.

Put the almonds in a food processor to help them achieve a powder status.  Kyle tells me that if you use whole almonds, the oils will cause the almonds to form a paste, not a powder.  That's why the recipe calls for sliced almonds.  I used salad almonds (pictured below).  Add the cocoa powder and powdered sugar so that everything is evenly mixed.

Use a mixer to beat the egg whites until they're stiff.  Gradually add the granulated sugar.

Carefully fold the dry ingredients, in two batches, into the beaten egg whites with a flexible rubber spatula. When the mixture is just smooth and there are no streaks of egg white, stop folding and scrape the batter into the pastry bag.  I used a gallon zip-lock bag.

Pipe the batter onto the parchment paper in one-inch dia. circles.  Rap the pans on the counter to flatten the macarons, then put them in the oven.  The recipe I read said 15-18 min.  I would suggest 13 min.  I would not suggest 18, and I probably wouldn't even suggest 15.

To make the chocolate filling:
Heat the cream in a small saucepan with the corn syrup. When the cream just begins to boil at the edges, remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let sit one minute, then stir until smooth. Stir in the pieces of butter. Let cool completely before using.

Okay, it all sounds so simple, right?  Well let's look at how well I did...
I don't have a food processor so I used a blender.  No big deal.  The almonds tried to paste up, but it was okay.  The powder part turned out okay.  Kyle requires that I show you what a mess I made with the powdered sugar though.  All over the floor too.

I forgot to take photos of the next part.  Remember, these egg whites had been in the fridge for a couple days.  They didn't get as stiff as they should have.  I don't know what that means.  But the folding of the dry ingredients into the egg whites and sugar felt successful.  It didn't feel like anything had gone wrong.
The piping...well, I gave myself every advantage.  I made two batches of these, so anything that went wrong the first time could be corrected in the second batch.  So the first batch was a mess, but by Round 2, I had it down to an art.
Here's where things really went downhill.  I rapped the pans on the counter.  I put them in the oven.  I walked away...

When I stopped by five minutes later, smoke was pouring out of the oven vent.  I opened the oven and smoke billowed.  There was no flame.  What was I to do?  Since there wasn't any fire, I just left them.  I was mid-experiment!  I couldn't just give up!  So here's the haze of my kitchen.
Finally the timer went off.  I took them out of the oven.  I left them to cool and made the second batch.  The oven had stopped smoking (thankfully).  However, as soon as I put the second batch in the oven, it started smoking again!  Moral of the story:  WAX paper is not the same as PARCHMENT paper.  DO NOT USE WAX PAPER.

Alright.  So now I've got five pans of macarons.  How did they turn out?  Funny that you should ask...  The first two pans, I piped the macarons WAY too large.  And they stuck to the wax paper so badly that I ended up throwing most of them out.  The next pan was burnt.  The next pan was all cracked, and so far, none of the pans had achieved the "feet" that the original recipe said was characteristic of good macarons.  But the last pan?  Oh, the last pan.  Perfect.  PERFECT.  Not cracked, not burnt, had beautiful feet...
And then the chocolate filling.  I feel like I corrected everything that had gone wrong with the mousse in making this filling.  The cream was cooked perfectly, the chocolate blended perfectly, everything was great...and then I tasted it.  SO bitter.  In a panic, I threw in about half a cup of powdered sugar.  I wasn't sure if I was messing with the science of the filling or not...but in the end, that was the one thing that really turned out. 

So, after waiting for the filling to cool, I smeared some between each cookie.  And actually, it wasn't so bad.
Mini photo shoot with the pretty macarons...oh, by the way, I got a new camera.  DSLR.  And I love it.

So there you have it.  Smoky-tasty, just-about-edible macarons.  Hopefully the family likes them, because I am DONE baking.

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