Did you say Eat Me !
We all agree that macarons are one of the most popular and cherished French desserts. These are crunchy and airy meringue-based cookies which are sandwiched with many different flavours from basic chocolate ganache to strawberries to exotic hazelnut and fig.
Let’s get to the origin of macarons…
Well, don’t confuse yourself with macarons and macaroons which are two different desserts all together.
Macaroons are dense and their main ingredient is coconut, which means they are coconut flavoured cookies baked to a moderate shade of golden brown.
If we look at macarons, airy, crunchy with a soft centre, they are meringue based light cookies. Between two cookies are variously flavoured creams, ganaches and many other flavours. These flavours and the different coloured cookies are sure shot pullers.
Let’s look at their ingredients to know more about them.
Almond flour Shredded coconut
Sugar Sweetened condense milk
Egg whites Egg whites
Vanilla extract Vanilla extract
All this while we all thought that macarons which we are focusing on are from France, Paris, as we always referred them to as French based meringue cookies but history shows that France took pride in calling macarons their own invention. As these were brought to France by Catherine de’ Medici from Italy in the 16thcentury. They were produced in Venetian monasteries since the 8th century. Earlier they were called ‘priest’s bellybuttons,’ due to the pastry’s shape.
We cannot say that France role in the macaron’s history is to be underestimated. Confectionary was given new shape and became excessively popular.
France was the first to develop the macaron recipe and make it popular. The recipe also evolved with the French trying out various new versions of the original recipe.
Macarons became so popular that they even have a day dedicated to them- 20 March reminds us of the luscious deliciousness of this delicacy. The day was introduced in 2005 by Pierre Hermé, a famous French confectionery house. Many French pastry shops take part in the art of baking these delicate macarons.
Types of Macarons
There are three kinds of meringues – which is uncooked whipped base of egg whites and sugar that is part of the composition of beaten pastries and macarons.
It is egg whites whipped till a certain stage after which sugar is added and is beaten till light and frothy.
So, what is it that makes the egg whites very frothy like mousse?
The protein in the egg whites are unfolded and they come between the air and the water, when the egg whites are beaten.
This creates a dispersion of gas bubbles. When we add the sugar to make the meringue, the viscosity of the liquid increases and this slows down the sinking of the bubbles. This makes it frothy.
Sometimes the egg whites become grainy instead of frothy. This happens when the egg whites are over beaten. The unfolded proteins form bonds with each other and give the mousse a cuddled appearance.
It is better to use older eggs at room temperature.
These eggs already have a lot of proteins unfolded, thus making it quicker and easier to form the stiff peaks.
It is meringue which is beaten egg whites and is created by adding sugar syrup to the egg whites and bringing it to a required stage.
Bringing the sugar syrup to 121̊ C?
The sugar is heated with water to 121̊ C so that it distributed equal inn egg whites. Heat makes the mousse swell up and the water is evaporated and the syrup is sufficiently thick to hold the mousse together. Cooked sugar gives a better texture and holds tight than French meringue.
The egg whites and sugar are cooked over double boiler, whipping continually till warm. This type of meringue is sturdy and better than French and Italian meringues.
Whipping egg whites over water bath – double boiler
Whipping egg whites over a water bath at 50̊ C allows the egg protein to unfold, which means they capture more air and form smaller air bubbles. This is why swiss meringue is denser and holds together than other meringues.
This stage consist of mixing Italian meringue with almond paste using a dough scraper or a silicone spatula. Incorporate one-third of the Italian meringue into the almond paste vigorously to loosen it. Incorporate the rest more delicately, crushing the mixture regularly to smooth it out. Scrape every part of the bowl to combine the two mixture perfectly.
The dough should have a silky, smooth and slightly runny texture. If it is too liquid, the macarons will be flat, if it is not worked enough, they will be dented or cracked.
It’s best to check the meringue with the ribbon test- take a large piece of mixture with the scraper or spatula and let it drop ;the mixture should run continuously, in the form of a ribbon. If that is not the case, mix again
Templates and pipping
Make a template by drawing staggered rows of the circles of 3 cm diameter on baking paper. use this t line a baking tray. Another way is to use the macaron mat which already has circular indentation , which makes it easy for the beginners. Hold the pipping bag vertical and squeeze to form disc within the circles. Don’t lift the bag; keep the pipping nozzle 1 cm from the surface.Make a quarter turn with the bag to cut off the dough. the point will smooth down on it own if the dough is well mixed.
The macaron shells bake real fast in about 12 minutes at low temperature (150̊ C). If the shells colour from top real fast then cover them with baking paper on top.
Check the baking after 10 minutes. Touch with finger and see if they have dried , if not them bake them longer.
Macarons filled can be kept in refrigerator for 24 hours to allow osmosis; the ganache gives flavour to the shell and makes it more melt-in-the-mouth.
The baked unfilled shells can be frozen for 3 months in an airtight container wrapped in plastic wrap. filled shells can be frozen if they are filled with ganache or jam, not pastry cream (which defrost badly).