I really have not baked much at all in recent months - apart from the odd celebration cake here and there..... so for this reason, my blog has been rather sparse for some time.
Most regular bakers will, I'm sure, agree - that controlling their weight whilst baking lots of yummy things can become a problem. Bloggers even more so. After all, there is no point in posting recipes if you have not actually tasted and eaten the food from the recipe you are posting. My only real solution is to not bake so much, resist the temptations or both. I'm in the both camp. If it isn't there, I do not have the urge to eat it - but I miss the therapeutic side of baking.
Creating celebration cakes is not a problem. I can happily make those with no temptation of nibbling off cuts. It's not for me. My recipes are tried and tested, so I have no need to taste. Off-cuts either go to work colleagues or straight in the bin. As a regular baker, the safest place is straight to the bin and eradicate any temptation to want a sneaky piece.
Macarons on the other hand, are a different story. I
love ADORE making macarons.
I love the smooth, shiny surfaces, their little ruffled feet. I love seeing lots and lots of shells, all perfect in size and shaped lined up in little rows. I like to make them just a little bit different almost every time. To box them up oh so pretty... and then photograph them. Yes. It makes me smile inside - without so much as taking a bite,
I mean - how darn adorable are these little apricot macarons with their blushing cheeks. You'd think they would be really hard to make - but no - it isn't that hard or as scary as you may think.
I made a Youtube tutorial (several years and stones heavier) if you want to watch how I make them.
Since then, I've adjusted things a little....
Since then, I've adjusted things a little....
During the months of high humidity, I have previously had problems with batches of macarons cracking. I went though a spell of making them during the day in high humidity a couple of summers ago. Batch after batch and tray after tray of cracking macarons. I couldn't understand it at all. Settling for nothing other than perfect, they all went in the bin.
I was literally at the point of chucking the towel in one evening and made a last ditched attempt. Humidity had dropped to much lower than during the day and those macarons were perfect. I could replicate this and knew the humidity was my ultimate problem, but it took a while to suss out the solution.
I've now increased the sugar content a little in my shells. Not a lot.
When they bake, the shells come out a little drier. Especially if I want to make really pale coloured shells like these and not have them discolour at all around the edges. What this means is that when you eat a plain shell, it's more crispy and less soft and chewy in the centre, which isn't good. The solution ? Well, most places that make macarons in France cook them so the shells are quite dry like this.
The secret is to fill them at least two or three hours before serving if filling with buttercream and jam. Leave overnight if filling with ganache. The moisture in the filling re-hydrates and restores the centres. If you want to make macarons the easy way - give them a little time to "mature" after filling rather than eating them off the baking tray.
The other good thing about shells which are on the dry side is that they keep quite a while in an airtight container unfilled. Once filled, store in the fridge, but serve at room temperature. Best used within 3 days of filling.
180g of ground almonds
200g of icing sugar (220g if humid)
180g of egg whites - split into two lots of 90g
200g caster sugar
Grind together the ground almonds and icing sugar in a food processor or spice grinder until smooth. By grinding both together, you get a much finer powder and much nicer texture.
To the above, add one lot of 90g of egg whites and mix thoroughly to form a stiff paste.
If colouring your macarons, add gel paste food colouring now and mix in thoroughly. Add enough gel paste to roughly get the colour you want and then double it... at least ! Macarons will lighten a lot on baking and you still also have the other ingredients to add. For vivid macarons, I often add up to 1/2 a small tub of Wilton gel paste colour to just one batch. These were to be pale and I still used at least 1/2 tsp minimum (mix of golden yellow and rose to create a medium orange colour before baking)
For fan oven, set to 140 deg C for pale, 150deg C for bold colours.
Put the sugar and water in a pan. Bring to the boil without stirring. When temperature reaches 110 deg C on a sugar thermometer, whip the second batch of egg whites to stiff peak.
At 118deg C, take the sugar syrup off the heat. Whip the eggs at high speed with a hand mixer whilst pouring in the sugar syrup and whip until lit looks like meringue and the outside of the bowl is warm but not hot.
Mix 1/3 of the meringue into the almond / sugar / egg white paste to loosen, then gently stir in the rest. Pay attention to mixing in thoroughly so there are no streaks and the mix is even. It should be thick but just pourable and lava like.
I like to put the mix (macronage) into a disposable piping bag. I work with about 1/2 the mix at a time. One batch is enough to fill 3 tray loads of macarons using the large side of the revolutionary macaron mats
I pipe centrally, to within 5mm of the outer ring. As the mix relaxes, it will perfectly fill each cell.
Pop the trays in the oven for 5 minutes with the oven door ajar. This creates the skin and sets the macarons without the need for leaving them for ages on the kitchen worktops. After 5 mins is up, close the door and bake for a further 20 mins at 150deg C or 22 / 23 mins at 140deg C
Remove the trays from the oven and allow to totally cool before removing.
To fill these macarons, I made two batches of the buttercream below. Pipe a ring round the inside edge of the bottom of a shell and plonk a teaspoon of jam in the centre. I used Lidl's Apricot jam - which I really like as they add a little citric acid which means it's a little more tart than most apricot jams.
230g icing sugar
65g salted butter
30mls Curaco (or other orange liqueur)
Beat together until smooth. If a little stiff, add a little more Curaco. If too soft - add a touch more sugar. I usually make buttercream by eye - but on this occasion I weighed it specially for you.
The stalks are little pieces of broken pretzel inserted between the shells.
The shells were dusted with dry powdered food colourings and a brush, a little like applying blusher. Couldn't be simpler.
Have fun !
Sarah-Jane Nash - www.siliconemoulds.com - April 2015