Saturday, September 29, 2012

Macaright, Macawrong, MACARON!

Oh My! I have found the piece de resistance of pastries, the absolute cream of the crop! I am sooo sooo sooo in love with MACARONS. 



My journey to the mighty macaron was not a straight forward or easy one, it involved several failed attempts for various reasons, but perseverance and focus have taken me from complete disasters to reactions from people that mostly begin with 'Oh my god!'.

One of the great things about Pinterest is that it really opens you up to so many new things you might never have come across otherwise. I noticed these macarons every now and then having been pinned here and there. I probably even pinned a few pretty coloured ones in my delicious desserts board but at that point, I hadn't eaten any. Then I fell in love with Julia the dessert queen from Masterchef 2012 and decided that desserts were for me! I started to research, and oh my goodness, what a world of macaronage I found.

I couldn't believe so many people not only were obsessed with macarons, but went to the effort of baking batch after batch, working out all the things that can go wrong and how to avoid them. The countless videos on how to mix them and the flavours, THE FLAVOURS! I had to try it, I just had to.

BATCH 1:



I decided to follow the Not So Humble Pie recipe as she had the most comprehensive how to that I had found. (Oh, I should mention we are talking french macarons here, not the italian method, I'm a purist haha). Off I went, sifted my almond meal once and made up the batch based on as much info as I had. They rose, had great feet, but looked a little grainy and the bottoms browned a lot. I knew that I hadn't protected the bottom of my macarons and naively thought that one more batch and they'd be perfect. When I think back now, I don't know what I did to make them look like they were right, and I didn't think to take notice. I kind of thought that they were most likely just hard for inexperienced bakers (not that I'm an expert or anything) but I can make a good meringue. I decided to leave it for a while.

BATCH 2 & 3:




I wanted to make piggy macarons for Rylan's farm themed 2nd birthday party. I thought that it would be a cinch since I knew what went wrong last time, I could easily make the adjustments and perfecto. I have put these batches in the same category because frankly, I made the same mistakes both time, and didn't learn anything from the one before. I don't know if it was because I had to measure my ingredients in batches because at that point I only had mini digital scales, or whether it was my oven temp, or the recipe, I was really lost. I had so much other baking to do, I couldn't waste anymore time on making macawrongs for the party, but I was determined to try again!

(not sure what happened when I imported my photos - ignore the glitches, sorry)

FRENCH TWIST:



After the party craziness finished, I couldn't help but feel like I needed to know what a good one tasted like, and looked like, in order for me to know when I get it right. I also thought there might be a small chance of asking a couple of questions to a pastry chef if I went to a french patisserie to buy some. I happened to be near a French Twist and so I decided to go and buy a few. I bought 4, and they weren't cheap, but I knew that they would be good having been made by an actual french person. Out of the 6 flavours, I tried 4; Lavender Chocolate, Lemon Lime, Cherry Ripe & Violet Crumble. I ate the citrus one first thinking it would be my least favourite, and it turned out to be the best. I absolutely adored the texture, the flavour and the whole experience of biting into every single one of them. I was more than ever determined to get these little mothers right!

BATCH 4:



Friday afternoon, I was feeling lucky. I had done a fair bit more research between going to French Twist & this point, and I had been recommended to try a recipe Tartelette. After reading a bit more, I found Brave Tart and a blog from someone else entirely who said they had tried Tartelette's recipe, but Brave Tart was more fail proof. Well that sold me, so against the recommendation from my friend I chose to make Brave Tart's recipe. Ugh. What went wrong? I DON'T KNOW! I knew my meringue was good, I knew my measurements were correct as I had just bought a digital scale. I knew my oven temp was right as I bought an oven thermometer, it had to be my macaronage - technique  that essentially folds the egg white/meringue with the almond and sugar mixture. Grrrr.....I knew I had to keep trying

BATCH 5:

It was Saturday morning and I wanted to knock out a batch by breakfast.

I decided to try Tartelette's recipe after all, I only had one friend who had ever made them successfully, so I decided it was silly to ignore her advice. I also liked this recipe better than Brave Tarts purely because it was a smaller batch, and If it didn't work, then it wasn't as much egg whites and almond meal that I had wasted. So off I went.........too runny! MACARONAGE......grrrrr

I didn't take a photo of this one.

BATCH 6:




I had commitments on Saturday morning and I had to by at Mango Hill by 10am. It was probably around 8am when I decided to do another batch. It was too annoying that I couldn't get it, I was so close I could taste it. I found an awesome video showing macaronage, it was all in french, but you can look as well here. It didn't matter that I couldn't understand him, I could see what he was doing, and I realised that I was doing it all wrong. Instead of folding & beating the air out right away, he carefully folded until all ingredients were just combined before he started folding & spreading the mixture to the outer edges of the bowl. Then he repeated the process. I have read blogs & instructionals that all said you don't have to be 'oh so careful' but you know what, I have thrown all of that to the wind, because this method, of being oh so careful has yielded me success, so I am too scared to change! That's right, SUCCESS at last! Well.........almost.

Because of the time constraints, I baked one sheet (there were 3) as soon as they were piped, so no resting time and no skin. They were flat & boring and no feet and just ugh. By the time that batch came out of the oven, I put the 2nd tray in, but I didn't have time, it probably did about 2 mins in the oven, and then I took it out, turned the oven off, bailed Rylan into the car and went to my meeting.

When I got home, I preheated the oven and I baked the 2nd sheet. They worked well considering they had already started to be cooked. They did have lopsided feet, but they weren't too bad. The 3rd sheet was well and truly dry and ready to be baked, so I popped them in (with a little bit of a defeatest attitude) and I couldn't believe that they looked like actual macarons AMAZING! I was so confident I decided to make up a batch of strawberry bubblegum ganache and I filled them & refridgerated them for later.

Well I was impressed with myself, but I had to know if they were just a fluke, or if I actually had mad skillz haha.

ALMOND MEAL:

I am at heart a cheap skate, but not only that, I don't like that the commercial almond meal is not only overpriced but has husks scattered throughout. I decided to buy some bags of raw AUSTRALIAN almonds from the fruit and veg shop. My dad told me to make sure you always buy Australian almonds because it's the only way you can guarantee they are less than a year old - scary. Anyway, 500g of raw almonds (skins on) I started my quest. I blanched them by placing them in a bowl and pouring boiling water over the top and soaking for no longer than 1 minute. Then I drained and started trying to skin them. Some skinned easily, but many didn't. I should have blanched them in batches. I reblanched what I couldn't skin & the skins came off unbelievably easy this time, but anyway, lesson learned.

Once they were skinned, I dried them out & left them on the bench to air dry some more. Then, I put the whole lot in my food processor and blitzed them for a while, then I sifted as much as possible (without forcing any through) and returned all of the larger parts back to the food processor for further blitzing. I did this 4 or 5 times in total, and it was a lengthy process, but out of 500g of Raw almonds that cost me $5.95, I got about 470g of almond meal, which was enough for me to split into 4x 110g bags ready for macaron making. This was a test run, when I do it again, I will do it with probably at least a kilo because it isn't something I want to do every other day.

To buy almond meal or even slivered or blanched almonds, you are looking at $30-$35/kilo. Home made is only about $12/kilo. If you were just doing a batch here and there, maybe it wouldn't be a problem, but I think I want to make these in bulk and sell the shit out of them, so mama did dang need her some big bags of almond meal. CHEAP.

Last note on this - I like the idea that I know where the almonds came from, I can market my macarons as being made from Australian Almonds & made with free range eggs. Those points are important to me, and i'm sure important to my future customers.

BATCH 7 & 8:




Both using Tartelette's recipe, on the same day. I made one batch pink and the other green. For the first flavour, I made Zumbo's Strawberry Bubblegum flavour with a poprocks insert, and for the second flavour, I made an experimental ganache & jelly insert from my brain using ginger, lime & chilli. They weren't hot hot, to be honest i could have amped up the heat if i wanted to. You just never know how people will react to chilli.

Both flavours were recieved very well, some younger people weren't as keen on the ginger, lime & chilli flavour as the older tasters. All in all, they went pretty well.

I still think I need more practice making the shells, I am almost maybe just a little too early on piping the  batter. Some of the batch was cracked and some had lopsided feet which indicate to me that maybe I have to fold a few more times at most, just to get the consistency right throughout.

WHERE TO FROM HERE?:

Well, my plan is now to make a couple more batches (seeing as though I have two already weighed out bags of almond meal in my pantry right now) and keep them plain, I'm not going to add any colours or flavours at all. Then I might divide them up into bags and freeze them. Then, I want to collect as many ideas as I can and just start experimenting with different ganaches & buttercreams until I get 15-20 flavours (maybe less if it seems like its going to take me years to get that many flavours) then have a tasting/market research tea party and get all my friends & macaron enthusiasts around for judgement. I'll get everyone to score based on taste, texture & look and amend what I need to and ditch any with extremely low scores.

What an exciting time ahead in my macaron journey, tune in for more macaronage as the weeks roll by.

x Meagan






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