I finally went to Venice last week, it was a glorious day! Sunny and crisp, not yet cold, basically perfect for a stroll around tiny streets of Venice.
Needless to say after all the walking we did, we got hungry, went to a beautiful little restaurant, enjoyed some Venetian style squid, cooked in it's own ink, very flavorful, and oh so different to say the least! Toothbrush would've been a great helper getting all that black out of my teeth, but, with some ingenious inventions in front of the pretty little bathroom mirror, my teeth were good as new!
Long story short, dessert didn't fit in my stomach right away, so I decided to walk it off and get something later.
Loads of beautiful patisseries all over the place, one better than the other, displays were bursting with sweets and I spotted something I've been dreaming of tasting, but was holding out for Paris...
I hear macarons reign supreme over there. I hesitated, but figured, they originated in Italy, surely they will be good here and oh my LO-R-DAY was I mistaken! Now, here's a disclaimer, I didn't go to a patisserie that specializes in macarons, and I do not say that all of Italian macarons are bad. I was just unlucky. They were hard, flavorless, brittle chunks of plastic mixed with powdered sugar and coloring... eek!
I mourned a little, but was determined to erase that awful incident off my taste bud memory, so I came back home and made them myself, easy as that! :D
If you embark on this journey, please prepare for it in advance, here's what I learned :
1. egg whites NEED to be aged (mine were a week old!!!)
2. almond flour needs to be sifted, you'll find some huge chunks in them for sure!
3. all the measurements need to be precise, digital scale is a must!
4. have all the ingredients set out and measured before you start,it will help you avoid running around the kitchen like a headless chicken when your caramel is burning ;D
5. If you have an eager set of helping hands, use them! it will cut piping and filling time in half ;)
6. don't be scared, they are not that hard to make:)
7. start with the lowest temperature, make a small batch and learn from it, all ovens are different, so are the geographical locations;) it matters a lot where you are when you're making macarons,Italy or California ;)the conditions will be different so will results if you don't adjust.
8. I used parchment paper, people say it's best to use silicone pads, I don't trust them, they move too weird and feel like some sea creature, too wiggly :D
9. Over-beating...something you'll see on a lot of blogs and in tons of books, but there is no certain way to do it right, I mixed my ingredients till everything was uniform. Didn't count the times I did the folding, nothing like that.
10. to dry or not to dry the piped macarons...I did, for 30 minutes, they turned out lovely! some say no need for it, some say leave them for a few hours or even overnight!!!...it's up to you.
I am in no right to give out advice, I made them the 1st time and they turned out brilliant, so I'll attribute the success to the gorgeous genius of Pierre Hermé and my prep effort! I read the recipe 100 of times, plus had everything set to go when I was ready to bake.
Without any more twaddle I introduce you Pierre Hermé mouthwatering Frivolté
Salted Caramel Apple Macarons!
for the macaron batter you'll need( feel free to cut the amounts in half, this makes enormous number of macarons!) :
300g ground almonds
300g powdered sugar
sift and run in the blender or food processor for a a minute, don't overdo it, you're running a risk of extracting almond oil into the batter, and you sure don't need that!
110g aged egg whites (3-4 they shrink like crazy when they dry;))
yellow food coloring
mix together well, do not beat, and pour over the almond/powdered sugar mixture.
75g bottled still water
bring to 118C on the candy thermometer and set aside (if you have a helping hand, get someone to start the sugar syrup while you beat the 2nd batch of the egg whites)
110g aged egg whites
start beating the second batch of the egg whites (stationary mixer is preferred, but handheld will do just as good. Switch to high speed and pour sugar syrup in slowly, continue beating on high speed for 2 minutes, the whites will get thick but still a little runny. Set aside to cool.
once egg whites are cooled off pour them into the powdered sugar/almond/colored egg white mix and fold gently, incorporating the mixture fully, but not over processing it. The batter will be thick but slightly runny, not too liquid.
prepare piping bags fitted with #12 tip in tall ,place them in glasses (for easier transfer, it gets a bit messy)
pour the batter into piping bags, start piping macarons onto parchment paper. Some draw circles, I didn't , they came out just fine without any unnecessary geometry ;)(never liked it anyway;D)Make sure you leave enough space for them to expand though, about 2-3 centimeters is enough.
let them sit for 30 minutes to 2 hours, I left mine for 30 minutes, they were just fine. You'll know they are ready once the top of the macaron has a slight film that won't stick to your fingertip if touched.
Bake in a preheated oven at 165C to 180C (I went with the lowest temperature and was happy about it). Bake for 12 minutes, opening the oven at the 8 minute mark slightly(macarons should have the crust and the 'feet' developed, you'll see them when it happens;))to let any condensed steam to come out (I stuffed folded paper towel in the oven door to let the air in).
Once done, remove from the oven immediately onto work surface covered with a flat towel. Let cool, and put the next batch in.
for the filling you will need :
NOTICE : if you're using homemade dried apples, do this step a day in advance!
(I suggest buying something like this : http://www.gourmetnut.com/apple-rings.html )
4 to 5 apples (peeled and cored)
(you can bother with drying them in the oven, I see no point, just buy dried apples in the health store, but make sure they are not the super dehydrated kind, but white and soft )
30g lemon juice
cut the apples into small chunks, douse them with lemon juice so they don't brown, add the sugar and spread on the baking sheet in one layer. Bake at 90 c until slightly dehydrated, but not crisp, remove from the oven and let stand covered with a paper towel,they will dry some more overnight.
65g salted Butter
Heat the cream in a small pot and set aside (do not need to bring it to boil).
Toss sugar into a sauce pan over medium heat and mix with a wooden spoon until it all melts and turns dark amber color, turn the heat down to low and add the cream. Bring it to 108C and add salted butter, be careful it will be a little angry at you and spit ;) set aside to cool, cover with cling film and transfer to the fridge to cool off completely.
TIP: if you do not have salted butter just add a pinch of salt, I like to actually taste the salt in my caramel, so I went a bit over 1/4 teaspoon of pink salt (I like it cause it's not too overpowering and natural, it's hard to over-salt with pink salt).
290g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
whip the butter until it's light and fluffy (about 10 minutes) and add caramel in 2-3 batches to incorporate fully.
Last and the awesomest step :
is fun and easy! make sure you don't apply to much pressure, pipe the filling onto a macaron, top with 3-5 chunks of apple , I squeeze them into the filling a little bit and cover with a second macaron.
'They' say you need to wait for at least a day to eat your macarons, I can't wait that long, I had them right then, and they were glorious!
thank you Pierre Hermé , you are indeed the MAN! :)
and here's my shot of the beauties before I devoured them!
Enjoy! and come visit my facebook page Cooking Pretty with Julija Art for this and other recipes.