The unbearable lightness of Macaron.

So, somehow I managed to promise Team Scotland some macaron for their inaugural bout on the 10th of September.

This may or may not have been a problem, considering that I've never made them before.

For those of you not aware of them, macaron are French confections, made by carefully folding almond flour and whipped meringue, and piping out small biscuits. They're almost always served sandwiched around a stiff filling, like a flavoured buttercream or ganache, which permeates the macaron with its flavour over a day's maturation. The British macaroon is a kind of de-evolved offshoot of them, despite being almost totally different nowadays.

Macaron are also famously finicky to make, being very sensitive to oven temperature, undercooking, over (and under) mixing, and excessive haste. In particular, it is essential to rest your piped macaron before cooking, for up to an hour, and they are at their best a day or two after cooking (macaron that appear overcooked can improve tremendously after sitting and absorbing moisture from their filling for a while).

Considering their forebodingly exacting requirements, I was wondering if I would ever be able to make workable biscuits, so I did a test run this evening...

(The following macaron use the recipe from http://notsohumblepie.blogspot.com/2010/08/macaron-troubleshooting-new-recipe.html which also include an extensive list of tips on how to improve your macaron.)
Unbaked, resting macaron. They're just starting to develop a skin here. (The blue colour is from a single drop of food colouring gel added to the mix. I think I probably need a second drop to get the right hue.)

Macron post cooking. They've browned a little too much, so our  oven is clearly a little too hot.

Base of macaron - you can tell it is cooked, as the base is almost totally flat.

Closeup of broken macaron - notice the lack of large internal bubbles (a sign of undercooking, or undermixing of the macaronage). Notice also the feet on the base of the macaron, which are a little extended, due to the too hot oven.

A completed macaron, a little messy since it's just a test. The filling is an orange buttercream, made to the recipe on http://cannelle-vanille.blogspot.com/2008/01/lavender-and-orange-macaroons.html
So, actually, my first macarons have turned out okay, actually. Certainly not a disaster.

I encourage everyone else to try making these excellent little French confections, they're not as scary as you think!


tinchen said...

I'd really like to try, but our oven is very very uneven in it's heat distribution. I often have cakes that a near dark on one side and very light on the other... I don't think maccarons like being turned mid-baking.

aoanla said...

The macaron here were turned near the end of the cooking process, as our oven is hotter at the back than the front. It didn't seem to damage them; but I guess it might if you did it a lot and early on in the process.