Friday, August 4, 2017

Macarons: That's Macarons, With One "O"

[Editor's Note: When i first learned of this dessert the way i was able to never confuse macaron with macaroon---aside from the fact that one is spelled with one "o" and the other with two---is that the macaron uses almond flour. Macaroons are made with coconut.]

A macaron (/ˌmɑːkəˈrɒn/ mah-kə-ROHN; French pronunciation: ​[makaʁɔ̃]) is a sweet meringue-based confection made with egg white, icing sugar, granulated sugar, almond powder or ground almond, and food coloring. The macaron commonly consists of a ganache, buttercream or jam filling sandwiched between two cookies. The name is derived from the Italian word macarone, maccarone or maccherone, the meringue. The confection is characterized by a smooth squared top, a ruffled circumference (referred to as the "foot" or "pied"), and a flat base. It is mildly moist and easily melts in the mouth. Macarons can be found in a wide variety of flavors that range from the traditional (raspberry, chocolate) to the new (foie gras, matcha).

The related macaroon is often confused with the macaron. In English, most bakers have adopted the French spelling of macaron for the meringue-based item, to distinguish the two. This has caused confusion over the correct spelling. Some recipes exclude the use of macaroon to refer to this French confection while others treat the two as synonymous.

The two food items are different, and the terms in English distinguish them. Etymologically, the word macaroon is simply an Anglicisation of the French word macaron (compare balloon, from French ballon). Multiple pronunciations are technically correct depending on personal preference and context. In a Slate article on the topic, Stanford professor of linguistics and computer science Dan Jurafsky indicates that "macaron" (also, "macaron parisien", or "le macaron Gerbet") is the correct spelling for the confection.

A macaron is made by combining icing sugar and ground almonds until fine. In a separate bowl, egg whites that are beaten until a meringue-like texture. The two elements are then folded together until they are the consistency of "shaving foam", and then are piped, left to form a skin, and baked. Sometimes, a filling is added. There are two methods to making a macaron - the "French" method and the "Italian" method. The difference between the two is the way the meringue is made - either Italian or French meringue can be combined with ground almonds. There is also an "American" method.

Flavors of macarons available in America are available in respect to the general tastes of the public. These include flavors such as mint chocolate chip, peanut butter and jelly, snickers, peach champagne, pistachio, strawberry cheesecake, candy corn, salted pretzel, chocolate peanut butter, oatmeal raisin, candy cane, cinnamon, maple bacon, pumpkin, and salted caramel popcorn.

Macarons have been produced in the Venetian monasteries since the 8th century A.D. During the Renaissance, Catherine de' Medici's Italian pastry chefs made them when she brought them with her to France in 1533 upon marrying Henry II of France. Larousse Gastronomique cites the macaron was created in 1791 in a convent near Cormery. In 1792, macarons began to gain fame when two Carmelite nuns, seeking asylum in Nancy during the French Revolution, baked and sold the macaron cookies in order to pay for their housing. These nuns became known as the "Macaron Sisters". In these early stages, macarons were served without special flavors or fillings.

It was not until the 1830s that macarons began to be served two-by-two with the addition of jams, liqueurs, and spices. The macaron as it is known today, composed of two almond meringue discs filled with a layer of buttercream, jam, or ganache filling, was originally called the "Gerbet" or the "Paris macaron." Pierre Desfontaines of the French pâtisserie Ladurée has sometimes been credited with its creation in the early part of the 20th century, but another baker, Claude Gerbet, also claims to have invented it. French macaron bakeries became trendy in North America in the 2010s.

Chocolate Macaron Recipe From WikiHow
Chocolate Macaron

Chocolate Macaron Cookie
1 ½ cups confectioners' sugar
⅔ cup almond flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Pinch of salt
3 egg whites, room temperature
5 tablespoons granulated sugar

Chocolate Filling
½ cup cream
2 tablespoons chocolate chips or shaved chocolate

Chocolate Macaron Cookie: Preheat the oven to 280 °F (138 °C). Macaron halves are baked at a very low heat so that they will rise gently and not collapse. If your oven tends to run hot, you may want to bake the macarons with the oven door slightly ajar. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Since these confections are so delicate, it's necessary to use parchment paper so they won't stick to the baking sheet. Mix the almond flour base. Place the almond flour, confectioners' sugar, salt and cocoa in a bowl. Use a whisk to mix the ingredients until they are fully incorporated. Be sure no lumps remain in the mixture. If your almond flour is coarse, run the mixture through the food processor to grind it fine. Don't grind it for too long, though, or the mixture will turn to almond butter. If you don't want to make chocolate macarons, leave out the cocoa powder.

Beat the egg whites and add sugar. Place the egg whites in a metal bowl and either whisk or beat them until they form white, stiff peaks. Be sure the bowl is completely dry and clean, or the eggs won't form peaks. Add the sugar and beat until the peaks become stiffer and turn glossy. At this point you can beat in flavorings such as vanilla, peppermint extract, or almond extract to the wet batter. Add about a teaspoon of your favorite flavoring. Mix in drops of food coloring to make the macarons more colorful. Match the color to the flavor you have chosen for a nice effect. Keep in mind that macarons tend to lighten when baked, so you may want to add in an extra drop of food coloring in order to achieve the desired shade.

Fold the batter ingredients together. Gently fold the almond meal mixture into the egg white mixture in two parts. Fold in half of the almond meal mixture with a spatula until the ingredients are just combined. Add the second half of the almond meal mixture and fold it in until just combined.

Punch the batter: In order to produce macarons with the classic soft, chewy texture, the batter must be "punched." Use the back of a spoon or a spatula to push down in the center of the batter, scrape the batter from the sides to the center, then push down again. Keep punching the batter in this way until it begins to look loose and pudding-like in texture. You'll probably need to punch the batter about 10 - 12 times before it's ready. Make sure you stop when the batter looks like pudding; if you punch it too many times, it will become runny, which ruins the consistency of the batter.

Baking the batter for the macron: Fill a pastry bag with batter. You can use the same type of pastry bag you'd use for icing. Fit it with a large circular icing tip. Fill the bag with macaron batter, then twist the end closed so that the batter won't escape.

If you don't own a pastry bag, you can make your own by using a plastic sandwich bag. Cut off one of the corners, then fit it with the icing tip. Experiment with different icing tips. Most bakers make macarons in the classic round shape, but if all you have is a star-shaped tip, give it a try!

Pipe the batter onto the baking sheets. Squeeze the pastry bag and pipe 3-inch circles of batter onto the baking sheet. The batter circles will spread a little, so give them plenty of space. Try to squeeze the exact same amount of batter for each circle, so the halves of the macaron come out to be the same size. Now hold each baking sheet about an inch over the countertop and let it drop. Do this about 3 times with each sheet; this helps the batter settle.

Let the batter rest. Keep the baking sheets at room temperature for about 15 minutes. The macarons are ready to bake when a dry crust has formed over their surfaces. Touch your finger gently to the top of a macaron; if the batter doesn't stick, it's time to put them in the oven.

Baking the macaron halves: Place the baking sheets in the oven. Bake the macaron halves for 15 minutes, or slightly longer if necessary. The macarons are finished when they have a slightly hard crust and are soft, but not gooey, on the inside. When they're done, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool completely. You can open the oven door after a couple of minutes to let any humidity escape. This helps the macarons rise and take the correct shape. Don't over bake the macarons, or they'll brown on top and the texture won't be quite right. Baking macarons is a fussy process, and takes a lot of practice. If your macarons fall on the first try, consider changing the temperature or cooking time in the future.

Making The Filling: Heat the cream. Place it in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir the cream as it heats, and remove it once it begins to steam. Do not let it come to a boil. You could also heat the cream in the microwave in a microwave-safe bowl.

Pour the cream over the chocolate. Let the hot cream melt the chocolate for a minute or two, then use a spoon to stir the mixture together until it becomes a smooth, creamy chocolate ganache. Spoon the filling into a clean pastry bag. This will make it easier to pipe the filling onto the macarons as you fill them. Fit the pastry bag (or sandwich bag) with a small icing tip.

Consider other fillings. Chocolate ganache is a popular macaron filling, but there are many other fillings to choose from. Try a simple buttercream filling, either plain or flavored with your favorite extract. If you like fruity fillings, raspberry, apricot, or blueberry jam make great choices.

Assembling The Macarons: Loosen the macaron halves. Use an offset spatula to gently lift the cooled halves from the parchment paper and turn them over so that their flat sides are facing up. It's easy to crush macaron halves, so be sure to handle them with care. To help the macarons cool down quickly, baker Eric Lanlard recommends lifting the parchment paper and pouring a little cold water beneath the sheet and the paper. This will create steam, enabling you to remove the macarons with ease.

Pipe the filling onto half of the macaron halves. Position the icing tip in the center of the macaron half and squeeze about a teaspoon of filling onto the macaron. Repeat with half of the macaron halves you baked. Cover the filling with another macaron half. Gently position a second macaron half over the filling and lightly press it down, so that you've formed a sandwich. Continue with the remaining macaron halves until all of the macarons have been assembled.

Enjoy the macarons from the oven, or store them in an airtight container for later use. They will keep for several days in the refrigerator.

Text Credits: Wikipedia || WikiHow
Image Credit: WikiHow Chocolate Peanutbutter Macron Photo by WikihowSaver via Flickr/CreativeCommons

No comments:

Post a Comment