Lately, it seems as though the Macaron Gods have been smiling down on me. It seems I've got the temperamental macarons down pretty well now. I haven't have a failed or unsatisfactory batch in a pretty long time. After countless trays of misshapen, lopsided feet, deflated, or cracked macarons, I would say it's about time!
Of course, now I've jinxed myself.
So I could attribute this great achievement to a sudden blessing from the gods, but more realistically, I would say there are logistical reasons for my success.
1) I still age my egg-whites. At least 24 hours. Preferably 48. I have gotten over my fear of un-refrigerated egg whites--after a few exquisite macarons, my mom has also gotten over her doubts.
2) I always WEIGH out all my ingredients on a kitchen scale. I see macaron recipes that call for ingredients by cups, tsp, tbsp, etc and I just cringe. They're just setting themselves up for disappointment and disaster.
3) I can now recognized exactly when to stop folding the batter. That probably helps a lot.
4) I still let the piped shells sit out for about 20 minutes, or until the batter is no longer sticky when you gently touch the top of a shell, before putting them in the oven.
5) I bake one tray at a time. I could probably get away with baking both trays at the same time, but I'm paranoid about which tray gets which oven rack.
6) I discovered our oven at home is a convection oven. I'm pretty embarrassed to say that although I've been using that same oven for over 5 years, I have just NOW discovered it's a convection oven. Using the convection bake function of my oven as allowed for more even heat distribution and has helped immensely with the development of beautiful feet on my macarons. I would say this is the most recent and most influential reason for my success.
7) Because my shells are coming out of the oven looking beautiful, I've started putting more thought into what I want to fill them with. Before, some would come out less than perfect, and I would get too discouraged to even come up with a great filling.
8) Letting them "mature" overnight in the refrigerator after filling the shells is also crucial. This allows the shells and the filling get to know each other, which leads to a texturally more satisfying and cohesive macaron.
I think that's all the newfound wisdom I have to bestow on anyone else who has a macaron obsession like me. I can't say I'm completely satisfied with the macarons I'm now producing, but I'm definitely getting closer. These Pistachio Frangipane Macarons are some of my latest creations. I accidentally piped them a little larger than I'd prefer but they were pretty tasty, if I do say so myself. The shell had a delicate, crisp outer crust that easily gave way to a chewy, moist interior filled with an intensely pistachio frangipane filling. However, it was still a little on the sweet side for me. I'm still waiting for the day when I'm brave enough to tweak macaron recipes a little more.
Pistachio Frangipane Macarons
pistachio macaron shells
90g aged egg whites (about three eggs)
30g fine granulated sugar
200g powdered sugar
55g blanched slivered almonds
55g pistachios, unsalted, shelled
pistachio frangipane filling
2oz unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup blanched silvered almonds
1/2 cup pistachios, unsalted, shelled
1 tbsp flour
*Just a warning, this filling includes the use of a raw egg. Usually frangipane fillings are baked into tarts and other pastries. I'm not sure how I feel about the raw egg in this filling, but it was delicious and my family and friends devoured this whole batch with no ill effects. I figure, people make mayonnaise with raw eggs anyways...*
for the filling
1. Combine butter, sugar, almonds, pistachio, and egg in the food processor and pulsed together until it makes a paste.
2. Add flour in at the end and pulse to combined.
3. Refrigerate for at least an hour, but preferably over night
for the macaron shells
1. weigh out the blanched almonds, pistachios, and powdered sugar
2. grind together in food processor in batches and sift into a bowl--regrind any of the larger pieces left behind until you have a very fine powder
3. weigh out aged egg whites and granulated sugar
4. place egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and begin whisking on high, gradually adding the granulated sugar little by little until you form a stiff meringue
5. fold the dry ingredients into the meringue in two installments. I wish I could tell you exactly when to stop folding, but this part really just takes experience. Fold until the ingredients are just mixed in and you can no longer distinguish meringue from dry ingredients--I guess the best description is still "molten lava"
6. pipe batter onto silicon lined baking sheets in 1 1/2 inch rounds, giving them plenty of space to spread
7. let sit for 20 minutes
8. bake in 250F convection oven for about 15-20 minutes depending on your oven
9. let cool on baking sheets and once cooled, fill with frangipane filling and refrigerate