More and More Salted Caramel Macarons

Is it even possible to be drowned in macarons of your own making?

Possibly.

Especially in my household, where I have gone wild with macaron making, and churned out a factory load. Salted caramel anyone?

DSC_0579

Of course, having not made them for a while, I had a few slip ups along the way. I based this on the Pierre Hermé recipe, which is wonderful, but I had to make a few adjustments based on what I had available. Instead of coffee extract I added a few drops of caramel flavouring to the macaron batter, and added some brown food colouring to prevent the macarons looking too garishly yellow.

DSC_0648 (1)

Don’t get too ambitious about the caramel. I thought I would try and get it as dark as I could, but just ended up burning it. The second batch, made more cautiously, turned out much better.

DSC_0604

I really wanted a few flowers to decorate these photos, one of the sad times when I wish I still had a garden. Instead I slipped out in the rain to the nearest park, and picked a few wild blooms to scatter. I think it makes quite a pretty, albeit short-lived effect.

DSC_0675

I think I have to resign myself to the fact that my flat has a pretty crap oven. The heat just doesn’t distribute evenly enough. My macarons look pretty, and taste lovely, but are exceptionally delicate, and certainly can’t be transported anywhere. With a bit more temperature/time adjustment, oven tray manipulation, door acrobatics and perhaps simply a new oven I’ll figure a way around it. In the meantime, there are these to be eaten, and plenty too!

Lemon Curd Macarons

When I first moved into the new flat, I was thankful to find out that it could bake a cake perfectly well. Then I got a hankering to bake macarons again; it had been a year since my last batch and wouldn’t it be a great test for the oven?

DSC_0494 (1)

They flopped, badly. I had used my hitherto almost foolproof recipe, so was aghast when I opened the oven to see some very sorry specimens, covered with cracks, and not a foot to be seen. I baked a second batch and found exactly the same problem had occurred. Third time lucky? No chance.

So I attacked the box of eggs, stocked up on ground almonds and icing sugar, and prepared to get to the bottom of what was causing my macarons to fail. After a lot of trial, error, cursing and using up approximately 15 eggs in 2 days, I think I’m getting there. Thanks A, for eating a 9 egg yolk omelette.

DSC_0495 (1)

Firstly, humidity levels are higher by the sea. I’ve needed to rest the macarons for much longer in order to get the shells to dry out.

Secondly, I’m getting used to using a gas oven for the first time. I’ve noticed the macaron shells brown on the bases far more quickly than they used to, and this makes sense given that the main heat source is coming from below. However, this extra burst of heat is also causing the shells to crack on top too.

So here’s what I did.

To counteract the humidity, I tried to dry out my icing sugar and ground almond mixture as much as possible by putting it in the airing cupboard overnight. Then whilst resting the trays of macarons, I left all the windows open to increase the air flow through the house to dry them out. It took around 40 minutes of resting compared to my usual 15 minutes.

Then I doubled up the baking trays in the oven to reduce the excessive amount of heat coming up below the baking macarons. I then adjusted the oven to sit between Gas Mark 2 to 4 to see which held the greatest level of success. Gas Mark 2.5 turned out to be the winner.

The remaining flaw with these macarons is they still have the dreaded hollow shells, which I am going to continue to work on in my next batch!

DSC_0500 (1)

I was so busy at trying to get perfectly risen macarons that I had barely even considered what they would be filled with. In the end, I stuck for a sweet and tangy homemade lemon curd. This was roughly based on the Pierre Herme recipe in my Macarons book. I’ve included a quick recipe for this below.

DSC_0529 (1)

Tangy Lemon Curd

Mix together two egg yolks and 1 whole egg, 125g caster sugar, and the zest and juice of two lemons. Whisk gently in a bowl sat over a pan of simmering water, until thickened. Then sieve the curd, and blitz in cubes of 100g lightly salted butter until smooth with a handheld blender.

Pierre Hermé Pietra Macarons

After a short break from macaron-making, you know it was time for them to make a reappearance on my blog again!

P1030928

Macarons take time to master, but after a number of attempts, you do get a good feel for what works and what doesn’t. Yet the real game-changer with macarons is how good the filling is. That’s what elevates a macaron to true deliciousness.

I had baked an array of hazelnut macaron shells which were happily awaiting some filling in the freezer. They had been in hibernation a couple of weeks before I fancied pairing them up with some praline buttercream. This is not strictly speaking an exact reincarnation of Pierre Hermé’s Pietra Macarons as I didn’t have enough ground hazelnuts for either the shells or the praline. Everything else pretty much is.

As always with a French patisserie recipe, there was much scope for error.

The issues came, as always, when it came to combining all the ingredients together. The recipe stated to delicately stir the meringue together with the beaten butter. Maybe I hadn’t whipped everything enough, or I mixed the ingredients together too firmly. Either way, the buttercream curdled. It became evident I hadn’t ground the praline finely enough either.

I had a think back to when I made Pierre Hermé’s salted caramel macarons. Again, the buttercream had split. It hadn’t incorporated a meringue, but certainly the buttercream had been fixed by vigorous chilling and whipping. What harm could it do if I tried it here?

I scraped out the buttercream from the macaron shells, dumped it all into the mixing bowl, and chilled it for about 10 minutes. Then I got out the beaters, and whipped the crap out of the buttercream. Yay, it seemed to have done the trick! The texture also changed, becoming less moussy, and more sturdy.

P1030925

The buttercream doesn’t look completely cohesive, but it compares favourably to the pictures in the book, which also feature a fairly lumpy bumpy filling.

I think the hazelnut flavour in these macarons is rather delicate. I wonder if this is partly because I used a reduced quantity of hazelnuts. Next time I make these, I’ll try and use the full amount. I’ll also grind the praline to a finer consistency, and perhaps I’ll have better luck with folding the meringue in!

On another note, I’m very pleased with how the photos are coming along with the new camera. I’ve been taking pics quite late in the evening, so there’s been a bit of a rush to catch the daylight before it goes. Bloglovin’ is also confounding me at the moment – none of the blog images are appearing on the Bloglovin’ feed. If anybody has any inkling why this might be, advice would be much appreciated! 

Raspberry Macarons

When I was last in France, I spent my evenings glued to the screen watching Qui sera le prochain grand pâtissier. The incredible creations the contestants are expected to come up with….phew. It makes me tired just thinking about it.

Lately, I’ve had an increasingly strong desire to hop onto the Eurostar and go for a weekend in Paris, just to soak up all the incredible patisserie. Whilst I think London has a strong food scene, Paris still leads in this field.

In the meantime, I needed a little fix, so I made some more macarons.

DSC07560

I’m so glad I finally purchased Pierre Hermé’s book Macarons, where it can proudly join Larousse des desserts in fat-filled glory. After making his salted caramel macarons a total of six times, ’twas about time I tried a different flavour.

One of the most difficult aspects of macaron-making is getting the colouring spot on. I keep forgetting that natural colours don’t show up on the shell after baking. When I first made these macarons, I tossed some freeze-dried raspberry powder in for colour and flavour. Grumpy noises ensued when I discovered the biscuit-coloured result.

Round 2, and I slugged in the red and pink food colouring as liberally as I dared. I also made the call of not adding freeze-dried powder, as this definitely seemed to have a darkening effect! The batter came out a vibrant watermelon pink, and hoorah, this time they definitely worked. I’m definitely buying a collection of colouring pastes so I can be more daring with my colours without worrying about the texture.

DSC07572

Pierre Hermé Salted Caramel Macarons

Mmmm, more macarons!

DSC07596

I finally succumbed, and bought the much-coveted Macarons, baking bible for Pierre Hermé addicts. Of course, as soon as I started flipping through the pages, the urge to bake caught up with me. I just had to try his salted caramel macarons.

DSC07601

My last attempt at making salted caramel macarons had been a mixed bag. The macarons had been slightly over-baked and my salted caramel cream had been too buttery, so this time I was looking forward to using Pierre Hermé’s own recipe to get the rich salty, buttery perfection I was longing after.

DSC07599

This was also my second try with Pierre Hermé’s italian meringue method. Previously, I had always used Ottolenghi’s recipe, which is based on the french meringue method. These two methods are often compared, and technically the italian meringue creates a more stable structure, and is more foolproof, but my Ottolenghi recipe always worked brilliantly, so I guess you can take your pick and go with the flow!

The Pierre Hermé recipe, as expected, requires quite a lot of concentration, and is more technically challenging than the Ottolenghi one. However, it is utterly divine.

DSC07592

The salted caramel filling contains a surprisingly large quantity of butter. I noted that there are two recipes for this floating around on the internet. For example, the one posted by Edd Kimber here has noticeably different proportions to the recipe contained in my copy of Macarons. I’d say they turned out, flavour and texture-wise, very similar. Perhaps the Macarons recipe holds a stronger salted caramel flavour, but I may have also been braver in letting my caramel go that little bit darker.

DSC07591

It’s nice to know that you can make the salted caramel filling a day or two in advance before making the macarons themselves. Just rebeat it into piping consistency when it’s needed. Oddly, it looks a little darker, but no less delicious.

One big note of caution – be careful not to add too much extra liquid or the macarons won’t rise properly. I have most definitely made this mistake many a time before! You can avoid this issue by using paste/powder food colourings instead, but I’ve not acquired any as yet.

DSC07589

Also, if you are just starting out with macaron making, and need a bit of extra guidance, I’ve discovered a rather brilliant macaron troubleshooting guide on Adriano Zumbo’s website which is extremely useful.

Salted Caramel Macarons

My favourite macaron flavour is definitely salted caramel. It’s so addictive. I’m not alone in thinking this.  I was once standing in a queue at the Pierre Hermé counter in Selfridges, and every single person in front of me got a salted caramel macaron as part of their purchases.

DSC07359

After cracking the art of salted caramel, and my bounty still stashed in the fridge, I thought that this lent itself perfectly to salted caramel macarons being my next bake.

This time, instead of turning to my old faithful Ottolenghi recipe, I thought I would finally try making macarons using Pierre Hermé’s italian meringue method. I gleaned the recipe off the internet. Still dithering about buying his macaron cookbook. I possess Hermé’s Larousse des Desserts, and it’s pretty intimidating.

Anyway, I followed the basic macaron recipe for the shells here, so there isn’t any extra colouring or flavouring there. I think it would definitely benefit from the addition of coffee extract for colouring and flavouring.

The original recipe states the macarons should be cooked at 180˚C, but they turned out crispy and overbaked, so for chewy macaron perfection, definitely lower the temperature to 160˚C! The filling turned out to be very buttery too so I might re-try that with different proportions of sugar, butter and cream.

Recipe updated 29th April 2014: see my post here

Hazelnut Macarons

Sometimes I fancy that I’ve read a lot that the literary world has to offer. Then I realise that the majority of what I read consistitues “fluffy fiction.” So when I spotted lists of “Books One Must Read” I had a striking curiosity to see how many of them I could tick off.

Disappointing results. On the Guardian’s 1000 novels everyone must read, I have read a grand total of….

52.

Oh well.

So books aside, I’ve been on a macaron kick again. This time it’s the turn of one of my favourites – hazelnut.

The shells are made from ground hazelnuts, and the filling is a glorious nutty ganache. Ground hazelnuts are quite difficult to source in the UK. I usually pick up a packet when I am in France – they are a staple of the baking aisle there. Otherwise, it’s fairly straightforward to make your own ground hazelnuts by processing them in a food processor and then working through a sieve to get rid of the coarse pieces.

DSC07108
I keep meaning to pluck up the courage to try Pierre Hermé’s recipe for praline macarons (my absolute favourite) and finally get over my fear of Italian meringue. This year will be the year!
space
Hazelnut Macarons

Adapted from The Ottolenghi Cookbook

For the macarons:

  • 110g icing sugar
  • 60g ground hazelnuts
  • 60g egg white
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 20g roasted chopped hazelnuts

For the filling:

  • 50g double cream
  • 50g white chocolate, chopped finely
  • 25g hazelnut paste

Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 160˚C.

For the macarons, sift the icing sugar and ground hazelnuts together in a bowl and set to one side.

Beat the egg white with the caster sugar with a handheld whisk until it forms a thick meringue. Fold the meringue into the ground hazelnut/icing sugar mixture in 3 lots, making sure there aren’t any streaks of meringue left in the mixture.

Put the macaron mixture into a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle. Dot macaron mixture into the corners of the baking paper to fix it into place on the trays, then pipe little circles on the baking paper, leaving enough space for the macarons to spread. Sprinkle the shells with

Macarons with White Chocolate and Raspberry Ganache

Surprisingly, macarons get most of their flavour from the fillings sandwiched between them. I’ve tried buttercream and jams, but was on the hunt for a more authetic fruity flavour.

DSC07103

Enter this exciting ganache. It is the perfect balance of creamy, with just a hint of tang, and you don’t even need any artificial colours to get a striking shade of pink in there too.

DSC07098

I’ve kept the shells in their natural colour, but you could easily add in a little powdered food colouring to add a burst of colour. Synthetic food colourings are needed for really bold shades  – more natural sources tend to fade on baking.

DSC07088

With practice, macarons are surprisingly speedy to make – it’s possible to whip up a batch in an hour. I think that’s the time it’d take me to bake a batch of brownies! But macarons have the kudos of being far, far more sophisticated.

DSC07095

I really don’t think I’m ever going to be sick of macarons….how can anybody possibly resist such cuteness?

More Pierre

Some days are just meant to be good. That was today 🙂

I spent hours in the heartland of London’s shopping district systemically emptying the shops of clothes, shoes and accessories on my annual sales spending spree. I had completely forgotten how much better the stock is in central London, and it was hard to hold back with so much on offer! Westfield simply pales in comparison.

To finish off an exhausting day (surely shopping must be exercise), I treated myself to some Pierre Hermé goodies.

20130626-210324.jpg

I love the little drawing of the patissier himself on this London themed macaron box.

20130626-210354.jpg

20130626-210346.jpg

So many delicous macarons to choose from. I stuck with salted caramel again, as it’s such a classic, but tried five new flavours to tickle the tastebuds. The velouté isphahan was gorgeous, as well as the velouté framboise – but it has to be said that the velouté citron vert was a resounding winner of new macaron favourite. It was a fantastically sharp burst of tangy lime and yoghurt that made my tongue curl in delight.

20130626-210403.jpg

My pockets are well and truly emptied, but satisfyingly so!

Later: I’ve now tried the pates de fruits too, but I can’t say I’m a big fan of them. It’s far too much like eating a fruity sugar cube, or a solid square of jam!

Chocolate Ganache Macarons

With macarons, it seems that practice really does work its magic. I’ve stopped using the dodgy baking tray, and to my delight, it has done the trick. This batch includes all salient features of feet, non-explosiveness, and shell solidity that give macaron-makers cause for joy. Again I used a recipe from the Ottolenghi cookbook, and replaced part of the ground almonds with cocoa powder.

DSC06160

As usual, I kept the macarons simple. No fancy decorations, just great chocolate. Each macaron is sandwiched with a rich dark chocolate ganache filling. Short on cream in the kitchen, I improvised by heating up  50ml milk with a dab of butter, and melting 120g coarsely chopped dark chocolate into this. Silky and shiny, it formed a great filling.

DSC06159

Unfortunately the light was grey and weak today, but I did my best to photograph the macarons to their best advantage.

DSC06160

Be careful when choosing macaron fillings. They are such sugary beasts that a sweet filling can overwhelm the palate. Stick to sharper flavours, and you can’t go wrong. Here, the use of a bitter dark chocolate pairs perfectly. Fresh tart berry flavours would also fantastic, and that is definitely one to try.