Friday, March 23, 2012

Meringue Maverick - Maple Nut Macarons

Macaron [mah-cah-rone] (fr), noun:  an enigma wrapped in conjecture based on superstition; that is filled with Buttercreme or Ganache. 

If you have ever attempted to bake these most infamous of French confections, then you know exactly what I am talking about.  Every recipe you run across has you performing all sorts of strange tasks before you even begin.   Drying almond flour overnight, Aging egg whites for 4 days in the refrigerator, Letting the Macarons age for 1 hour after piping, Make them with Italian Meringue, or Wait for a dry day... The list is exhaustively endless.

Well, I have done all those things and more.  In fact, I think the only things I haven't done are sacrifice a virgin to the macaron god and waving a dead chicken over the pan before it goes in the oven.  Sheesh!  It's all a bunch of superstitious nonsense.  There is 1 key to great Macaron.... and I have Stella over at Brave Tart to thank for showing me the way.

The key was.... Forgetting everything I thought I knew about egg whites.

Evidently, I have made too many Angel Food Cakes, Genoise, and Souffle in my life because according to Stella, I have been overly gentle with my egg whites when making Macaron.  Stella (who makes Macaron ALL the time at Table 310) advises putting the spurs to them and whipping them into complete and utter submission.  WAY beyond where I normally would stop for any other confection based on albumen. Honestly, part of me was cringing when I turned the mixer up for the remaining 3 minutes.  I just knew I was going to have a massive mess on my hands afterwards.  Well, I gotta tell ya, she was right.  They came out beautifully.  Hands down, the best macaroning experience I have had in 9 years.

Me being me, I was not happy with traditional almond macarons filled with ganache though, so I made some Walnut flour and decided to recreate one of my favorite Ice Cream flavors in Macaron form....   Maple-Nut

I chose an Italian Meringue Butter-Creme because I was extremely disconcerted about the abuse I inflicted upon the egg whites during the Macaron making process.  In order to assure myself that the very fabric of the universe would not be torn asunder, I felt compelled to make something where the egg whites were merely whipped to stiff peaks.  Thus, order was wrested away from the foul clutches of chaos. 

Because I am anal retentive a detail oriented person, I used a template that I downloaded for free from  (which is available here)  This is only a half sized template (for 8.5 x 11 paper on landscape) so you will have to print 2 copies and tape them together so it fits a 1/2 sheet pan.  Be sure to have your printer set for "print to fit" so the 1 1/2 inch (3.8cm) circles are actually 1 1/2 (3.8 cm) inches. 
Simply slide it between your baking sheet and the parchment paper.  (an advantage of parchment, over a Sil-Pat) Pipe all your Macaron (just shy of the actual outline, cause they spread a little) and then slide it out from underneath. Perfectly uniform... OK mostly perfectly uniform.  LOL

Maple-Nut Macaron

Walnut Macaron

4.1 oz (115g) English Walnuts (about 1 1/4 cups Walnut halves)
8 oz (230g) Confectioners' Sugar (2 1/4 cups - It seems like a lot but I measured twice)
5 oz (144g) Egg Whites (5 Egg Whites minus 1 1/2 TB)
2.5 oz (72g) Caster Sugar (1/3 cup + 2 tsp)
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Preheat the oven to 300° and have an 18” pastry bag, fitted with a plain tip ready.

Grab 2 half-sheet pans and lay down your template.

Lay down parchment sheets over the templates.

Crack some Walnuts...

Process the Walnuts and Confectioners' Sugar for about a minute in the food processor.

Pour the mixture into a sieve and sift it, reserving whatever bits don’t pass through.

Toss the chunkier bits back in the food processor and process them again.

Run the resulting powder through the sieve again.

If you still have left over chunky bits, measure it out.  If it's less than 2 TB go ahead and just add it the the Sugar/Walnut mixture.  If it's more than 2 TB, you need to process those chunky bits again, and re-sieve until you have less than 2 TB.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the Egg Whites, Caster Sugar and Kosher Salt.

Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment and turn the mixer to medium (4 on a KA) and whip for 3 minutes (this gives you soft peaks)

Increase the speed to medium-high (7 on a KA) and whip another 3 minutes. (this gives you stiff peaks or bird beak or "bec d’oiseau" to use the French term)

Crank it up to high (8 on a KA)  and whisk for another 3 minutes. (every fiber of my being shrieked in horror at this, it just goes against everything I know about egg whites)
Stop your mixer and add any extracts, flavorings or colorings.

Whisk on high speed for an additional minute to ensure they are well incorporated - streaky coloring will make your shells crack. (Evidently you have to beat the whites into complete submission)
You should have a very stiff, dry meringue; when you remove the whisk attachment, there will be a big clump of meringue in the center.

(If the meringue is not clumping in the center of the whisk, and is still forming a "beak" at the end, continue beating for another minute, or until it does so).
Now add the Walnut/Confectioners' all at once. (very disconcerting)

Fold them in with a rubber spatula. (you are going to have to kind of press as well to incorporate the dry ingredients)

The whole point is to "deflate" the Meringue it takes about 40-45 strokes. (Again, the opposite of every other egg white based dish - It just seems SO unbelievably wrong!)

After 30 strokes, you need to start paying close attention... stroke by stroke.  You are looking for a "Lava" consistency. To check for this, drop a mound of batter and count how long it takes to sink back into the mass.

It should take 20 seconds, no more and definitely no less, or you have over-folded the batter and when you go to pipe them out, your "Lava" will be more of a "Pyroclastic" flow; which is BAD.

Transfer about half the batter to a piping bag. (Don't over fill the bag, or it will rush out of the tip)

Pipe the batter onto the parchment, following the template underneath.  Remember to stop just shy of the border, because the batter will spread a little, especially after the next step.

Grasp the sheet pan, and smack it hard against your counter. Rotate the pan ninety degrees and smack it on the counter another couple times.(This causes the air bubbles to rise to the surface, so they don't crack your macarons during baking)

One thing I still could not get past, was letting them set on the counter to form a "skin", but I only let them set for 15 minutes and then slipped the template out from underneath the parchment paper.
Bake for about 18 -23 minutes, or until you can peel the parchment paper away from a macaron. (if it splits just above the foot, it's not done)

If you are watching closely, at about the 8 minute mark, the macaron will begin standing up on their feet.

Remove them from the oven and allow to cool, completely, on the baking sheet.

Now it's time to take a moment and admire the "feet" on the macaron.

(ain't it awesome?)

Once they are completely cool, go ahead and peel them from the parchment.

Use a metal spatula if necessary.

Now I won't lie to you, I still had a couple of casualties.  It was from the third pan, and I didn't really smack the pan on the counter with as much zeal as I did on the first 2 pans.  And THIS....

is what happens if you don't get those bubbles out of the mixture...   But hey, it was only 2, and only 2 out of 90 is really good, considering what has happened to me in the past.

Maple Italian Meringue Butter-creme

60g (2 large) Egg Whites, at room temperature
1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar
a pinch of Kosher Salt
2 TB Caster Sugar
2/3 cup (156 ml) pure Maple Syrup (preferably Grade B - it has more flavor)
1 cup (8 oz) (226 g) unsalted Butter, cut into tablespoon pieces

Place Maple Syrup in a medium sauce pan and place over medium flame. (it foams up, so use a larger pan than you think you need)

When it begins to boil, insert your candy thermometer, and cook to 236-240 F degrees.

While the syrup is boiling, begin beating your egg whites with Kosher Salt in the bowl of an electric mixer at medium speed until foamy.

Sprinkle in the Cream of Tarter and continue whipping until soft peaks form.

Sprinkle the Caster Sugar over the egg whites and continue whipping until stiff peaks form (Bird beaked).

Reduce the speed of the mixer to low, and keep them moving until the syrup is done.
When the syrup 236°F, remove the pan from the heat, remove the thermometer from the pan, and crank up to speed on the mixer.

Slowly pour the hot, foamy syrup in a slow stream down side of bowl into egg whites, beating constantly at high speed. (Be careful not to hit the whisk or you may have shards in your finished butter creme)

Continue beating the meringue, scraping down side of bowl occasionally with a rubber spatula, until the bowl is cool to the touch, about 7 minutes. (and yes, if this all sounds familiar, you have just made Maple 7 Minute frosting)

But we are going to take this a step further...  Even though this would be really good spread over a cake.

Change out the whisk and replace it with the paddle attachment.

Turn the mixer to medium speed and begin adding unsalted Butter, 1 TB at a time. (make sure it is incorporated before adding the next chunk)

Towards the end, it will look like the butter creme is breaking and becoming sloppy, just keep beating it and it will come together.

When the paddle begins making a "slapping" sound, that means your Butter-creme is done.
Spoon the butter-creme into a pastry bag fitted with a round tip.


Match your Macaron by size and shape, as there will be some variations, even with a template.

Pipe a quarter sized dollop of Maple Butter-Creme on one half.

Place it's matching Macaron half over the Butter-Creme and press gently.

And there you have it.   Maple Nut Macaron.

Now grab a cup of coffee and a Macaron.  Take a bite and enter a state of bliss.

Now if you will excuse me, I need to be alone, with my pan of Macaron...  :)

Oh Yeah.....



Patti T. said...

I can not even imagine how great this tasted. I am the one who always searched for the maple creams in a box of chocolates. You really seem to have mastered the macarones. I had never even heard of these until about two years ago. Seems every bakery makes these now. Your detailed directions and pictures of the steps makes it seem almost easy.

saltandserenity said...

Oh my! I am planning to make macarons for our family Passover dinner and I was thinking that perhaps I could make maple flavoured macarons. I googled "Maple walnut macarons", and your site came up! I am so excited to try these.


Shane Wingerd said...

Patti - They were really tasty. I was never really into the cupcake boom a few years back, but I have been working on my macarons for a couple years now... pretty much experienced a 40-75% failure... Stella at Brave Tart really helped to dispel all they myths that I had bought into over the years.

Cindy - Thanks for stopping by. :) Love your blog btw! Your dueling ciabatta post is SO informative... Loved it!