Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Nooblet's Macarons > Choc-Mint Macarons

I made more macarons! Of course, you say, what else?

I made beautiful little choc-mint macarons. This is their story:

I wanted to try the French meringue method again after hearing that it shouldn't be much harder than the Italian, and that the macarons it turns out are tastier and less sweet. So I did. Twice. And both times were disasters. Let me elaborate.
  1. Disaster number one happened because I desperately wanted to make pretty little pink rosewater macarons. I went out and bought rosewater. I dug around and found some red food colouring. I painstakingly measured all my ingredients out to the gram and spent almost an hour pushing almond meal through my ridiculously fine sieve. I whipped my egg whites and added sugar. And the the trouble starts. I add the red colouring halfway during whipping and, genius that I am, I decide to add a little drop of blue, reasoning that it would make a prettier pink. Wrong. I forgot to check the red and the blue for colour tone and it must have been warm blue because my "pink" look rather ugly and forlorn. Darn high school art and their warm blues and cool blues. But I baked them anyway, seeing as I am a stoic and stubborn baker. They rose up beautifully and had the cutest, tallest little feet. It was bliss looking at them. Until I bit into one. GIANT air pocket under the shell. How disappointing. They were also unforgivably crunchy. Urgh! They were not deemed worthy of photography.
  2. Disaster two happened because I was stubborn. I still wanted to make the French meringue method work. Also I wanted to try out some new green powder food colouring I bought. Choc-mint sounded like a lovely macaron flavour. Long story short, they turned out much like the ugly pink ones. I knew powder food colouring was potent. So I used a little bit. Not even 1/8th of a teaspoon and look how they turned out. Stupid green monstrosities. With giant air pockets. At least they weren't as crunchy as the pink ones. Sigh. Nooblet strikes again.

Not happy with my efforts, I set out to re-make the choc-mint ones. I fall back on my trusty sucre-cuit method. And of course, slightly less green powder. And they turned out lovely. Yay! Finally. I could cry for joy.

Choc-Mint Macarons (adapted from Ms Humble's lemon mascarpone macarons)

150g almond meal
150g icing sugar 
120g egg whites
185g sugar 
50ml water
1tsp peppermint essence
Food colouring

Sift together the almond meal and icing sugar. I prefer to do the icing sugar first, as the almond meal tends to clog up my sieve, slowing down any further sifting I wish to do. 

Measure out 60 grams of egg whites and set aside. Place the remaining 60 grams in whichever bowl you plan to whip it in. 

Place the 185g of sugar into a saucepan and add water. Heat on medium until it starts to bubble and turn down to a simmer. You can stir initially to ensure all the sugar dissolves, but try not to do this to much or too vigorously as the sugar on the sides of the pan can begin to crystallize. 

While your sugar is heating up, begin beating your egg whites until it is frothy and forms soft peaks. When your syrup hits 230°F, slowly add to your egg whites, beating all the time. I don't have a candy thermometer so I test my sugar using the cold water method - you're after the firm ball stage (i.e. it forms a ball which does not flatten itself in your palm, but which is malleable and can be formed with your fingers). Once all the sugar is added continue beating until the meringue is thick, glossy and cooled. The Italian meringue should be thick, beautifully glossy, slightly sticky and clings to your beaters, forming a beak-like shape. 

Add your unwhipped egg whites to the dry ingredients. You can beat the heck out of this. Make sure everything is incorporated at this stage (it makes it easier to fold in the meringue later). Add peppermint essence and food colouring (keeping in mind that the colour will fade a little when you add your meringue). 

Gently fold in egg whites one third at a time until you reach macaronage - that "flows like magma" consistency. I do this by folding just until any peaks manage to slowly disappear. If you've whipped your meringue properly, it should take a bit of mixing, so don't be afraid. 

Pipe circles a little more than an inch in diameter onto lined baking sheets. You can of course make them a bit bigger or smaller, depending on your preferences. Try and get good heavy baking sheets as this gives a more consistent result (I like the insulated ones). Some recipes say to now let them rest until they are no longer tacky to touch, but I find that it's usually ok to bake them right away if you're pressed for time.

Bake for 20mins at 150°C. Ms Humble's original recipe calls for only 14mins of baking, but I found that in my kitchen, this browned the macarons too much. So I wrapped one of the racks from my oven in foil and placed it directly under the top heating element to protect my little cookies. This worked fine, but at 14mins many of them were still sticky on the bottom, so I gave them just a little longer in the oven.

Once out of the oven (you can test them by nudging them just a little, they're done when they reluctantly loosen from the baking paper), let cool then fill.

Choc-Mint Buttercream Filling

125g butter (softened)
4 cups icing sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk

Cream together butter and one cup of the icing sugar. Once fully incorporated, add cocoa powder, another cup of the icing sugar and a third of the milk. Once fully incorporated, add the remaining icing sugar. Beat well and add the remaining milk as required until you reach a pipable consistency. Be careful not to add too much milk, as the buttercream can become too soft (which makes for a macaron with a filling that squishes out when bitten into).

Fill a piping bag and pipe onto half the macaron shells. Squish down with another macaron shell and pop everything into the fridge to mature for a day or two (if you can wait that long). Enjoy!

Note: Nooboy brought home the icing sugar which is cut with a bit of cornflour. I didn't find that my macarons suffered too much from this...impurity. So, thank you Nooboy for running to the store for me :). Also, as I used powder food colouring to devastating effects the first time, I dissolved it little by little into the batter before adding the meringue until I was happy with the colour. This way, I didn't have to worry about overbeating if it wasn't green enough. 

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