Last week, our croissantier, Jef, commented to me that when he posts photos of the croissants he shapes on facebook, they get way more likes than his “meaningful” posts. Those weren’t the words he used, but you get the point.
Fast forward to later last week when we discovered the “polling” and “question” options in Instagram’s story feed. Responding to the question, “could we make pizza dough?” we explained that while we can’t (it’s a raw product, and we don’t have a license to serve that kind of thing), we would share one of our bread recipe that we thought would translate well. I was mostly disappointed that we couldn’t serve something someone requested.
Then we got a LOT of requests for the recipe.
So, this blog is pivoting: recipes! Recipes with pictures. Recipes with videos. Recipes with explanations. Recipes with dialogue. Let’s start!
Egg whites 360g (12 egg whites)
Sugar 230g (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
Cream of tartar 5g (1 tsp)
Salt 17g (1 tablespoon)
Almond flour 512g (4 cups)
Powdered Sugar 560g (4 cups)
A note: we use a scale for all our recipes. We do this primarily to encourage consistency. I’ve included volume measurements, but I have not personally tried them, so can’t guarantee the recipe if you go that route.
Whip the egg whites with sugar and cream of tartar until fully whipped. They’ll be just on the edge of being “weepy” (to see what that looks like, note what the foam looks like at the start of the second video).
A couple things here:
- Cream of tartar, or potassium bitartrate is an “acid-salt” made from the sediment collected during wine making (cool, right?!). It’s purified and then powdered. Its unique acid-salt composition stabilizes egg white foams during whipping, which is very useful during the persnickety macaron-making process.
- This stage of egg white whipping is one of the qualitative aspects in macaron making that takes practice. We like to take it as “stiff” as the egg whites will allow (see the beginning of Video 2 to see what this looks like). This buys us some insurance when we fold in the almond flour and powdered sugar. Almond flour, or finely ground blanched almonds, has a lot of fat. It deflates egg white foams as soon as it’s introduced.
Finishing the Batter
We add the almond flour-powdered sugar in three steps. Partly, this is not to overload the mixer or make a mess. But it also is useful to add little by little so the egg whites can get used to “the new normal.”
See how the egg white foam looks slightly dry? This is intentional, and, as far as we understand it, true. We whip them until the egg white protein matrix, with the aid of sugar and cream of tartar, has expanded as much as it can. If it whipped much longer, the physical force would squeeze out any excess water from the egg whites. That becomes a dry, grainy, unusable mess. But just before that happens – eureka.
This video of Leannis piping is a better guide than anything I could explain in written form.
Three important things:
- Those circle outlines on the parchment paper a lifeline that we keep at all times. We used a bottle cap dipped in an ink-soaked inkpad to make the them. I thought that was pretty nifty. Big props to former baker, John Breske, for that innovation. Note: they are traced on a parchment sheet under where we pipe the macarons.
- We don’t fill all the way to the edge of the outlines. After piping, we give them a pretty firm rap against the table to deflate any errant air bubbles. At that point, they fill out the outlines.
- Leannis does a great job of piping from directly above the outline. This encourages even piping.
Patience, Baking and Organization
Many macaron recipes call for letting this batter sit at room temperature for 2 hours. This is often longer than what we do. All we look for is for dryness at the top, which encourages a flat, crack-less top and expansion at the “feet.”
Once we see that drying at the top, we bake them in a 145C/293F convection oven for 11 minutes. Our oven is pretty amazing – it’s a 16-rack oven that revolves the rack itself 360 degrees for even baking. I mention this because many home ovens have heating elements at the bottom of the oven. If you suspect that is the case for your oven, after the 45 minute-2 hour resting/drying period, it may be useful to bake the macarons on a fresh sheet pan that was held in the freezer. That may stave off excessive browning at the bottom.
If your oven needs even more help, put ice in a large covered pan, and put that below the macarons while they bake. Covering the pan is important, so that the macarons don’t steam, and the heating element will have to work through more cold stuff before it reaches the macaron tray. Full disclosure: I’ve never made macarons that I’ve been proud of at home, but these two techniques definitely helped.
Next up, sorting. This is a hand-made product, and even the most fastidiously piped macarons have some variation. So: match and pair macarons that look the same with each other so that they sandwich attractively and offer the same cookie-to-filling ratio.
The buttercream we use as a base for all fillings warrants its own post (and this post is already long!) Anyway, here’s a video of Leannis filling the sandwiches. We pipe the filling into the center, and then apply even gentle pressure to reach nearly edge to edge.
At this point, we wish it were done. But it’s not. We have found the way we like macarons (fully integrated, and teeth marks left when taking a bite out of the whole sandwich) when the cookies are frozen entirely and defrosted. A former baker, Lily, figured this one out, and it took a *lot* of trial and error. I don’t entirely understand why they benefit from this freeze-thaw so much, but the results are way better than refrigerating the sandwich until cold. Maybe there’s something poetic about macarons silently, invisibly, but palpably rupturing themselves from the inside out to be reborn stronger and more unified than they ever were? Let’s go with that.
Totally inessential to the recipe, but interesting, at least to me. It is generally agreed (and our experience) that proper egg white whipping is critical to a good finished macaron. But then it is generally agreed (and our experience) that for that same finished macaron, considerable, thoughtful effort is made to deflate those whipped egg whites. What the heck? Why can’t we just mix everything together without this rigmarole? “Because it doesn’t work,” that’s why. I have heard this response a lot as a cook and as a baker. To everyone’s frustration, I have a hard time accepting it. It doesn’t work, though: clearly, there’s something structurally different between inflated and deflated egg white and un-doctored egg white. Which is a long-winded way of giving an open invitation for anyone to explain this to me. Thank you.