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Monday, July 18, 2011

Chocolate Macarons -Experimenting With Adriano Zumbo's Recipe

Macarons 2

Macarons 7

Macarons 9

Have you noticed something interesting among successful pastry chefs? Whether it be Pierre Herme, Australia's Adriano Zumbo or our own Singapore home grown Chef Pang Kok Keong, they invariably have an accolade of macaron trophies that applaud their pastry wizardry.

I deem the macaron the holy grail of baking. I started experimenting with it possibly 4-5 years ago,  before I started blogging. At that time, macarons were difficult to come by in Singapore and they were (and still are) frightfully expensive. I did most of my research on line and would be baking every evening, trying out one recipe after another, adjusting one condition after another... throwing out one tray of cookies after another... not because I liked to eat macarons but because I was obsessed with the quest of getting my hands on the holy grail...
When I finally achieved consistency, using the Italian Meringue technique, I felt proud and at peace with myself....

For all who had attempted to make the macaron, you would know that these cookies are more temperamental than a prima donna and has to be coddled with utmost attention and sensitivity. There is no fool proof recipe for macaron - too many factors can rub the spoilt little biscuit the wrong way. If you are new to macaron baking and is successful for the first time with a particular recipe, congratulations - you were very lucky... the next challenge then requires you to reproduce this with the consistent outcome again again and again.... Among the many pressure points that can kill your joy are

1. The stability of your egg white;
2. The end point of meringue deflation (what some people call macronage, the lava flow consistency you need to achieve before piping them out.)
3. The air drying time which can be affected by room temperature and humidity - In humid Singapore, don't expect to dry your macarons properly in 30mins as is usually stipulated in most recipes)
4. Your oven condition.

The recipe is the least of my worry - most of them, if you scrutinise closely have roughly the same component ratio. (The ones with higher sugar to almond meal/egg white ratio tend to be more stable to work with but you will need to have a very sweet tooth to enjoy them.)  The real challenge lies in the technique and conditions - the only way to grasp these is to be prepared to make batch after batch until you understand the limitations of your working conditions, until you can recognise what the macronage end point looks like...
Macarons 6
I have been inspired to bake macarons again by an elimination challenge in Australian Masterchef. In the challenge, the contestants are expected to create Adriano Zumbo's Macaron Tower. What intrigued me was not the unique flavours of the macarons (if you can't get the biscuit right, no amount of clever flavour ideas will redeem you) but the baking condition recommended in Zumbo's recipe - he had recommended that the macarons be chucked into a 200C oven, turn the oven off for 10 mins before finishing the baking process at 155C for another 9 mins. Too many voodoo oven settings have been written for the macaron... Pierre Herme's recommendation to insert the macarons into a 220C oven and immediately change the setting to 180C to continue the baking process with a wooden spoon jammed into the oven door to keep it slightly ajar ...sounds amusingly like old wife's tale.

However, the temperature ramping is not without its purpose. The higher temperature crisps the shell of the macaron while the lower temperature cooks the inside of the macaron while keeping it soft and chewy. The end result is not a biscuit that is crunchy through - that would have made it a meringue - it should have a crisp shell with a gooey center. This method, I think, is especially useful if the sugar to almond meal ratio is about 2:1. Higher sugar ratio, I think, will be able to crystallise better at lower temperature to give a glassy crispy shell even at a lower temperature e.g. 150 - 160C.

Macarons 8

I tweaked the recipe and added about 50g of cocao powder to the original recipe (see below). I also dried the macarons in my air-conditioned living room for 1.5 hours before baking.
The result is very good. As promised the shell is crisp while the center remains chewy and gooey...
I urge you to play with the recipe. Do not be discouraged if you do not get it right the first (few) time round - especially if you've never made macarons before. Repeat it and pay attention when you do. Till my next macaron (I am still not a fan), may we all find macronage!

Macarons 11(250)
Recipe : Please refer to Adriano Zumbo's Recipe on Masterchef Website for instructions.

225g     Almond meal
225g     Icing sugar
50g       Cocoa Powder
82.5g    Egg White

225g     Castor sugar
55.5g    Water
82.5g    Old egg white
1.5g      Powdered egg white


Chocolate Ganache Filling :
240g     Dark chocolate
250g     35% Fresh cream

1. Heat cream in a saucepan until it boils.
2. Remove from heat and boil the boiling cream into a bowl that holds the chocolate.
3. Let it infuse for 3 mins. Stir the chocolate gently until it is totally melted.
4. Cool down to pipe-able consistency.

41 comments:

edith said...

Shirley yr macaroons are perfect!!! Love the intense chocolatey colour. Beautiful shots as well.

pickyin @ LifeIsGreat said...

Like you, I don't have a thing for macarons. I've only ever bothered with chocolate ones mostly, and will try this recipe when I've run out of chocolate things to make. Failed once on a French meringue technique though....

Honey Bee Sweets said...

Oh gosh Shirley, your chocolate macaroons are so nice! One word..."Perfecto"!

gertrude said...

Tell me about it. It tried numerous times before getting it right and that also some bad ones in the same batch. Yours are perfect!!

Nitha said...

They are so perfect.. I made this once and did not get the perfect round.. As you said, as I am not a great fan of this did not try it too.. But yours tempts me to try this again..

Jeannie said...

What perfect macarons! Smooth surface and with pretty feet...I too baked some recently just so I don't forget how to do it lol!

Prerna@IndianSimmer said...

Oh wow, they looks just perfect! Macarons are one of those recipes that like everyone one else I always love but it always intimidates me to try myself specially since I am not a "baker". But I might one day getting inspired by all you talented bakers :-)

Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets said...

Wow how absolutely perfect they look! Great job and agree with you that there is no perfect macaron recipe for everyone. It really is about trial and error and learning both the macaronage and the limits of your oven.

The Procrastobaker said...

I have never attempted them as i do admit i am rather nervous about it! But would love to some day, and this post was so wonderfully informative thank you :) Your macarons look like perfection, really they do, and if one day i produce anything remotely like these i would be elated! Lovely post and recipe :)

Jane Chew said...

Awesome! You are exactly right. To bake a perfect macaron is not easy. Can tell that u really put in tons of efford in it. Your macarons look perfect to me.

daphne said...

Shirley, this looks amazing!!! I love those little tips that you gave abt the trickiness of making these little gems. Well, I tried it once and failed and haven't tried it again- mainly due to time constraints. One day, when I have a few days off and a more reliable mixer, I will give it a go and know where to locate the recipe!! your blog!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I like the amount of filling that you've put in these Shirley! Sometimes there just isn't enough! :D

Trissa said...

Fantastic looking macarons Shirley - Pierre and Adriano would both be proud!

Deb@EastofEdenCooking said...

Most lovely photos, perfectly showcase the little beauties.

Uncle Lee said...

Hi Shirley, wow, the name sounds exotic. This is a sure 6 pieces in mouth before slowing down, ha ha.
Looks really good, and that chocolate....wow!
Love your presentation, Shirley....
Have fun, Lee.

Swee San @ TheSweetSpot said...

Perfect looking macarons :)

Sonia (Nasi Lemak Lover) said...

Shirley, your macarons look perfect and exactly like store bought. Thanks for the tips.

shaz@feedingmykidsbetter said...

Wow Shirley. They look awesome. And I really admire your dedication to the craft. I will attempt them one day - when my boys are off to school! (when there are no itchy fingers to fiddle my meringue!) :) thanks for the tips - shaz

Bakertan said...

Shirley,

your macs look really good. Thanks for the sharing the informative tidbits on macaron-baking. I am not a fan of macaron-baking but I don't mind receiving them as treats.

wendyywy @ Table for 2..... or more said...

The macaron challenge was just last night and you had yours on your blog tonight! So quick.
I missed tonight's show as the girls were hogging the TV. Hope to catch the rerun tomorrow morning.
I have yet any plans to bake any macarons. So far I've eaten only one piece and was frightened off by its sweetness. I had to swallow the macaron with 3 glasses of water. My throat felt stung by the sweetness.

hankerie said...

Wow...awesome macarons. Do you know why if the macarons will crack after baked about 5 min or so? I tried to lower my oven temperature but it's still failed. And the feet doesn't developed as nice as yours. Any tips on that?

La Table De Nana said...

Beautiful! And I love the presentation.

Uncle Lee said...

Hi Shirley, I will re-post my self suspended 17th july posting later.
Do drop by.....look forward have you visit.
Have a nice day, keep a song in your heart.
Lee.

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

@Wendy- yes I don't like the sweetness too - that is why I almost always only go for the dark chocolate type...at least it neutralizes the sweetness a little.

Maria said...

They look so perfect! I admire anyone who can make macarons, I have no patience to make such delicate little things! ;-)

Joanne said...

I deem macarons to be the holy grail of baking also, which is why I haven't ever dared to attempt them! yours truly do look perfect!

Sneh | Cook Republic said...

These are gorgeous Shirley! You are so right about them being temperamental. I tried my first batch of macarons a few months ago. What a disaster they were! Like a couple of whoopie pies gone wild :-). I love the intense color and the shiny, glossy quality to both the case and filling of your macarons.

Jo said...

Shirley, your macarons look absolutely perfect. And I know exactly what you mean about the different baking methods. When I first started out trying my hand at them, I read and read all the different techniques out there in blogsphere. Every single one was different and some sounded like "old wife's tale" .. yeah the wooden spoon thing.

pigpigscorner said...

Looks so good! So glossy and shiny!

alice said...

i just had to photograph some macarons yesterday for a client so i feel like i know them so intimately now, without baking them =P these look ridiculous. shirley, please come and bake for me!!!

Quay Po Cooks said...

Shirley, your macarons took my breath away!! What you said gave me some hope to once day turn my macawrongs into macarons. Love your photos as always!

Heidi @ Food Doodles said...

Those are beautiful! And so perfect :D

Mei Teng said...

Lovely! I absolutely adore macarons. They're my favourites.

Zurin said...

those look like they r made by a pro! beuatiful photos too. Love anyhting chocolate....not a big fan of macaroons though but i think i'll try making these. yours is perfection.it scares me to try. N fail ;( but ill give it a go..your tips are useful n photos inspiring.Thanks :)

Anh said...

PERFECT! I love this set of photos, too!

Anonymous said...

Wow your macaroons are close to perfection! I attended a class on this before but we did not rest the mixture but it turned out well. Haven't summoned the courage to bake a batch yet, hee!

Sabby

Allie said...

Shirley your macarons are so perfect! I'm envious!

Aimei said...

Your macarons is so perfect! Can't find a single flaw from the look if it. You have any tips for French meringue method? Always doesn't seem right unless I used aged whites and there was one recipe when I tried the opening of oven door.. Which worked!

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Aimei: my raspberry white chocolate macarons is made using the French meringue method. I don't age my egg white but I do try to use room temperature egg white. It is very important that you fold your meringue with the almond meal correctly. My key points are always macaronage and drying time.

Aimei said...

Thank for your reply Shirley. :) do you buy specifically a certain brand of almond meal or using sugar? I find those from phoon huat quite coarse. And for icing sugar, some say should buy pure icing sugar without starch but all seems to contain it?

Elizabeth said...

These look gorgeous!

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