A sharp pang arcs through the muscle connecting my shoulder and neck. I have no idea if this will work, if the egg whites will go to waste and the pained muscle in my neck will be for nought. My body feels battered after the first attempt but I must try again. I am loathe to waste the egg whites aging in their compact container on my kitchen counter.
I am an impatient perfectionist. I have already tried this recipe and I barely whipped myself past the first step. Intense need drove me to embark on this potentially failed enterprise. I have yet to see one measly macaron in all of Halifax. Instead, for the last year I have sighed dramatically as I scrolled through countless pictures on the web and devised schemes to befriend and dazzle a Parisian into making or sending me just one package. I dutifully stored my spare egg whites in the freezer and longed for the day when I could make my very own macarons. I agonized over the flavours. Chocolate was enticing but also the most notoriously difficult. I was determined but not stupid (the whole impatient perfectionist thing can really bite me in the ass sometimes).
Why did I wait so long? Why did I torture myself with over a cookie (legendary, but still a cookie) that can be easily found in bakeries and pastry shops in Paris? Besides the obvious location problem I do not own an electric mixer. My reticence was completely unfounded. Thanks to the handy dandy internet I learned a couple of important things about whipping egg whites by hand:
1. Egg whites need air to whip. I tilted the bowl on its side to be able to properly toss the whites.
2. Whipping the egg whites properly literally takes only minutes. My first attempt found me uselessly whisking my eggs to no avail. If you leave the whisk pointed down and fail to incorporate sufficient air you’ll get nowhere except heaps of frustration.
If you follow these recommendations it takes minutes.
I often play around with recipes but if David Lebovitz had to make 7 batches to perfect his recipe I wasn’t going to mess around. I followed the recipe from seriouseats.com and didn’t change a thing. Now that I’m more comfortable with the process I don’t mind making adjustments. My strict adherence to the recipe did have one small change: I didn’t age the whites as long as Robyn Lee suggests, I let the whites reach room temperature and only let them sit for a couple of hours. Overnight seemed a bit excessive.
The Macarons Recipe
From Robyn Lee at seriouseats.com: posted October 24, 2007.
225 grams icing sugar
125 grams ground almonds
110 grams egg whites (about 4), aged overnight at room temperature
30 grams granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1. On three pieces of parchment, use a pencil to draw 1-inch (2.5 cm) circles about 2 inches apart. Flip each sheet over and place each sheet on a baking sheet. [Note: You only have to draw circles on the parchment paper if you want absolutely even-sized macarons. If you’re skilled with piping and don’t mind eyeballing the amount of batter per cookie, skip this step.]
2. Push almond flour through a tamis or sieve, and sift icing sugar. Mix the almonds and icing sugar in a bowl and set aside. If the mixture is not dry, spread on a baking sheet, and heat in oven at the lowest setting until dry. (note: I used the blender. I don’t have sieve. I apparently have the world’s worst equipped kitchen.)
3. In a large clean, dry bowl whip egg whites with salt on medium speed until foamy. Increase the speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar. Continue to whip to stiff peaks—the whites should be firm and shiny.
4. With a flexible spatula, gently fold in icing sugar mixture into egg whites until completely incorporated. The mixture should be shiny and ‘flow like magma.’ When small peaks dissolve to a flat surface, stop mixing.
4. Fit a piping bag with a 3/8-inch (1 cm) round tip. Pipe the batter onto the baking sheets, in the previously drawn circles. Tap the underside of the baking sheet to remove air bubbles. Let dry at room temperature for 1 or 2 hours to allow skins to form.
5. Bake, in a 160C/325F oven for 10 to 11 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to keep the oven door slightly ajar, and rotate the baking sheet after 5 minutes for even baking.
6. Remove macarons from oven and transfer parchment to a cooling rack. When cool, slide a metal offset spatula or pairing knife underneath the macaron to remove from parchment.
7. Pair macarons of similar size, and pipe about 1/2 tsp of the filling onto one of the macarons. Sandwich macarons, and refrigerate to allow flavors to blend together. Bring back to room temperature before serving.
The Icing: Creamy Mandarin and Rose
one tablespoon of quark*
juice and zest of one mandarin
teaspoon rose water
1. Cream quark and the juice and zest. Add icing sugar and mix until no longer runny but not too stiff. Add the rosewater at the end.
I’m so sorry … I never measure the icing sugar, I just add until I get to a decent texture. You want to be able to spread it and not have it run off the side. That means it should run off the spoon or crack when you pull the spoon through it.
*Quark is a soft, unaged cheese that is not as creamy as cream cheese nor as dry as chevre. It’s kind of in the middle. It has an almost sweet and gentle flavour and it is my new favourite cheese.
For a perfect little saltiness I sprinkled a light dusting of sea salt on the icing before sandwiching the macarons. Yum.
A few things:
1. Macarons are amazing and I love them. They are perfect for the gluten-intolerant folks like myself.
2. They are not that hard to make. You should do it now!
3. If you peer closely you’ll see that only about half of my macarons have feet. I don’t care because it means I have to keep experimenting until their perfect. Oh well, I can handle that.