I wrote this post with a big relieve in my heart, knowing that I could finally make a macaron, and not just any macaron, but macaron Pierre Herme style! I've always been shy away from this particular French goodie. When half of the world seems to be very enthusiastic and has been making what appears to be the most popular little snack in France, me on the other hand, are trying to make excuses not to follow the macaron trend.
I first knew about macarons about 2 years ago when I was reading lots of french blogs and all of them have at least posted one macaron post, all colorful and lined up like soldiers in a box. My eyes immediately drawn into these little things and I started to find out more about this jewel. I found so many tutorials on making macarons, temperature, humidity, consistency, aged egg whites, etc, and I thought, what could be so hard making a meringue cookie with only egg whites, sugar, and almond powder? It surely seemed simple enough for me at that time, but oh boy was I wrong. I tried one recipe from one french blog that I followed at that time. Her recipe seemed to be quite popular as many of other blogs followed her recipe, and she's using Italian Meringue method. My first attempt in this cookie was not love at first sight. It surely did not look anything like the picture in her blog, it has no "feet", it cracks, and most importantly, it was REALLY sweet, nothing close to what I was expecting, a wonderful taste that everyone praised for. I dumped all of them in the trash.
This is how I started my journey and curiosity for macarons. I read and read lots more blogs about macarons, and how I know that there are two methods, french meringue (FM) method, and italian meringue (IM) method . I tried a couple different recipes too from trusty blogs, from a japanese cookbook that I own and they're all using the FM method, which is easier. But none of them gave me a satisfactory result. They had feet, but they're not perfect, it didn't give me a straight frilly feet, but I think this because I folded the batter a little too much. The tops were not smooth, but this is because I was too lazy to sift them. I thought it's nearly impossible to sift ground almonds through my flour sifter because they will never go through. On my last attempt, I did pulse my almond powder even more with food processor and sifted it and the tops were smooth. Another problem is that they're too fragile, they have thin shells that cracks easily and still the worst problem, they're still REALLY sweet even after I reduced the sugar. I think I tried making macarons about 6 times and never really got a perfect macaron (that's why you never see them on my dessert table menu :D). Granted that I didn't really know how it supposed to taste like, I didn't know what a perfect macaron is, until I tasted one from Laduree (thanks to my sister in law who graciously shared her macarons with me). It was still sweet but not sickeningly sweet that it would hurt my teeth. They taste none like the ones I got from some French patisserie here, which were very sweet. So, I was determined once again to relive my excitement towards macarons.
When Valentine rolled around, I saw more and more macarons post and my hands were itchy to get into these little precious. Then I saw Veron's post on Pierre Herme's macarons, and bingo! She kindly posted PH original macaron recipe and I was so excited because it's very hard to find original professional pastry chef recipe in the web, especially when that pastry chef is Pierre Herme. I set aside special time for me to make this (which was on President's Day holiday) and not trying to multitask and making different things all at once (although, I did manage to make some pate sucree while waiting for the macarons to dry out :D). I sifted the almond powder 2-3 times and I followed the recipe to the T! I did have a feeling that it will still be super sweet by looking at the amount of sugar but I followed it anyway. I carefully placed the baking pan in the oven and trying not to stuck my nose in the window while it's baking., although I did that anyway on the 7th minutes and I almost jumped out of excitement when I saw that they're all have beautiful feet, the ones I've been looking for, and smooth tops! I tried to redeem my joy while cleaning up although I probably smile the whole time while doing this :D.
I didn't color the batter at all because I didn't know how they're gonna turn out. Now that I know they turned out wonderful, I can use all the color in the rainbow for my macarons. The most important thing is that they don't taste as sweet as the previous 6 batches I made in the past, although I think PH recipe has more sugar total, I'm wondering if this has anything to do with the IM method, hmm.... They're still sweet for my Asian taste, but not painfully sweet, and I think the sweetness it similar if not the same as the ones from Laduree.
The next challenge is making the perfect filling. I first tried making Pierre Herme's milk chocolate and passion fruit ganache but it didn't turn out quite well. I felt like the flavor of milk chocolate and passion fruit are fighting to overpower each other. So I decided to use more neutral flavor with white chocolate and make white chocolate passion fruit ganache. I also have dark chocolate nutella ganache that had been sitting in the fridge and they're perfect for macarons fillings! The slight bitterness from the dark choc ganache and the slight tartness from white chocolate passion fruit ganache balanced out and cut the sweetness of the macaron shell. I can't decide which one I like better, I think I like them both equally. They each have different characteristic, dark deep chocolate with slight hazelnut flavor versus sweet and tangy tropical passion fruit, hmmm......
My macarons may not be perfect yet, I still have a lot to learn and experiment but I consider this a milestone in my macaron journey! I'm excited to try different flavor and color combination and I'm already thinking deep purple blackcurrant, chocolate-mango, rose, pistachio, hazelnut, coffee, green tea, lemon, ahhh.. so many possibilities :)
Pierre Herme Macarons
Taken from www.kitchenmusing.com
150 grams almond powder
150 grams confectioners' sugar
56 grams fresh egg whites, room temperature
150 grams granulated sugar
38 grams water
56 grams old egg whites, room temperature
Sift the almond powder and confectioners' sugar together. Set aside.
Combine the granulated sugar and the water in a saucepan and cook until it reaches 245F. Don't stir the syrup as you will end up with crystallized mass.
Meanwhile, while the sugar is cooking, start whipping the aged egg white on medium speed until it forms a soft peak. When the sugar is ready, pour the cooked syrup in a steady stream over the meringue with the mixer running on slow. It will splatter, but don't try to scrape them into the meringue as you would get lumps. Increase the speed to high and continue beating until you have a stiff glossy meringue.
Mix the fresh egg white with the almond-sugar mixture and blend together. Fold in the meringue into this almond mixture in addition. Add about a third of the meringue and fold progressively, then proceed with another third of the meringue and fold it in. Don't overfold the batter as you would have a gloppy mess. Consistency is really important at this point, some people say that it should flow like a lava (I don't know how lava flows though). If you're not sure, try piping a little dollop and see if it leaves a peak that will not spread or if it spreads too fast. You should still see a little peak after you pipe, but the peak should disappear or almost disappear after you pipe a row of them.
Put the batter in a piping bag with round tip (I used a tip with approximately 9mm in diameter) and pipe the macaron batter on top of silpat or parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake at 325F for about 14-15 minutes. Once baked, slide the silpat or parchment paper onto a wire rack to cool slightly. Peel each macaron shell carefully.
You can fill them with ganache or flavored buttercream. Keep it in an airtight container in the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes to soften up before consuming.