Ever since having the macarons from Big Joy Family Bakery and Cafe, they’ve been on my brain nonstop. Okay, maybe me and Canine Cologne have been on a Happy Happy Joy Joy kick lately but can you really blame us? Anyway, the Mister said I have that “obsessive” look in my eyes. I have no idea what he’s talking about. So my current obsession, I mean, uh, “focus” has really been about making macs at home. Come on, this is CAB Cooks after all, right? So after some research, I picked a couple of recipes to try as well as a new book (which I’ll post on a later date). I decided to try a French meringue method first over the Italian meringue method even though mixing would be the challenging part. Italian meringue method requires melting sugar and water then adding the molten sugar to whipped-egg mixture. This method is the most forgiving as far as mixing but then I’d have to deal with a candy thermometer and an extra step. I figured maybe another time after I’ve had some success with Parisian macarons or if that just completely failed.
So which recipe did I decide to cut my teeth on? Red Velvet of course! There are a few variations of red velvet but they all pretty much have the same basic ingredients: sugar/confectioners sugar, egg white, almond flour, cocoa powder and red food coloring. The one I chose to try first is a recipe from Stuart’s Bakery in Vancouver, BC. It’s actually a chocolate macaron but it’s suppose to taste like red velvet. Well sure, red velvet has cocoa powder in it. The Stuart’s Bakery recipe can be found on Follow Me Foodie. I pretty much followed the recipe. I figured that was the best way to go since this was the first try. That way I can learn from it and make adjustments. Hey, this could be the start of my “machronicles”!
I was going to buy some almond flour but since I had 2 lbs of raw almonds already on hand, I decided to just make my own. The almonds were $3.99/lb where almond flour can cost up to $11/lb. So I’m saving a bit of money by grinding my own. I blanched about 3 cups almonds in boiling water for 60 seconds. Then rinsed under cold water and then I started popping the almonds out of the outer peels. Easy but a little time consuming. I just did all this while watching one of my recorded TV show. I let them dry overnight which was way more time than I really needed, usually a couple of hours would have done the trick. I used the Vitamix to do grinding since it does a better job at making nut flour than the food processor.
As far as the egg whites, I had frozen egg whites that I was saving for an angle food cake. This would actually be an interesting test since these whites have been in the freezer for a few months now. I thought they might actually be good for macarons since they are “aged” whites. So I weighed out enough for one batch in the fridge for a couple of days. I also separated out some egg whites using eggs in the fridge that were getting close to their carton date just in case the defrosted whites resulted in disaster or something. Well it turns out the frozen egg whites worked just fine, which is awesome.
I read somewhere that chocolate macarons without any food coloring tends to bake up gray. But since I was planning on adding (a lot of) red food coloring, I wasn’t too worried about the color. I was going to use red food gel but since the recipe called for the standard, so I went with that. Although much less is needed with gel, I can pick up regular food coloring at my grocery store. I settled on a red that is similar to red velvet cake batter which was about half the bottle.
The one thing I kind of overdid was the folding. Several recipes called for mixing rather than folding the dry ingredients into the whipped egg white. Stuart’s recipe called for “gentle” folding. I kind of did in-between until I got what others called the “magma” state. It’s suppose to create ribbons, which is what I got. The macaron book I have said to mix it for no more than 5 minutes. Huh?? Okay, I can’t imagine how runny that would have been in this case. First lesson learned: too much deflation from too much folding and mixing. I counted about 50 folds/mixes so next time I’m going to cut back on the folding and see what results. Overworking the mixture will result in flat shells, which is what happened.
Piping the shells was a little harder since the batter was a bit runny. I read that the perfect batter should just start to run out of the piping tip when the bag was full. Well mine was running out like magma almost as quickly as I was filling the bag. The texture also made piping even-sized shells a little more difficult. But most of them turned out round-ish. They sat and rested for about 30 minutes before I put the first tray in a preheated 325 degrees F oven. I was quite excited to see “feet” developing. Rotated about half way through baking.
As far as baking, I checked at 8 minutes time and did the “wobble” test. That’s when you gently touch the top and wiggle it back and forth GENTLY. If there’s a slight wobble to it, they need to bake for at least another 4 minutes. I also noticed that one of the shell was starting to crack a bit on top. I read that cracking is usually due to the oven being too hot. So I dialed back the temp to 322 degrees F.
I kept the oven light on so I can keep an eye out on them. So total bake time was around 13 minutes. Pulled it out and let them cool. Then I put the second tray in, which meant the second tray had an extra 13 minutes of resting (~43-45 minutes). I think the second tray turned out better than the first one and I’m guessing the extra rest time is what did it. The outside of the unbaked shell probably got a bit firmer so the shell was able rise a little more during baking. Second lesson learned, let them rest longer than shorter.
When I removed the first batch of shells off the parchment paper, although none stuck, there were some residue on my spatula. Hmm. They were also very brittle and hard to handle without cracking the outside. Double hmm. When I turned one over, I realized that some of them were slightly under baked. Since the second batch was still in the oven (with the adjusted temp at 323 degrees F), I decided to do the wobble test at 10 minutes, which I determined (guessed really) that it should go for another 5 minutes, which turned out to be just right. So third lesson learned, bake it to the minimum time that the recipe calls for and use my best judgement. Oh and there’s another lesson in here. I’ve read that some chefs will pour cold water into the pan to help release the shells from the pan. Not necessary if the shells are baked to the proper time. They come up just fine.
Here’s a shot of the underside from both batch.
As you can see in this photo, the one on the left was the under baked one and the one on the right was from the second batch and was just right.
I used a simple cream cheese frosting for the filling since I was going for a traditional red velvet taste. I creamed 4 oz of cream cheese and 4 oz of unsalted butter (both at room temperature), then added 2 1/2 cups of confectioners sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. This was still way too much filling for 27 macarons so I will cut the recipe in half next time. The filling was a little stiff so next time I’m going to add a teaspoon of milk to help lighten it up a little. It didn’t help that the macarons’ surface were a bit fragile and was cracking at even the most gentle of pressure. I did read from Follow Me Foodie’s article that this recipe lacks the harder surface like some other macarons.
Although the recipe didn’t call for letting the macarons sit overnight, I read that they taste better the next day or even 3-4 days later. So we waited. Just kidding. I had to try one at least to know what it tastes like the first day for comparison. Right, I did it for comparison only purposes. Overall taste was really good, even better the next day and the next. The outer shell was delicately crisp and the inside had a wonderful chew. By the third day, the outer part got a bit firmer and it was still chewy on the inside. The flavors actually kind of melded together even more and really tasted like a red velvet cookie. Last lesson learned from this session, keep grubby fingers away for at least 24 hours before eating the macs. I actually had some Big Joy Family Bakery macarons on hand so I decided to do a side-by-side taste test between their red velvet and mine.
Okay so mine isn’t as cute or puffy as the bought ones but the flavor is pretty damn good. I’ll just have to work on the shells.
The Mister said he’d pay money for mine so there you go. BTW, these can keep in the fridge for up to a week or frozen for up to 3 months. Just thaw for 30 minutes before serving.
Postscript: Check here for an updated recipe.