Pleased with how my first batch of macarons turned out (you can read about it here), I decided to make some more. The actual second attempt was a recipe from Mad About Macarons! (by Jill Colonna) but I want to focus more on the modified version of Stuart’s Bakery recipe that I used in the first batched. To help keep things straight (at least in my brain), I am labeling this modified version as 1.2 since Stuart’s was the first recipe I tried (the “1″) and the second attempt (the “.2″). We loved the taste and the chewiness of those but I wanted a crispier outer shell. I compared Stuart’s recipe to other recipes and noticed that Stuart’s use less sugar, almost as much as 35g less. I was wondering if that was the reason why the outer part was so delicate. So I decided to adjust the sugars to test out my theory.
Before I get to the modified version, let me just touch quickly upon my first Jill Colonna’s Mad About Macarons! recipe attempt (which of course will be v2). I followed the chocolate recipe exactly (which happens to have the exact ingredients as Stuart’s recipe, just different amounts). A couple of things went wrong in this batch. First, I did not deflate the batter enough, which was too thick and turned out to be the ugliest looking macs I’ve ever seen. The batter, after piping, did not flatten out to a nice smooth surface. The peaks were standing firm so I used a damp finger to try to flatten the tops a bit. Of course I didn’t do this fast enough and some of them were already starting to dry some had funny bumps on top after baking. The under-mixing also left too much air, which is what I think caused some hollowed cookies. The second thing that went wrong was that I did not pulse the almond flour, powdered sugar and cocoa in the food processor before mixing and I didn’t sift. So the texture of the cookies were not as smooth as the first batch. I used liquid food coloring like I did the first batch but halved the amount. The lighter pink was cute but the surface was rather dull and lumpy.
You can see how fugly the finished macarons turned out. I do like the shape of the hearts though. Oh yeah, I got feet! At this point, I’m convinced that as long as the piped batter is allowed to rest and develop the outer crust, feet will develop.
As far as taste, the Mister liked these more than I did. These were way sweeter than the Stuart’s version (given that it did have more sugar) and tasted less like red velvet. Not bad but a tad too sweet for me. I do like the crispier and more hearty outer shell of these though. If I could get the outer shells on the Stuart’s macarons like this, then we would have a winner.
So now my modified version of Stuart’s recipe. I wanted to start off slowly on the sugar adjustment. I decreased the powdered sugar and increased the regular (superfine) sugar by 5g each. Although weight is identical, the total amount of sugar exchange isn’t exactly equal since powdered sugar is anywhere from 3-5% cornstarch. So the increase in sugar is 3-5% of 5g. Negligible in my mind. But this might tell me if powdered sugar vs. superfine sugar makes a difference in the final product.
Here is the egg whites after adding the food color gel and you can see a bit of the stiff peaks in the center. It took about 8-9 drops of red food color gel to get to this color. The final color is actually darker after sitting for a while. Kind of reminds me of how color changes when using it in fondant. Anyway…
I counted the amount of folding this time and at about 50 folds, the batter was still quite thick so I’m guessing I used a much more delicate folding technique than the first go-around. It took another 7-8 good folds before I got to the nice smooth and glossy “magma” stage. Here’s a little tip if you don’t know it. Use a tall container to hold the piping bag while filling it. I usually use my hand but I find it much easier to go this route with thinner batters. See how the color has gotten darker in just that short amount of time? Weird, huh?
I tried two different kind of piping techniques. One was off to the side but that was the least successful at making nice rounds. What worked best for me was going from the top and piping straight down.
Here are the first batch out of the oven, cooled and waiting to be filled. Ah, much better looking than the first batch and bigger feet too! I like the deep red but I think I prefer the more vibrant red from the liquid food color.
The outer crust was a bit thicker although it was still not anywhere near where I would like it. Some of the cookies turned out hollow. I’ve read that it could be due to over-mixed egg whites to not enough deflating of the batter (aka, too much air bubbles). So I’ll have to try to figure out what’s causing that
Oops, my finger schmooshed the top of this one. Guess I’ll have to eat it.
The inside is nice and chewy and the flavor is dead on red velvet. This batch is actually chewier than v1 so I’m wondering if the increased of sugar and decrease of powdered sugar had something to do with that. Further testing will be needed.
I’m waiting to see if the outer shell will firm up more after a couple of days in the fridge. The Mister says he likes the taste of these but prefers the “crunchiness” of the Colonna version. What I might try next is adjusting the sugar of Colonna’s recipe to see if I can get it to taste more like red velvet.
So lessons learned to this point:
- Always blend the almond flour, powdered sugar and cocoa together in a food processor and sift.
- Do a test dollop of the batter to check for consistency before bagging.
- Test for firmness before baking.
- Both gel and liquid food coloring work, but I like the more vibrant red from the food coloring liquid.
- 200g Confectioners (powdered) sugar
- 125g almond flour/meal
- 10g cocoa powder
- 100g eggs white (aged and at room temperature)
- 35g superfine sugar
- Red food coloring (optional)
- Pulse Confectioners sugar, almond flour and cocoa powder in a food processor until everything is well combined. Sift ingredients into separate bowl.
- With a hand mixer (or electric mixer), whip egg whites at medium speed. When the egg whites are very foamy, start adding the sugar very slowly while continuing to beat the whites. Once all the sugar has been added, continue beating the whites to firm peak stage. Add red food coloring (if using). Beat until just at stiff peak stage (see Notes below). Don’t overmix the whites.
- Add the sifted dry ingredients to the egg whites in 2 batches. Fold the dry ingredients into the egg whites after each addition using a rubber spatula to mix until the ingredients are completely incorporated. Continue to fold the batter until the batter is smooth and has a bit of sheen to it. Be careful not to overmix the batter. You can do a test by piping a small round on a plate and if a small beak remains after piping, fold the batter a couple times more. If the batter forms a round cap but doesn’t run, it is ready.
- Place batter in a piping bag and pipe out 1-inch rounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone mat. Leave about 1-inch of space between each round. Let rest for minimum of 45 minutes (up to 2 hours) at room temperature. The outer part of the shells will be firm. Also make sure the sides of the shells are also firm. This will help with feet development.
- Preheat oven to 325°F while the shells are resting.
- Place one baking sheet on center rack of the oven and bake between 14-18 minutes at 320°F. Rotate half way through baking. Check shells at the 14-minute mark for doneness by doing the “wobble test.” Gently touch the top of a shell with index finger and wiggle it back and forth GENTLY. If there’s a slight wobble to it, bake for another 2-3 minutes. Remember that larger shells will need to bake longer.
- Let the shells cool on the sheet pan. Remove shells gently with a spatula. Put a dollop of cream cheese frosting or other desired filling on top of half the cookie. Then top with another shell to complete macaron.