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Belly button gazing: Part II

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What, did I think I was Frank Gehry with this architectural structure?
Macarons have been photographed from every angle and styled in all the different ways that I decided to just pile them together and capture whatever comes out of that, hence the strange sculpture you see here. Or maybe, I just didn't plan my composition...

I know these macarons aren't the colourful little things that they're supposed to be. I did add a touch of pink gel colouring to the batch but not enough obviously and some of the cookies were burnt, hence the orange tinge. But I'm happy to report that I finally got down to the task of making the cookies and am pretty happy that I did even if the result wasn't a complete success.

At the end of Part I, I had separated eggs and was ageing the whites to make them runnier, which would give them better volume when whisked. After doing the necessary ­­– and we'll get to that in a bit ­­– I put the tray in the oven, came back to check on the baking cookies a few minutes later and yelled like Hiro in Heroes. Only instead of "Yatta!", I shrieked, "FEET!" They also had lovely smooth rounded tops.

But as you can see from the picture above, I cut the feet from under the macarons. When I took them out of the oven after the specified time and the shells were firm, I found that the insides were still soft. So I turned them over, smooshing the insides up a little in the process. I tried to smooth out the dough with a palette knife and put the tray back into the oven, but the result was what you see on the right. This obviously requires further research.

The next time I make macarons, it will definitely be with small changes to the recipe. The cookies were extremely sweet on their own but with the pastry cream and raspberry jelly filling (not together; only three of each for the photo) they gave me a toothache.

Here are a few things to note.

Ground almonds
When I first read up about macarons, it was surprising to find that almond meal is not easily available in many countries. In Malaysia, however, baking supply shops sell little and big bags of ground almonds! But I give the meal another round in the food processor with some icing sugar to pulverise it.

Eggs by weight
Many recipes indicate the number of egg whites to use and unless the size of the eggs is indicated, large ones are usually used in recipes. However, after I found out last year that it can be painful for chickens to lay large eggs, I now only use medium free-range eggs and so I went by weight. Some recipes also give measurements by volume (cups).

How to age egg whites
The advice is to leave egg whites at room temperature overnight. In Malaysia where temperatures go beyond 27˚C/80˚F even at night, it isn't advisable to leave eggs out. It can, however, be done in the fridge, only it takes a bit longer. Here's what to do: Separate eggs and measure by weight or volume for the required quantity. Place egg whites in a small clean bowl and cover tightly with cling film. Poke a few holes in the cling film. Place bowl in the fridge and leave for three days.

I used the recipe from Joe Pastry. His measurements are in ounces but I have made the conversions and the metric quantities are given below. For what to do next, please visit his site. I followed his instructions to the letter and made 2 dozen 3.5cm cookies (though some were a bit wonky) for 12 sandwiches.

108 g blanched almonds (or almond meal)
198g icing sugar
99g egg white
50g caster sugar
Few drops colouring

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