Macarons are in baking vogue right now. The crown jewel of french baking, they colourfully adorn pattisserie windows and counters in expensive department stores like edible rainbows. But you only have to do a quick 'macaron troubleshooting' google search to appreciate the gargantuan number of problems bakers face making macarons. Making macaron batter even has its own word-'macaronage' and macaron anatomy is more troublesome than Grey's.
I've tried to make them numerous times before- three times to be precise. I am not used to being a complete disaster in the kitchen and frankly my pride couldn't take another shambolic attempt. It was time to knuckle down to some macaron homework.
There are a number of great sites that I read and picked up hints and tips. I finally settled for the recipe on Bravetart. Stella has been named one of America's top pastry chefs by Food and Wine Magazine so clearly she has the credits behind her. But what I like about her even more than her training is that she takes a complete no nonsense approach to baking macarons. She rubbishes all the myths and murk behind macaron baking (like 'ageing' egg whites, letting them rest etc.) with her simple, easy to follow instructions. And her recipe 100% worked for me, a serial macaron killer.
I didn't add any colour or flavouring to the macarons this time because I wanted to appreciate the elementary aspects of the process first. This batch isn't perfect; I think it needed a little more mixing but I can't wait to experiment with colours and flavours now that I feel a (little) more confident about the basics.
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This french buttercream is less tricky than the illustrious swiss meringue buttercream but just as silky smooth and decadent.
2 egg yolks
85g caster sugar
4 tablespoons of water
150g unsalted butter softened and cubed
2 tablespoons of dark coffee
1. Beat egg yolk briefly with an electrical beaters until light in colour.
2. Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and melt over a gentle heat. Do not boil. When melted bring rapidly to the boil and boil until the syrup reaches 110oC/225oF on a sugar thermometer. If you don't have a thermometer then test the syrup by flicking a string of it into a bowl of cold water. When you attempt to pick it back out it should form a 'ball' between your fingers that is soft- this is aptly named 'soft ball stage'. This will take 2-3 minutes approx.
3. While beating the egg pour in the syrup in a gentle stream. Beat for 4-5 minutes until the mixture becomes very thick and completely cold.
4. Gradually beat in the softened butter cube by cube and beat for another 2-3 minutes until there are no lumps. Add the coffee and beat for another minute.