Indeed, the class had 4 classic pieces of patisserie planned - chocolate financiers, opera gateau, mille-feuille and chocolate macarons. Sounds ambitious?
We were divided into 4 groups and each made one of these and were to discuss the recipes during the lunch. I was in the macaron group and tried to look at what all the others did as well, but was a bit disappointed that there was only time for one recipe. Never mind. Still, couldn't quite see what the fuss was about, the macarons were very straight forward.
We tried out all the resulting puddings and I was so heavily overdosed on chocolate, I've no trouble looking at the Nutella jar and resisting it. Hard to believe indeed.
Still, I picked up lots of useful tips, and I'm planning to try out all four recipes before Christmas. This week-end I wanted to do the macarons, because they ran out in the tasting session and there weren't any to take home.
Well, there is certainly a reason to fuss - I failed miserably. I had to cook them for almost twice the time an still they were undercooked. I wonder if it could be because I have a gas oven which has a moist heat, whereas at the school we baked in an electric oven which has dry heat. I asked Ghalid about this and he said it shouldn't be any difference. But I'll have to experiment. Some recipes I came across ask for higher oven temperature, might try that as well.
I made two lots - one with cocoa, one with rose water. The cream is enough for both.
110 g icing sugar
50 g ground almonds
12 g cocoa powder or cornflour
2 medium egg whites at room temperature
40 g caster sugar
1 tbsp rose water (if using cornflour instead of cocoa)
2-3 drops of red food colouring (if using rose water)
2 medium eggs
1 medium egg yolk
110 g caster sugar
250 ml milk
15 g cornflour
10 plain flour
125 unsalted butter at room temperature
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp rose water
2-3 drops of red food colouring
- Make the cream first by whisking eggs, egg yolk, cornflour, flour and half of the sugar until the mixture is fluffy and pale.
- Bring the milk and the rest of the sugar to the boil in a pan large enough to take the egg mixture as well. As the milk is heating up, pour a few tablespoons into the egg mixture while still whisking to temper it.
- Pour the tempered egg mixture into the milk and keep stirring energetically until the custard heats up. Let it cook for a few minutes, stirring all the time, so that it doesn't burn.
- Remove from the heat and add one third of the butter an whisk in well. Then cover with cling film straight onto the surface to prevent a skin forming and leave to cool.
- When the custard has cooled completely, divide in two. Add 1 tbsp cocoa powder to one half and stir well. Add 1 tbsp rose water and the food colouring to the second half, stirring them in well.
- Divide the remaining soft butter in two and stir in into each half. Cover with cling film again and store in the fridge.
- Sift separately the icing sugar and the almonds and the cocoa powder, then mix together well.
- Beat the egg whites to soft peak stage, then add the caster sugar slowly while beating until the meringue is smooth, but not too dry.
- Add the almond mixture and fold it in carefully. Leave to stand for 30 minutes in room temperature. Skip this rest if you're in a hurry.
- Pipe small blobs, about the size of a macadam nut onto a tray lined with baking parchment. When the tray is full, lift it about 5 cm from the work top and drop it. Repeat a couple of times. this makes the macarons take shape and flatten. Leave to stand for at least 30 minutes. Do not skip the resting this time, it is very important for the macarons. The mixture should give at least 40 macarons.
- Preheat the oven at 140 degrees (gas mark 1). Bake the macarons for precisely 15 minutes, then take out and leave to cool completely.
- In the mean time, take out the mousseline cream from the fridge and stir it to soften it up.
- Prise off from the baking parchment and turn half of the macarons upside-down. Pipe some cream on each of the upside-down macarons, then press the others on top, to form a sort of hamburger.
For some reason my macarons didn't bake properly and when I tried to prise them off, the bottoms stuck to the parchment. I'd baked them for about 30 minutes already, so I suspect I might need to increase the temperature at my next attempt.
The idea was to have the chocolate macarons with the chocolate mousseline cream and the rose water macarons with the rose water mousseline cream. The creams worked out really well.
The rose water one was a bit grainy, but both tasted very nice.
The rose water macaron mixture went too runny, so I'll increase the amount of corn flour next time, it was difficult to pipe and the blobs ended up flowing into each other.
The chocolate macaron mixture felt a bit thick, but that may have been due to the very small nozzle I had to use, I only had that and an eclair sized one which I thought would be too big.
So after some 30 minutes of baking:
In theory, the mousseline should keep for a few days, so I'll get more ingredients and try again.
At the school we made only the chocolate version and then with a ganache cream, but the recipe for the mousseline is quite large, so I decided to use it instead, it feels a bit lighter too.
The main point on macarons is that they need to rest after having been piped and that the tray needs to be tapped to make them as flat as possible. They are very close to meringues and if they aren't flat, the steam inside will try to come out at the top and they will crack. If they are flat, the steam will exit around the edge. The baking time is crucial, the macarons need to be baked on top bottom to give the crunchiness, while remaining sticky in the middle.
So not so easy at all! I'll post a follow-up once I've worked out things for my oven.