Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Macaron Milestone

Back at school and you know what? It's good to be here. I never expected it to feel so much like home. But today I want to talk about a big step in my baking adventures that occurred right before I left for school: I made macarons. 

These are not to be confused with macaroons, which are those coconutty things (also delicious). Macarons have a sweet, airy shell of powdered sugars, nuts, and egg whites, and fillings range from buttercream to chocolate ganache. 

So the fact that this happened may not seem like a big deal to you, but macarons are notoriously difficult to work with. Honestly, I was a little bit scared. But browsing a blog I follow, I found a recipe I couldn't resist. So I took a chance, knowing they might not turn out at all, but that would be okay. It's all part of the learning experience. 

And you know what? They turned out beautifully. I'm not going to lie, they weren't easy, but I felt so empowered by the end. I kinda feel like I can do anything now. So lesson of the day is, take a chance on something that's maybe a little risky. It could be wonderful. 

Grapefruit and White Chocolate Macarons, adapted from Desserts for Breakfast
(Note: If you have a kitchen scale, go for the grams measurements. I'm sure they'll turn out better that way. I, uh, estimated. There are converters online.)
for macaron shells:
200 gr powdered sugar
120 gr blanched and slivered almonds
2 heaping Tbspn freshly grated grapefruit zest
1 or 2 drops red food coloring
30 gr granulated sugar
100 gr egg whites, aged 1-2 days at room temperature or a week in the refrigerator, at room temp
1/4 tspn cream of tartar

1. Prepare two baking sheets lined with silpats or parchment paper and a pastry bag with a large round piping tip.
2. Combine the powdered sugar, almonds, grapefruit zest, in a food processor and grind until a fine powder. 
4. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the egg whites, cream of tartar, and food coloring. Using an electric mixer, quickly stir the mixture until the entire surface is covered with foam. Then, start whisking the egg whites, gradually adding in the granulated sugar. Whisk until you reach glossy, almost-stiff peaks.
5. Gently fold the sifted almond and powdered sugar mixture into the egg whites in three to four stages, just until the ingredients are incorporated and the batter slowly re-absorbs peaks.
6. Transfer the macaron mixture to the prepared piping bag and pipe rounds on to the lined baking sheets. Tap the baking sheets on the table a few times to release air pockets.
7. Rest the macarons for at least 30 minutes (and up to 60), until the outside shells are no longer tacky and sticky to a light touch.
8. Preheat oven to 290 degrees F, with the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven.
9. Bake the macarons in the oven, one sheet at a time, for 24-28 minutes total, rotating the sheet half-way through the baking time to insure even baking.
10. Remove from oven and let cool.

for grapefruit curd:
1/4 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
2 Tbspn cold water
3 Tbspn corn starch
1/8 tspn salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 Tbspn butter, at room temperature
2-3 drops red food coloring
3/4 cup boiling water
freshly grated zest of one medium-sized grapefruit

1. In a saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Gradually blend in the cold water and grapefruit juice.
2. Add the egg yolks, butter, and food coloring, blending until smooth.
3. Gradually add in the boiling water, stirring constantly.
4. Place the saucepan on medium high heat and bring to a full boil, stirring gently with a spatula and scraping the bottom (to prevent burning). Once the mixture begins to thicken, reduce the heat and simmer for one minute.
5. Remove the curd from heat and mix in the grapefruit zest. Let cool and then use to fill macarons.

for white chocolate buttercream:
1 stick butter, at room temperature
6 oz. white chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
1/2 - 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

1. In a mixer bowl with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until fluffy.
2. Add the melted and cooled white chocolate to the butter and mix to combine.
3. Gradually add the powdered sugar until the frosting is the desired consistency. Use immediately to fill the macarons.

Once the macarons are filled, place them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for ~24 hours to "cure" and reach the height of their flavor.

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