I have this urge to attempt macarons over the weekend; and decided to try the Chocolate Macarons since I have a packet of Valrhona Cocoa Powder for quite sometime.
As I was preparing all the ingredients, I realised then why macarons are so expensive at patisseries; they really require much effort and patience! And they really are temperamental.
First, it was the ground almonds to be sifted then weigh in. Although Phoon Huat sells extra fine ground almonds, they are still not fine enough for macarons. Luckily I have a food chopper so could grind the powder further for sifting. I think I sifted the ground almonds at least 2 times to make sure the coarse bits were not in the mixture. Icing sugar also needs to be sifted carefully, before weigh in. And finally combining these with egg whites to form stiff paste which was quite hard to manage.
The crucial part is the meringue. For this recipe, Chef Joycelyn uses the Italian meringue method, that is, addition of very hot sugar syrup into the egg white foam to stabilise it. Apparently, this method produces more consistent results then using powdered egg white or through 'aging' the egg whites.
The method calls for bringing a sugar-water mixture to boil till firm ball stage (using candy thermometer) and simultaneously whisk the egg white till stiff peaks form. Once egg whites are ready, and sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature, pour the hot sugar syrup into the whisked egg whites. Finally beat the meringue till very firm and glossy like marshmallow, and cooled to room temperature, then add the nut mixture.
Alas, my sugar syrup reached the firm ball stage much earlier than the egg whites reached the stiff peaks form! Then while I was trying to speed up the mixer, the sugar syrup temperature shot up to hard ball stage. That was it, I had to discard the sugar syrup and start over. Luckily have yet to add the other ingredients, otherwise would have wasted my tedious process of sifting the ground almonds and icing sugar.
Anyway, the merinue turned out quite well after the second attempt on the sugar syrup. After folding the meringue into the nut mixture, for a moment I was quite worried coz the consistency seemed quite thick. Luckily after folding well enough, seemed to be quite ok. But piping was another challenging task. I think I sucked at piping, some of the macarons turned out too big and some too flat. LOL. Ok, more practise needed. Was pleased to see a skin formed after letting the batter rest in air-con room for a while. Then, ready to bake!
My macarons had feet! My macarons had feet! LOL! Supposedly characteristic of a good macaron. I was really happy to see that the macarons had quite a smooth domed top and a 'frilling skirting' around the bottom, know as the 'foot'. The crust was like delicately thin whereas interior moist and chewy! Just thought that the macarons were a little flat. (I think I banged the tray too many times while trying to get rid of trapped air. LOL). Nevertheless, I was elated that my first attempt turned out ok.
One thing though, I only had 1 large and 1 half size Silpat mats, whereas the batter could fill at least 3 trays of macarons. No choice but to leave the batter (without piping) till I finished baking and cooling the first 2 batches. Somehow, the acidity or air changed the properties of the batter and subsequent 2 trays turned out with cracked surfaces and no feet :( Now I know. Ok, need to get more Silpat mats (hint: my birthday is coming. LOL!)
My chocolate macarons turned out relatively pretty, I think.
The Araguani 72% dark chocolate ganache was so rich and intense!
Didn't have time to let the ganache reach piping consistency, so the ganache was a little runny still. The innards was almost flowing out.
With this experience, I believe I am ready to attempt other flavours as well as to try other meringue methods like Chef Keiko's. And picky hubby thought nothing much about my chocolate macarons and said he only like Ispahan - the LV of macarons (rose buttercream with fresh rasberry, lychee in lovely pink shell) =.=" That, is a big challenge, my dear. But I shall attempt it one day!