French Macaron Baking Adventures, Part 17: Macaroons vs. Macarons

By Lisa Maliga, copyright 2017

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Before I decided on the title of my macaron baking book, I posted a couple of working titles on a writers’ group to get some input. In both examples, I used the word macaron. An English romance author informed me that the word was misspelled.  Other authors came to my defense and said that the topic I was writing about was indeed spelled with one o, not two.

Macaron is spelled correctly. Also, as it’s French, it’s pronounced mah-kah-ron. Whenever I see it with a double o, I think of the coconut cookies. I like coconut macaroons, but they’re a completely different cookie.

How? Here are some differences:

Coconut macaroons contain shredded coconut as a main ingredient.

Macarons are usually made with finely ground nuts, almond being the most commonly used.

Coconut macaroons can be plopped, scooped, or shaped with one’s hands.

Macarons require piping so they’re nice and round and the same size.

Egg whites for coconut macarons are only required to be room temperature.

Egg whites should be “aged” for about two days for French macarons as this helps get rid of moisture and makes them easier to whip.

Coconut macaroons don’t require almond flour or any type of sifting.

Almond flour should be sifted at least 3 times for smooth, shiny macaron shells.

Egg whites for coconut macaroons are only whipped to soft peak—this takes about 3 or 4 minutes.

Macarons require egg whites to reach stiff peaks—a process that takes about 10 minutes.

Coconut macaroons can go right into the oven as soon as they’re put on a cookie sheet.

Macarons need to rest after being piped. This takes anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours.

Coconut macaroons can be eaten right out of the oven.

Macarons taste better the next day after the filling has melded with the shells.

Coconut macaroons cost about $3 per dozen.

Macarons can cost up to $3 each.

Coconut macaroons come in only a few flavors and colors.

Macarons come in an array of flavors and colors.

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Mango Macarons
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Acai Macarons

Want to learn how to bake macarons? Read my book Baking French Macarons: A Beginner’s GuideAvailable in eBook [free with a Kindle Unlimited subscription] and paperback formats.

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Chocolate Espresso Ganache Filling Recipe

By Lisa Maliga, copyright 2017

I used to think that a ganache was something fancy that went on top of a cake or some type of fancy pastry. I knew it was made from chocolate, but that’s about all. If you’ve never made this lovely and decadent macaron filling, don’t worry, it’s very easy to make. You only need a few ingredients but you should get the best type of chocolate that you find appealing. For practice, use standard dark chocolate morsels that you may have in your pantry, but if you’re a chocoholic, add a 70% cacao content dark chocolate.

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Chocolate ganache just before going into a pastry bag

Chocolate Espresso Ganache Filling

Ingredients:

4 ounces heavy cream [120 grams]
4 ounces finely chopped dark chocolate [120 grams]
½ teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
½ teaspoon instant espresso

Put cream in microwave for about one minute until hot — NOT boiling. Pour over chocolate chunks. When melted add instant coffee and vanilla and whisk well until smooth. Let sit at room temperature for at least four hours or overnight. Cover with plastic wrap. Just before getting ready to use a spatula to scoop the ganache into a piping bag with large round tip.

This is a simple recipe to make and it will really perk up your macaron shells. The touch of espresso gives the chocolate more zing! I used my favorite brand of chocolate: Valrhona.

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Adding instant espresso to chocolate chunks

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Pour in your cream and vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

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Whisk ingredients together until you have a shiny chocolate ganache!
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Orange & chocolate mint macarons

Baking French Macarons A Beginner’s Guide

This recipe can be found in my book Baking French Macarons: A Beginner’s Guide. Available in eBook [free with a Kindle Unlimited subscription] and paperback formats.

 

 

Baking French Macarons: A Beginner’s Guide – Yes YOU Can Bake French Macarons!!!

By Lisa Maliga, Copyright 2016

Baking French Macarons A Beginner’s GuideWhat started my love of macarons was a quirky romance novella I wrote called Sweet Dreams. The main character is a romance author/baker. Although the macarons aren’t mentioned at the beginning of the story, those tempting petite cookies have a costarring role. During the writing of the ebook, I got obsessed with macarons. I read several cookbooks on how to make them, visited numerous websites, and sampled quite a few tasty macarons. I bought some online and tried some from various bakeries. They ranged from mediocre to heavenly.

It was a tough job, but I gutted [pun intended!] my way through it.

When macarons appeared in another story, they played a starring role in Macarons of Love [The Yolanda’s Yummery Series, book 4]. I watched more how to make macaron baking videos. And I finally began baking on a quest to bake the perfect batch of macarons.

My first batch looked like this: mymacs3

One of my more recent attempts is on the cover.

My theory is this – if someone who’s never held a pastry bag in their hands or made buttercream frosting/filling can bake macarons, don’t you think you can, too?

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French Macaron Baking Adventures, Part 15: Lemon Butter Curd Macarons

By Lisa Maliga, copyright 2016

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You’ve heard of lemon curd and lemon butter, right? In fact, there are two types of lemon butter, one edible, the other that can be spread on your skin as it’s made with lemon peel and lemon oil, sweet almond oil, and hydrogenated vegetable oil. How do I know this? I’ve spent 10+ years in the kitchen formulating the perfect whipped shea body butter and I’ve tried all kinds of butters and oils. But I digress, this is about real dairy butter that goes inside those lovely macaron shells.

This time when I made my lemon buttercream filling, I didn’t use any cream. I blended room temperature butter with the powdered sugar [a/k/a confectioners’ sugar or icing sugar]. I looked in the fridge and saw that the heavy whipping cream was a day away from expiring. Not wanting to take a chance, I decided to add the lemon curd. I added just the right amount to make it much tarter than in the past. Before, it was a sweet lemon. Now, it was a sweet and tart lemon and the vanilla bean paste helped perk up the flavor even more. So it was still a curd and there was that lovely fresh Plugra butter so why not call it butter curd? I also enhanced the color with yellow gel colorant.

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Lemon Butter Curd Filling

Admittedly, I have problems with hollow macaron shells. While some people might not like to bite into a big air pocket, others aren’t as fussy. I’m a perfectionist and didn’t like them, although I’d rather they were hollow than footless! But this time I had fewer hollows. Here’s the proof:

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Fewer hollows inside the macaron. Yes, the bright yellow lemon curd is almost the color of mustard. 

Since July, there have been a couple of baking changes. The first is that the oven maintains an even temperature. Secondly,  I’m using powdered colorants which means I mix the batter well, but not too well.

I’m also adding the powdered colorant to the triple-sifted almond flour/sugar mixture just before it goes into the meringue. For this lemony batch, I went au naturel and used turmeric. The resulting color wasn’t a bright yellow and the photos make it look tanner than it actually was. The truest color is that seen with the almost hollow-free macaron just above.

I’m working on a new eBook that will contain macaron recipes along with LOTS of helpful tips for making your own French macarons. Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to baking another batch of minty macarons this week.

Want to make this recipe and many others? Check out my new book, BAKING FRENCH MACARONS: A BEGINNER’S GUIDE.

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French Macaron Baking Adventures, Part 12: Blueberry Macarons

By Lisa Maliga, copyright 2016

 

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Blueberry macaron with homemade blueberry preserves

I baked two batches of blueberry macarons last month and achieved different results. This was the first time I used a natural powdered colorant. With this type of color, you’ll need to use a bit more of it if you want a vibrant color.

 

The powdered colorant can be added during the meringue process or can be blended in advance with the almond flour/powdered sugar mixture.

Recipe #1 contained blueberry ganache filling. Even adding more cooked blueberries didn’t help as it still tasted like white chocolate. The color was a medium shade of blue.

Another change was the oven. I baked the macarons in a smaller counter top model. The oven reached the temperature in a short time, and it was properly calibrated. The problem was there were only 2 racks and 2 levels. That meant the tray levels were either too close to the top or lower heating elements. I put my first tray on the bottom level and shielded it with an empty cookie sheet to prevent further browning. Also, all shells were baked on parchment paper covered trays.

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Light blue blueberry macaron shells just out of the oven

The results of blueberry batch #1 featured browner than blue shells. The color of the blueberry ganache was lovely but only adding a fresh blueberry in the center gave the macaron any real blueberry flavor.

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Blueberry ganache filling with a ripe blueberry

For batch #2, I used the quick ‘n’ easy method for making preserves. I pulverized 8 ounces of fresh blueberries with a potato masher as I didn’t want to get the food processer dirty and have to wash it. Then I added more than a cup of granulated sugar, stirred at a rolling boil and preserved it with liquid pectin. I followed a recipe in a book for baking cupcakes and the amount of pectin was far too much. I’ll be making this batch again with less pectin and see how it works. Too much pectin makes it more difficult to pipe.

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Resting macaron shells on a silpat–darker blue than batch #1

More of the powdered blue colorant was used and I mixed it into the almond flour/powdered sugar mixture. The standard oven was used so the results were slightly better because I used the middle rack. However, I shielded each batch by putting an empty a cookie sheet in the rack above it. That meant the temperature never reached 350—instead it averaged 335. So, while the macarons have feet and aren’t burned, they are as hollow as most of my other batches.

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Out of the oven and bluer than the first blueberry batch

I also used only silicone mats to see if there was any difference. I prefer them because it’s usually easier to remove the macaron shells.

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Homemade blueberry preserves for the filling

The second batch tasted better, more like a true blueberry macaron.

 

 

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A box of blueberry macarons
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Tea and macarons!

Stay tuned for another macaron baking adventure soon!

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French Macaron Baking Adventures, Part 11: Blackberry Macaron Blues

By Lisa Maliga, copyright 2016

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Blackberry buttercream is purple but the shells aren’t!

I’ve got the blackberry macaron blues. I’ve tried twice and both times the shell color isn’t blue, isn’t purple, isn’t black. I wanted “Purple Rain” colored macarons. I love that color. I love that Prince was fond of royal purple. The bottle of gel colorant is that hue. But the results are quite different.

I got the purple buttercream that I wanted. However, by using a violet mica colorant, the shells aren’t purple. Mica colorants are used for soap crafting but the ingredients aren’t harmful as they’re derived from minerals. I was doing this as an experiment and there were no negative results — just a lack of purple!

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Purple mica colorant

 

The purple mica has a sheen to it—which is what makes the soap sparkle a bit but won’t do that to a macaron shell.

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Purple soap colored with mica. The flecks are real 24K gold leaf

For my second attempt I used a purple gel colorant for the shells. After separating my egg whites and placing them on the counter to age overnight, I emptied out the piping bag with the purple buttercream filling into a mixing bowl. The blackberry jam tasted no different from the strawberry jam I used in my first buttercream. I figured adding fresh blackberries would change the taste. All I did was cook the blackberries in a tiny bit of water and mash up the berries. Then I strained them, poured the seedless remainders into the buttercream, and mixed it with a mixer for several minutes. It was loosely incorporated. But 24 hours later you can see how it’s separating. The resulting mess looks curdled but it’s not. This time the fresh blackberries can be tasted. But the macarons are messy to eat!

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Blackberry buttercream filling
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The separation of buttercream and blackberries seen here

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The above photo shows drops of blackberry juice. Maybe someone can use this idea for Halloween if you want a blood theme, just use fresh blackberries–or raspberries!

Next week I’ll test a fantastic new fruity macaron recipe and a brand new type of colorant!

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French Macaron Baking Adventures, Part 10: Double Cherry Macarons

By Lisa Maliga, copyright 2016

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Double Cherry French Macaron

It’s spring — a perfect time to bake pink macarons. I’ve made strawberry macarons, but not cherry, so that’s what I baked on Tuesday. I got the idea a few weeks ago after baking a batch of chocolate cherry cupcakes. Since there was extra cherry buttercream frosting, I double wrapped it in a Ziploc bag and put it in the freezer.

Before baking the double cherry macarons, I unfroze the frosting and removed it from the piping bag with the large star tip, which isn’t ideal for piping the filling. I put the contents in a bowl, poured in some heavy cream, and finely chopped up a couple of maraschino cherries. It was a sweeter contrast with the natural cherry fruit spread I’d used, plus the color was even pinker. I spooned it into a smaller piping bag with a round tip.

I was also going to be using eggs that had been resting for almost 48 hours, so I’d see if there was a difference between older eggs and overnight eggs.

Even though I’d had the gel colorant mishap the week before, I had to use a magenta gel colorant if I wanted pretty pink macarons.

At least the filling was already made and at room temperature. Also, I was going to use my new 3-quart stainless steel bowl. The last time I’d had to transfer the batter from a small bowl to a larger bowl before adding the second half of the almond flour/sugar mixture.

After the green colorant fiasco, I only added 2 drops of the magenta colorant. All was going well – the bowl was the right size, the color was bright enough, and I piped 66 shells on 3 separate baking sheets.

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Freshly piped macarons

There were very few mishaps and with each batch, right around the six-minute mark, I saw the formation of feet! Also, I didn’t notice any difference in the macarons due to the age of the eggs.

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Macaron shells cooling off

The macarons rested for a little while before being filled. As seen in the following photo, I put the shells on a paper towel. Next time I’ll use wax paper to ensure that none of them stick.

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Macaron shells ready to be filled
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Note the different colors of the cherry bits: purplish and bright red

By the way, I have an oven thermometer and always watch that carefully as the oven is about 30 degrees colder than what the temperature gauge on the outside of the oven shows. If set at 300 degrees, it will hover in the 250 to 275 vicinity as it did when baking these. In fact, it never even made it to 300 degrees. The results can vary from recipe to recipe and even batch to batch. The chocolate mint macarons had a failed batch and two successful batches within one hour. If you plan to bake macarons, get to know your oven!

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As a joke, I added these 6 to a Laduree box I have. The box originally contained 8, so I need to eliminate those hollows in order for them to fit! Note: I remembered to add wax paper.

doublecherrymacaronseiffel

Next week I’ll bake another fun and fruity batch of French macarons! Stay tuned!

Get this recipe and many more in my new book, BAKING FRENCH MACARONS: A BEGINNER’S GUIDE. Available in eBook and paperback formats!

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