Monday, February 18, 2013

Afternoon Delight

  I have two new kitchen gadgets, and I love them both!  The first is a silicone macaron mat.  One side is for the tiny bite sized cookie like the one in the picture.  The other side is for the larger two inch cookie.  It takes all the guess work out of making all the macarons the same size.  I ordered it from quite awhile ago, but I used it for the first time on Valentine's Day--my Valentine to myself, really.  The Chocolate Raspberry Macarons were my Valentine gift to my family, but I'll have to admit that I indulged myself by taking the time to make the little treats.  I'm not going to be shy about this, they were delicious, and as far as I could tell, of perfect consistency--and just look at those little 'legs' all macaron-ers talk about (the tiny little flanged crust around the bottom of each cookie half).  I do believe they passed every test.

My second new gadget, and one loved by everyone in the family, is a little Nespresso machine.  It was my early Christmas present to Doug, once again a little selfishness involved.  Truthfully, I don't know how we lived so long without it.  By 4:00 every afternoon we're watching the clock and waiting to push that button.  A perfect espresso every time.  Pairing a bite of macaron with an espresso is as decadent as I imagined! 

Chocolate Raspberry Macarons
(This recipe is from the macaron mould site and uses the Italian meringue method, which she prefers, and so do I: Sarah-Jane Nash, - January 2012)

(I weigh all my ingredients on a kitchen scale.)
180g icing (powdered) sugar
180g ground almonds (almond flour)
30g cocoa powder
5g cinnamon
160g of egg whites (split into two batches of 80g)
80ml water
200g of caster sugar

For the ganache

200g milk chocolate
3 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam
200g double (heavy) cream
3 heaped tablespoons of soft brown sugar

Set your oven to 150deg C fan / 170deg C electric.

Put the ground almonds and icing sugar into a food processor and blitz until superfine. Add the cocoa and cinnamon and blitz again. I use my hand held bamix and grinding mill attachment for this.

Break up any big lumps that have formed and sift into a large mixing bowl. Throw away any bits too large to fit through the seive.

Add one batch of egg whites and mix until a thick paste forms.

Put the caster sugar and water into a saucepan and boil until the sugar thermometer hits 110deg. As soon as temperature reaches 110deg C, whip your egg whites until stiff peaks form. Get the sugar syrup off the heat as soon as temperature hits 118deg C

You know your egg whites are stiff enough when you can hold the bowl upside down above your head and the whites stay put !

Using a hand held or stand mixer, whip the egg whites and add in the sugar syrup in a slow stream. Take care to try and keep the sugar syrup from coming into direct contact with the beaters (or the syrup may crystallise and change the texture). Keep whipping until the italian meringue is cool, stiff and glossy. 

Mix about 1/3 of this into your paste of icing sugar, ground almonds, egg whites etc we already made to loosen in.

Fold in the remaining 2 /3rds. Make sure to incorporate it all fully. You want to mix it enough so that a ribbon of macaronage will start to disappear back into the bowl after about 30 seconds. If it doesn't fold another couple of times and try again. I reckon it takes about 25 full strokes (variable)

Once the macaronage is ready, put into a piping bag fitted with a plain tip. I like to use a 5mm nozzle for optimum control. I sometimes use a 10mm (1cm) tip - but the batter can flow a bit too fast, especially if you are using the small side of the mat.

Put the macaron mats on to baking trays.

Pipe the macaronage into the centre of each cell - leaving approx 3 > 4mm space around the outside of the batter to the cell walls to allow for expansion as they relax. You will only need to leave about 2mm on the smaller side. Once you've got the hang of it and made your first batch, you'll know what's right for you. Pipe in too much and it will overflow the cell walls.

If the macaronage is not dead centre, wet your finger and this will allow you to centre it. Handy trick whilst you get the hang of piping them centrally !

Rap the tray once or twice on your worktop to dispel any air bubbles and level the macaronage. Don't worry if not so level - they'll smooth out in the oven.

If you wish to add any edible glitter or sprinkles to the top of your macarons, do so now.

All macaron instructions I've ever seen involved leaving your macarons out for about 30mins to 1hour until a skin forms on the top before baking. Dr Tim Kinnaird was good enough to share a tip with me that I've used ever since.....

Simply pop the baking tray straight into the oven at 150deg C Fan, BUT leave the door open about 6" / 150mm for the first 5 minutes to dry off the tops. After that, shut the door to complete baking.

Baking time can be variable. I find in my oven that 2" / 50mm macarons always take 18mins to cook (excluding the first 5 mins with the door open) and the 30mm macarons take 13mins (excluding the first 5 mins with the door open)

For the ganache :

Put the chocolate in a bowl with raspberry jam.

Bring double cream to a boil to scald. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve.

Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate fully melts. Allow to cool, and then chill in the refrigerator for around 1 hour until firm enough to pipe between your shells.