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Monday, 19 December 2011

Italian vs. French Salted Caramel Macarons

I've been making ALOT of macarons this past couple of weeks! Since I have so much time on my hands I thought it would a be a good idea to try and hone my macaron baking skills since I could take my own sweet time. Well, when I was doing some reading on macaron baking I realised there are TWO different ways to make macarons - the French way and the Italian way. The one time I made macarons I made them the French way which is recommended for beginners since its a bit easier and less fiddly. I was keen to try both ways this time and compare the results....

I decided on Salted Caramel Macarons, because I'm obsessed with salted caramel =P. 

First the FRENCH way! This is the same recipe I made my first ever batch of macarons with. I made these with my friend Nadi =).


Ingredients
100g egg whites, room temp
50g caster sugar
200g icing sugar
110g almond meal/whole almonds (preferably skin removed)

Method
1. Whisk egg whites in electric mixer till turns to foam. Gradually add sugar while continuing whisking, until mixture is glossy (like a regular basic meringue mixture). 



2. Combine almond meal/almonds and icing sugar in a food processor and pulse to incorporate them both together. Add mixture to meringue and mix quickly by giving quick strokes, slowing down once incorporated (don't over mix - the mixture should flow like lava - test a small amount by spooning some mixture onto a plate and if the top flattens by itself then the mixture is ready - should only take about 50 strokes).


3. Fill a pastry bag with a plain tip with the batter and pipe small 3cm diameter rounds onto baking paper. Leave to harden for 1 hour (We didn't pipe, we used a spoon =P so unprofesh!)

4. Pre-heat oven to 145C (290F). Bake macarons for 15-18 minutes (length of baking will depend on their size and your oven). Let them cool completely before piping/spooning ganache onto one shell and sandwiching with another.    


Salted Caramel Filling
Ingredients
250g double cream
350g caster Sugar
10g sea salt flakes
350g unsalted butter, chopped into cubes

Method
1. Place sugar in a medium saucepan

2. Place cream into a smaller saucepan and bring to boil, remove from heat as soon as it starts to boil.

3. Commence cooking your sugar stirring occasionally to ensure that it caramelises evenly. When the sugar reaches a dark brown consistency remove from the heat and slowly pour in the hot cream whilst continuing to mix with a spatula

4. Let the caramel cool to around 45°C and then add the butter a few pieces at a time whilst mixing the caramel. Pour the caramel into a shallow container and allow to cool in the fridge.
 

5. Beat the caramel mixture until light, shiny and smooth.

Mmmmm so good you can eat it out of the pan.....and burn your tongue =P

I can safely say I am confident with this technique now!! I think they turned out really good!! The only downside with these was actually the filling....it's a recipe from Baroque Bistro (as was the Italian Macaron recipe, courtesy of Not Quite Nigella =D) which holds their own macaron making class. I think it was waaaay too buttery, I actually cut out about 100g when i made it for the Italian macarons, and that tasted much better. But other than that, i think these were a success!!



We love ours with heaps of filling =P

Next time i make these I'm gonna use a piping bag...I've heard the piping technique requires alot of practice - PERFECT since I have so much time on my hands!! I actually attempted using a piping device for the Italian macarons, but the batter was a different consistency to the French one so I encountered some difficulties with this....but I will elaborate further on!


My extremely old school caramel colouring =P
Don't think I wanna know how old this is...

Now for the ITALIAN way!! This is a slightly more involved technique with a sugar syrup that is incorporated into the egg whites. 


Ingredients 1
300g almond meal

300g icing sugar
120g egg whites

Food colouring

Ingredients 2
300g caster sugar
75g water
120g egg whites
Food colouring


Method

1. Add the colouring to the first batch of egg whites (1) above.


2. Sift the almond meal with the icing sugar (or if using whole almonds, grind with with the icing sugar). Stir the almond meal mixture into the egg whites, mixing vigorously until you have a smooth paste.


3. Mix the caster sugar, water and colour, commence cooking.


4. Place the old egg whites in a mixer with the whisk attachment. Once the sugar has reached 115°C commence whipping your egg whites until they reach ‘soft peak’ consistency.


5. When the sugar reaches 118°C remove from the stove and pour slowly on the still mixing egg whites.
Turn the speed to maximum for around 1min and return to medium for another 2min and then let the meringue cool to around 50°C whilst mixing slowly.

6. Using a spatula commence incorporating the meringue into the almond meal, icing sugar and egg white batter. Work the mix gently from the sides to the middle until you reach a homogeneous, shiny texture.

7. Preheat oven to 145C (290F). Using a plastic piping bag, pipe the shells onto a baking sheet (you may like to draw circles in pencil on your baking paper as a size template and turn this upside down to pipe your shells. You should stop piping before the mixture reaches the outside edge of the template)


8. Tap the tray gently on the side of the bench until the macaron reaches the size of the template. Leave the macarons outside at room temperature for 15 min or until they have formed a skin and are dry to touch  (I left mine for an hour like the French method, ONLY because I found this batter had alot more moisture so took longer to develop dry skins)


9. Cook the macarons according to the cooking guide for your type of oven. Once cooked, slide the paper off the tray and let the shells cool (preferably on a wire rack).


I actually had mixed results with this technique. First of all, this recipes makes ALOT of macarons! So if you haven't got a huge appetite for macarons or no one to give them to, then I advise cutting the recipe in half. I made these again a few days ago, cutting the recipe in half, and that produced a more reasonable amount for their purpose. 


Secondly, because it was such a large recipe, I put shells in the oven in batches, and as a result, some were left out to dry longer than the others. Not sure if this may have affected the way they cooked.....

Thirdly, this batch resulted in both the BEST and the WORST macarons I have ever made!! How weird!! Must be because I wasn't prepared for the amount of batter, and I also used a piping device, which resulted in rounder more neater macarons, but some ended up looking like little mushrooms with some overspill over the feet =P. 

I think this is the result of too much air in the batter....so make sure you rap your baking trays on a flat hard surface to settle them
The filling for these was the same as the French one, but with the reduction in butter by about 80-100g as mentioned before. So these ones tasted way better on the whole =D. 

Accidently added the cream too fast!! Like a lava explosion =P

So, in terms of comparing the techniques, I think I still have some way to go to master the Italian way and also the piping technique. But I think so far, the French way is probably my preferred method =D 


But in the end, it's the taste that matters right? Omg I'm in salted caramel coma.....SO GOOD but soo baaaaaadd!!! Take them away please!!! 

Enjoy =D xx 

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