After hearing much about Pierre Hermé's long awaited Macarons book in English, I've been looking for it in several bookstores in Singapore and Hong Kong without much success. No worries, there is always amazon right? So I get on amazon.com and discover it'll take more than a month for it to be delivered to me! Argh! So what do I do? I go ahead and order it of course, I had to get it! And in addition I bought a kindle version of another macaron book to get me through the waiting period! =P Kindle version means I get it right away! No waiting! I've bought e-books in the past, but this was my first electronic cookbook. It'll need some getting used to....
I got the electronic version of Les Petit Macarons by Kathryn Gordon and Anne E. McBride. It was one of 2 e-books that appeared on the recommended list and this one seemed to have a slightly better review than the other. I wasn't too sure what to expect but from the video for the book that was also available on the amazon site, it seemed like Kathryn Gordon is well-versed in macaron making.
Kathryn Gordon offers 4 different basic macaron recipes: french meringue method, italian meringue method, swiss meringue method and one of her own "Easiest French method" as she calls it in the book. I referred to the italian meringue method right away given that is what I've been relying on, and noticed that instead of drying the piped macarons at room temperature she dries them at 95 C in the oven for 15 minutes before baking it at 175 C for 9 minutes. (If using convection ovens, she suggests reducing the temperature by 25 to 35C.) Drying macarons in the oven at a preset temperature sounded somewhat appealing to me. Firstly it takes only 15 minutes. Secondly Hong Kong has varying levels of humidity and its always a challenge for me to gauge how long I need to dry the macarons before baking. Perhaps drying it in the oven reduces this variable a little? The book also offers a number of ideas for different flavored shells and fillings, both sweet and savory.
Separately I purchased a jar of Japanese black sesame paste last week without checking the expiry date and was disappointed to realize upon reaching home that it will expire very soon. Immediately my head is filled with sesame flavored baking ideas aimed at using up all the sesame paste! First up, a Japanese themed macaron - matcha flavored shells paired with black sesame filling. Of course I was also excited to try out Kathryn Gordon's recommended drying procedure.
The conclusion? It works! I use a convection oven so following her advice I first dried the piped macarons at 65 C for 15 minutes in the oven and tested it by gently touching the surface with my finger. The skin layer seems to have sufficiently formed. I then baked one batch at 145 C for 15 minutes and another batch at 150 C for 12 minutes (the macarons were not done at 9 minutes). I was considering to fill it with sesame buttercream but as the black sesame paste was not very strong, I was worried that I'll lose the sesame flavor by mixing it with buttercream and went with 100% black sesame paste instead. Next up, maybe a black sesame chiffon cake? I've been wanting to make one of those for some time.
Recipe below adapted from Les Petit Macaron by Kathryn Gordon and Anne E. McBride (Makes around 20 sandwiched macarons)
82.5g almond flour
82.5g confectioners' sugar
1/2 pinch fine sea salt
3/4 tsp matcha powder
57.5g aged egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
75g granulated sugar
3 drops of liquid green colouring
black sesame paste for filling
Place almond flour, confectioners' sugar and salt in food processor and pulse for about 40 seconds to combine them into fine powder. Sift along with matcha powder through a fine-mesh strainer into a large mixing bowl.
While preparing the sugar syrup, whisk egg whites and cream of tartar using an electric mixer on medium speed till soft peaks form. Switch the speed down if egg whites are at soft peaks before syrup is ready. Heat granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium to high heat. Stir only at beginning to dissolve the sugar crystals. Use a thermometer to measure the syrup, cooking the sugar till it reaches 118C (the book says 113C, but I've always used 118C). Carefully pour the sugar syup into the mixer bowl while running the whisk at medium speed. Continue whisking till stiff peaks form and the meringue is lukewarm and glossy (the book says it'll take about 4 minutes. I don't time myself but stopped once stiff peaks form and the meringue does not fall out when the bowl is turned upside down).
Transfer the meringue into the large mixing bowl with the dry ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold in the meringue, folding till the batter is loose enough to drip down from the spatula back to the bowl in one continuous lava-like flow. Add in green coloring after about 5 folds. It took me about 35 folds in total, though the book says about 18.
Pipe batter onto silicon mat placed on baking sheet (I piped 3cm circles) and place into 65C preheated oven for 15 minutes. Without removing the macarons, increase the oven temperature to 150C and bake for 12 minutes (the book says 9 minutes, but my macarons were done only at 12 minutes, and I'm using a convection oven).
Wait for macarons to cool before removing from silicon mat. Fill with black sesame paste and leave in fridge over night before serving at room temperature.