WHIP IT! WHIP IT GOOD!
Probably the most delicate part of making perfect macarons is the meringue. Some of us are passionate about whipping egg whites and follow our instincts surely and without a second thought. Others, not so much. We want to give some tips here about whipping up a meringue that won’t let you down as well as the process of folding the whites into the powdered sugar/ground almond mixture.Our first suggestion is to follow your own instinct. If you doubt yourself and wonder if the whites have been whipped enough, then just beat them a little more. Better a bit too much than not enough.
WHIPPING EGG WHITES
One important thing that Jamie learned from Chef B, pastry chef and instructor at the professional cooking where she worked, is that it is important to avoid whipping whites in a glass bowl. Why? The glass has no “tread”, nothing to grip onto, so the whites slip around the bowl and it is impossible to completely whip them; you will always find liquid underneath the stiff whites. Copper is the best surface to whip whites on, if not then use a plastic bowl. Jamie always whips her whites in a plastic bowl and they are always perfectly and 100% whipped.
- First, break your whites into a very very clean bowl (no grease!). You can add a drop of fresh lemon juice plus a few grains of salt to the whites. This (like cream of tartar) helps stabilize your whites.
- Now, first “break” your whites by mixing them on low speed for about 30 seconds, then increase your mixer speed to medium then high speed.
- As soon as the whites are frothy and foamy, start to add the sugar, a teaspoon at a time, whipping continuously. Keep whipping until the whites are stiff – you should be able to hold the bowl upside down over your head and the egg whites shouldn’t budge! If they drip onto your head then you haven’t whipped them enough!
Now, there are two schools of folding when it comes to macarons: folding the powdered sugar/almond mixture into the whites or the whites into the sugar blend. Jamie does the latter. Now, no need to try and fold a third of the whites into the dry ingredients as you would for cake batter. Too dry. She adds all the meringue to the dry ingredients then, using her silicon spatula, she folds; scoop down to the bottom around the edge of the bowl, lift and fold, turning the bowl with your left hand as you go.
Make sure you are scraping the dry ingredients from the bottom as you go! This process should be done quickly – as few folds as possible – and gently so you don’t crush the whipped whites.The batter should be completely blended and homogeneous, thick and smooth enough so it falls from the spatula in a thick ribbon or, as Helen describes it, like lava flowing. To test to see if it is ready to pipe, take a clean plate and drop about a teaspoon of the batter on the plate. The point of the batter on top of the mound should flatten and disappear within 30 seconds. If it doesn’t then give the batter a few more folds and turns before testing again. They speak of 30 to 50 turns and folds but I don’t know, I lose count around 10. Again, in Jamie’s opinion, better a few extra turns than a few too few.
Now, take your previously prepared pastry bag with wide tip, fold down the sides, opening up the center. Holding the base of the bag where the tip is (the folded down upper part of the pastry bag should be over your hand) gently scoop up quantities of the batter with your spatula and place it down into the pastry bag as far as it will go, to the tip if possible. Keep filling it up, pulling the pastry bag back up as you fill it. Now push then squish down the batter towards the tip to get the batter into the tip and get out air bubbles, twist the bag closed at the top of the batter and pipe!Hold your pastry bag upright over the center of the drawn circles, squeeze, trying to get each mound out in one push. When the batter has almost come to the edge of the circle, stop pushing batter and flick the pastry tip away from the mound of batter in a sharp quick motion. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll leave behind a minimal point, which will then “melt” into the mound. If you are sprinkling something onto the surface of the shells (half the shells as only half are tops to the sandwich), do so now – colored sugar, finely chopped nuts or whatever.
Now just wait. Leave them babies alone for 45 minutes to an hour – again a bit longer is better. The first time you make macs, gently and barely touch the surface of one and you’ll see that it is wet and sticky like fresh batter. When you think the mac shells are ready to go in the oven, again gently touch just the surface of one – you should be able to feel that a sort of skin has formed. It is no longer like freshly piped batter. If you can’t feel a difference then let them sit for a bit longer until you do feel this skin. Now bake...