Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Green Tea & Red Bean Paste Macarons // 抹茶とあんこのマカロン

I'm very pleased to share my macaron-making process! Thanks for the comments on the previous posts. My macarons are all gone! Anyway, as promised, here are some more photos and some commentary.

As previously mentioned, I used the book, "I ♥ Macarons" by Hisako Ogita. There are a couple of confusing moments, but what pastrybook doesn't have such moments? You just deal with them when you get to them. Ogita recommends starting off by drawing circles on the parchment paper. I found that tracing the inner circle of a roll of Scotch tape works well. I drew the circles with a pencil on one side of the paper, and then flipped it later so that I didn't directly poison myself and others with traces of baked pencil lead. Not sure how scientific that thought was.

I found this almond flour at Whole Foods, but it was $12.99. At my local non-overpriced grocery (Strak & Van Til, formerly and fondly known to me and my family as Cub Foods), there was a label for it priced around $9, but the product itself was nowhere to be found. Ogita notes that the powdered sugar shouldn't have cornstarch in it, so I went with the Whole Foods' organic powdered sugar that contains tapioca starch. Not sure what the difference is, but I just went with it. This is also the stage at which you add dried flavoring ingredients like green tea (matcha), roasted soy bean (kinako), powdered flavors (caramel, instant coffee grinds, tea, cinnamon, sesame, cocoa, sesame), or ground dried fruits. I damn near forgot to add my matcha, as you can see.

You use a strainer to sift the flour and sugar twice! to get a very fine blend of flour, powdered sugar, and if you remember, dried flavoring. As you can see, I have still forgotten about the matcha at this point.

After sifting twice, I turned around and saw the tiny canister of matcha powder my mom gave me and frantically mixed it in my flour and powder mixture. Matcha powder is already really fine, but apparently it can be finer. I tapped the teaspoon I used and shook the powder onto the flour, and somehow this pleased the Baking Gods and I was able to mix it in pretty well, albeit a little late.

I've never made meringue before, so this is where I stressed a little and forgot to take pictures of the fluffy awesomeness of fresh meringue. I also almost forgot to add food coloring (the matcha powder isn't enough to get that nice deep green color). I had bought neon food coloring (presumably good for Easter eggs?), and diluted the green with a little water and added it to the meringue. Then I slowly added the flour/sugar/matcha.

I did the macaronnage step as best as I could (spread out the batter on one side of the bow, then scoop the batter from the bottom and turn it upside down, repeat 15 times), but my batter came out really thin. This did not look right to me at all, so at this point, I was expecting to pull some hilarity out of my oven later. Somehow I did not panic--I tried to see if the batter would get thicker with more macaronnage, tried to estimate how many times I macaronnaged, and in the end nothing new was happening, so I told myself to march on.

I got this basic pastry bag kit at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Macy's failed me.

This part was indeed funny. Because the batter was thin, it was very drippy, and as you can see on the top right, I had some trouble moving from one circle to the next, let alone creating circles. Most of my macarons came out as ovals. Part of the problem is that I didn't hold the pastry bag straight above the paper, and poured at an angle.

Then you let the batter sit for about 5-10 minutes, and the circles should form a thin, taut layer on top so that when you touch it, no batter sticks to your finger. See the depression in the middle macaroon that let me know the drying process was complete. Also take note of the macaron next to it, with the tail.

Halfway through the actual baking process, I turned the tray around as instructed in Ogita's book. When I saw the pieds (the little feetsies on the bottom of the cookies!), I gasped! According to the book, a macaron is not a macaron without these little footsies. Apparently, sometimes the pieds don't form. That's so sad! My macarons were not sad! They grew little pieds! I feel like I'm thinking of them as tadpoles or something. Maybe it's that one macaron with a tail.

This might have been my most favorite part of the process: pairing up macaron cookies to make a little sandwich with the red bean paste. It was like Aristophane's myth in Plato's "Symposium" of how humans were once spherical creatures that were cut in half at the wrath of Zeus, and that's why we now say we feel whole when we fall in love with our significant others, or our "other half." For every odd-shaped and -sized oval, there was another one just like it waiting somewhere on the parchment paper. Except for the tadpole, but it didn't seem to care.

And then I got these little sugary beauties!

For Phoebe: I tried to make pancake macarons. I've seen larger-sized macarons before with cream and fruit fillings. Since I had a lot more batter than I expected, I decided to try to make giant macarons. (Those are just tiny little jars of jam to hold the paper down.)

Unfortunately, this mini-project failed. They were totally deflated when they came out of the oven, and I could only salvage 2 of the 4 big cookies I made when I tried to remove them from the parchment paper. I just ate the other two, which tasted fine; they just fell apart at the touch of the cheese cutting knife I used as a spatula to peel/pry the cookies from the sheet.

Generally, I think I need to be more generous and less nervous with baking time, and I need to get the batter at the right consistency/viscosity, whatever that may be. You can see oil stains clearly on the failed giant macaron above, but they were present on most of my macarons. The stains are a result of something having gone wrong, but overall, they appeared fine and tasted delightful.

While giving away and eating the macarons over the course of the weekend, I was trying to figure out why I became obsessed with them in the first place. There is the Tadaaki Wakamatsu necklace, there is the sudden proliferation of them in Japan a couple of summers ago, there is the French connection. But I'm beginning to think that the reason why I became interested in them at all was their dainty and delicate presence in the movie, "Marie Antoinette." I think that movie has affected me more than I imagined, initially. My guess is that I let Sofia Coppola permeate my subconscious like that partially because I learned to appreciate "Lost in Translation," and partially because she used New Order's song, "Ceremony" in "Marie Antoinette," a song that has a dear place in my heart. I don't see much reason to deny the movie's power over me, so I expect to see its influence to pop up now and then as I go along in life. (Like...in furniture.)

I also like the fact that these little charming bastards are so ephemeral in various ways. They are quite pricey when you buy them individually at bakeries, and in Japan, many of them were disappointing. The best ones I had there were from Starbucks, Fauchon, and Yokku Mokku. They are harder to find in Chicago. Furthermore, though I'll keep trying, I doubt I'll make near-perfect macarons in the near future. I have no idea how John Moorehouse was able to make them in the summer for my wedding, but I also know that he's got the Culinary Midas Touch. And surprisingly, making macarons didn't make me want to eat them all at once. They are, as Richard somehow was able to tell or possibly remembered from August,
so sweet. Rather than eating them I just wanted to continue making them all weekend, so that I could have various kinds at once, and so that I can continue sharing them with family and friends (and on my blog!) to pass on the macaron love.


LoliTa said...

YUM i love macaroons!


The Queen of Hearts said...

This was incredible. Thank you for posting this with such incredible care and detail. I'm going to go through your blog some more and see if there are anymore "how tos" on here.

Kiyo said...

Oh my goodness matcha macaroons! Yum. I was thinking of making macaroons for Valentine's, are they manageable for a cooking 初心者?

Bluefemme said...

I've tried macaroons before and they are sooo good!

wes said...

according to the tribune, macaroons are supposed to be one of the top 10 "not-so-obvious" dining trends...... i dont know what that actually means


marloperry said...

Wow, you did really well with these!

I've attempted and failed twice. I'm keen to try again.