Musings of a macaron-maker

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Rose.lychee.raspberry

I think I’ve made it no secret which creation of Pierre Hermé happens to be my favorite. I think his Ispahan fetish remains to be his most popular too. He originally developed the recipe at Ladurée with just raspberries and a rose cream. I believe he added the lychees when he already had his own pastry boutique. Ispahan is the name of a rose also known as Rose d’Isfahan. Isfahan is a province in Iran although I am not sure there is any correlation except in the name alone.

Macarons are growing in popularity in the United States. I’ve seen a definite uptick in interest here in Richmond, Va. These French confections as wedding favors appear to be a hot item nowadays and who doesn’t like delicious edible parting goodies. Though still getting confused 95% of the time with the less glamourous homonymous macaroon, I think it is slowly creeping into the consciousness of the masses, okay maybe, in the trend-conscious crowd.

Not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing. I somehow want to keep its “exclusivity” but how are we going to make money at Petites Bouchées if we don’t spread the macaron love, right?

Anyway, with its surging popularity there have been several articles of how macarons are becoming the next cupcake. There’s also been several social media quips about how making macarons are easy or how macarons aren’t all that or some elitist lambasting 95% of the blogsphere for giving macarons a bad name by making them too popular.

When I first made macarons successfully, I remember them tasting a tad too sweet. I started with Stéphane Glacier recipe and then I also looked at Gerard Mulot’s. I wanted mine to taste less of a meringue, so I lessened the confectioner’s sugar and added more almonds. Most people who has had my macarons (and are not familiar with what they are made of) couldn’t believe that they have no flour in them. But because my macarons have more almonds , they get bumpy sometimes which annoys me but taste to me is more important and so I learned to live with it.

Being in business selling macarons can be very stressful. If your customer is a big fan of this petite sweet you are constantly being compared to the greatest patisseries of Paris. I’ve had great feedback of how my macarons taste better than Ladurée’s or are comparable. But I’ve also had to deal with negative comments. It’s all part of the business, you can’t please everyone. Macarons are prone to being mishandled once they leave your hands. For example, leave them out in 90F weather in your car & your buttercream might morph into something else. But you never tell a customer they have not stored it right, just make sure that you give them proper information when they take their macarons home.

I’m the first to admit that my macarons can never be better or comparable to Pierre Hermé’s simply because the man is one-of-a-kind, effing brilliant. But even he has had problems with customer satisfaction. He said he was frustrated about customers complaining about the buttercream fillings because they eat them straight out of the refrigerator so he had slowly gotten away from buttercream and had been developing rich, luxurious ganaches that never crystallize too much when refrigerated. His macarons are built with a science of their own.
But the biggest reason why my macarons can never achieve the exalted stature of Herme’s is in the almonds. Valencia almonds to be exact. I have made them both with my regular blanched variety and with the Valencia almonds I brought back from France. Big difference. The shells are fuller and are so perfectly round with the latter. Valencia almonds can be ground very fine without being greasy. Phooey for me, right?

So instead of crying about it, it’s best to work with what you have and make your macaron your own. My standard chocolate macaron does not taste like a macaron at all because the shell never gets too crisp with cocoa powder. I have adjusted it so it’ll have the crisp shell but when I got a new batch of cocoa powder – same brand – it all changed again. How do I fight that? I don’t, I continue to make it and it may get a tip or get too thick but it still remains to be my second most popular flavor.

For me, it is better to get a tip from undermixing because you can flatten it with a wet finger but if you overmix it, there is no coming back from that and your batter will spread unevenly when piped and be very flat.

Macarons are finicky. Unless you work in a climate-controlled room and have control of all your ingredient sources, you can never predict how they’ll turn out. But the more you make them – the more you’ll understand them and you can make adjustments accordingly. Right now I am using the French Meringue method more than the Italian Meringue, but that may change eventually as I get busier and conservation becomes an issue.
 

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My macaron posts are the most popular on this blog and I am working on a redesign to make it easier to navigate, which will include videos and different experiments. I’m also working on a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page on macarons. I have received dozens of emails with macaron questions and most of them are the same problems with a little variation mostly to deal with humidity in other countries. Though most of the answers are scattered across different posts, I think it’s time to put them all in a comprehensive format which I can add to as more queries come in. It’s hard for me to go through all those emails again, but if you would leave a question for me in the comment section, please do so and I would use this to build my FAQ page. Also what part of the video would you want me to focus on, 90% of me thinks it’s macaronage. Thanks!

Also check out MACTWEETS, a wonderful monthly event hosted by Deeba of Passionate about Baking and Jamie of Life’s a Feast, there’s a spicy roundup of lovely macaron creations from around the globe.


Ispahan Entremet

by Pierre Herme

Tant pour tant (TPT)

300 grams Almond Powder
300 grams confectioner’s sugar

Combine together with a whisk or a food processor

Pink macaron biscuit

600 grams TPT
red food coloring
110 grams egg whites (fresh)

300 grams sugar
75 grams water
110 grams egg white (aged)

Mix the TPT with egg white and food coloring. Cook the sugar and water to 245 F. Whip the egg white to soft peaks at high speed, then lower to the 2nd speed. Once sugar syrup reaches 245F, pour it on the egg whites. Keep stirring until the meringue reaches 122F. Fold the meringue into the almond mixture until the right consistency is obtained.

Pipe 7 cm circles and dry the tops for 20 minutes. Bake in a convection oven 320F for 20 minutes.

Rose Petal Cream

Italian Meringue:

125 grams egg whites
15 grams sugar
250 grams sugar
75 grams water

Boil the sugar and water to 245F, after syrup reaches 220 F start whipping the egg whites and sugar to soft peaks. At 245F pour the sugar syrup on the meringue and let it cool on 2nd speed. Once cool, reduce speed to 1st speed until use.

English cream

180 grams Milk
140 grams egg yolk
180 grams sugar

Boil the milk. Pour half of the milk into the egg yolks and sugar mixture, stir and add this mixture back into the remaining milk. Heat while continually stirring until the mixture can coat the back of the spoon. Cool the mixture in a mixer at high speed until it becomes light and airy.

To complete the rose petal cream:

900 grams butter
8 grams rose essence
56 grams rose syrup
500 grams English cream
350 grams Italian Meringue

Cream the butter. Add the English cream and the rose essence and syrup. Mix well before folding in the Italian Meringue.

To Assemble:
Litchi, raspberries, rose macaron biscuit, rose petal cream.

Cut up the litchis into small chunks and drain for 2 days otherwise your macaron biscuit will become too soggy.
 

How to Assemble the Ispahan:

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Fill with the rose petal cream

* Leave 1cm from the edge when you pipe the rose petal cream. I was appalled by the amount of buttercream and admittedly scraped some off. But in the succeeding ones, I changed my mind. :)

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Arrange the raspberries

  * Push the raspberries against the buttercream. This will keep it in place.

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Top with lychee pieces

* I would have put more lychees but I did not drain them enough since I was impatient. I probably would have chopped them a bit smaller too.

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Pipe another dollop of buttercream

* After piping some buttercream on top of the lychees, affix the top shell and very gently press down on the Ispahan.

Cooking Notes:

I have a more instructive post here on how to fold your Italian Meringue into your TPT. I couldn’t really say how many of these macarons the batter makes because I tried different shapes on other trays with leftover batter. You could probably make around 18 of these. The rose petal cream makes a large quantity of buttercream, I suggest halving the recipe if you could. I couldn’t seem to fold the Italian Meringue enough into the English cream buttercream so I ended up using the mixer and it yielded a nice fluffy filling. I decided to forgo the rose and raspberry trademark of the Ispahan in the picture. I think it looks fantastic the way it is!
I ate three of these in two days. Fortunately, I was able to give the rest away because I didn’t drain the lychees enough (I was impatient and only did a day) and though the buttercream provided a barrier it soaked into the shell too much by day three. The Ispahan is a heavenly combination of rose, lychee and raspberries. By themselves they have their own unique taste but combined into a creation such as the Ispahan they present an affinity with each other and a taste so sublime.

It’s turning to be a very busy season for me so it might take me some time to get the redesign together. I do not want to rush this because I want it to be as comprehensive and useful as it can be. I’ll try to get 1 post up a week either sweet or savory, plus I’m going to Blogher Food in Atlanta this May! Hope to see some of you there!
 

20 thoughts on “Musings of a macaron-maker

  1. The macaron looks beautiful. It must be a difficult and frustrating when people don’t understand how delicate they are but what are you going to do? It sounds like you handle it like a pro.

  2. WOW! You macs always look so perfect! I’ve attempted making them a few times but can’t get them no where near perfect as these. I’ll have to work up the courage to tackle these again one day, but for now, I’ll just have to mesmerize at yours..

  3. Agreed… taste is definitely more important! I’ve seen pretty gems on display that were ugh.. just horrid. I’m sure yours taste just fantastic!
    when I make macarons for my friends, I always insist very fiercely – they cannot be eaten straight out of the fridge, i am definitely very anal about that haha.
    and thanks for posting up this recipe, the cream sounds really light and divine – I am thinking the taste will be definitely less cloying than a buttercream? will try it out sometime.

  4. Veron, I remember you saying before that air pockets can be due to nuts not ground finely enough and you said it was probably to add some more nuts. But how much should I add?
    all my subsequent batches turned out hollow with air pockets again despire thinking i’ve resolved the problem by changing the position of the tray. i’ve absolutely no idea why.

  5. ben – I know what you mean, sometimes I feel like a control freak and have to just be content of telling them what to do quickly and only once. the filling is definitely less cloying than buttercream since it is lightened with a meringue. I wouldn’t add too much nuts if that doesn’t address the problem. Try sifting and whatever is left try grinding those further. I do get air-pockets sometimes but not too big and it’s usually from undermixing and not cooking long enough so you may want to lower the temperature so you can cook longer.

  6. Wow, these are stunningly beautiful! I don’t have macarons nearly enough and have never attempted to make my own… Might have to change that!! :)

  7. Veron, these are wonderful and I’m sure they are as delicious as they are beautiful. This is my first visit to your blog and I’ve spent some time browsing through your earlier posts. I’m so glad I did that. I really like the food and recipes you feature here and I’ll definitely be back. I hope you have a great evening. Blessings…Mary

  8. seriously i am never going to make this, I will buy them from you first… I am a terrible baker, and will screw them up. I have had your macarons and they are awesome, no need to try and recreate unless I need a disaster post

  9. You just ooze with excitement when you speak macarons, Veron. How do I say; “You’ve come a long way, baby! And boy does it show, a delightful masterpiece!

    Thank you so much for sharing, Veron. You have a healthy attitude when it comes to “grumbles” that’s a good thing:)

  10. I’ve just discovered your beautiful site, Veron. Fantastic post. I would LOVE to try your macarons. They look just as good as all the top Parisian pastry shops. Why put so much pressure on yourself? Perfection!

  11. Hi Veron!

    I’d been a fan of your blog for a long time now, albeit a rather quite one, choosing to read and learn in the background and hardly post comments.

    I’d tried making the Ispahan a couple weeks back as well and here’s the link to my blog entry:

    http://travellingfoodies.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/pierre-hermes-ispahan/

    I would love some comments and criticisms from you if possible! So much inspiration to draw from your posts!

    Salamat po!

  12. Thanks for all the great comments on the Ispahan.
    Eugenio – drop by at the French Food Festival, April 30, I’ll be there pushing the macs. ;)
    Aw, Louise- that’s really sweet of you to say that. It’s been quite a journey, me and the macarons. :)
    Jill – I just got your gorgeous macaron book a week ago. great recipes, can’t wait to try the interesting combinations!
    Alan – you did a great job on your ispahan, it looks perfect!

  13. hi great and instructive recipe:)
    i have a question. how do pierre hermé put his initials?is that on chocolate?

  14. Hi Veron,

    Your blog is so great! :) Thank you for sharing your tips with fellow macaron addicts. :)

    I’ve 3 questions – 1.) How do you make the macaron foot protude? :) I tried using a silpat but my mac foot still just rise but don’t really protrude.
    2.)Is there a way to keep buttercream fillings from melting too quickly – perhaps an ingredient that can be added?
    3.)Next time you come home to the Philippines, may you can give a workshop for aspirants like me? :)

    Thank so much!

  15. Hi Maye,
    a) It doesn’t really matter whether they protrude or not. as long as they have the foot. I use parchment paper, not silpat.
    b) no, unfortunately buttercream fillings do melt. Try using the italian meringue buttercreams as they are sturdier.
    c) he..hee..we’ll see! :)
    thanks!

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