Guess what day it is today?! My 1-year blog anniversary! Well, it was technically a few days ago. But I don’t think you’ll mind. It still counts, right?!
I had always wanted to do something like Appeasing a Food Geek. Indulging my passion for design and getting to eat yummy treats was only an excuse to put a website out there that combines my two loves: baking and science. I couldn’t find anything like this blog out there, and I liked to think that people would find it valuable. But really, this blog helped me find myself during a particularly difficult time. It was a distraction that kept me from going nuts and quitting my Master’s.
I started this blog when I began graduate school last year. I was all alone in a new state scared to say something stupid in hallways filled with hard-working geniuses. Talk about intimidating. I had never felt so all-consumed in self-doubt as I had even just several months ago. It took this blog and a few amazing friends here at Penn State to push me through to the other side. I’m finally enjoying myself and making Pennsylvania my home.
I decided to create a post that was so ‘me’ that it would be unmistakable to those who know me. I’m obsessed with everything pretty and Paris, so of course I’m celebrating with macarons. And visions of Paris because they’re littered all over my apartment.
My high school graduation present was a family vacation to Paris. At first, I thought my mom was kidding because she handed me a photo album of iconic pictures of Paris landmarks with me photoshopped into them. A rather cruel joke. When I found out that I was actually going, I basically went ballistic. The sights, the fashion, and the food!
While staying in Paris, my mom and I took a pastry class (from a rather hunky pastry chef) on fruit tarts and “drumroll please” macarons! Enter a new obsession. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to recreate those macarons and that feeling I had in that French pastry class. Public service announcement: I think I’ve done it. Just in time for my blog-iversary.
There are so many possibilities for science facts with macarons, but there is one step for the macaron cookie (or shell) that mystifies the dregs of the internet. To age or not to age your egg-whites. In layman’s speak: should you let your egg whites sit out prior to creating your French macs?
In my relatively limited experience of macaron baking, it pays to spend the extra time on every step of the macarons–especially if you aren’t an expert. Please sift your flour. Please use the meringue method (boiling a sugar syrup and adding it slowly to your egg whites). Please briefly dry your macaron shells prior to baking. And, finally, please age your egg whites.
Aging your egg whites will serve to evaporate just some of the water from the egg whites and to loosen up the proteins. The macaron shell is primarily made of a meringue of sugar and egg white and a sifted mixture of powdered sugar and almond flour. As a result, the macaron shell is rather fragile. Its consistency and stereotypical appearance is dependent on a balance of protein structure and water.
Extra water could prevent proper lift of the macarons or the “foot” that forms at the bottom. When you let your egg whites sit out for a while, you allow some water to evaporate. You don’t want too much to evaporate, but you do want some to exit. Aging your egg whites will also help to loosen up the protein structure. Essentially the proteins will unravel just a bit from each other. You see this naturally when you crack open an older egg.
The lower water content and loosened protein will help for a better meringue. A looser egg white will allow for more brisk whipping which means it’s easier to get your whisk through the mixture. Because it requires less energy to whip the egg white, it means that more energy is being put into the egg whites themselves. That results in a frothier egg white and, ultimately, a stronger meringue. The elimination of some of the water from the egg whites will help this process as well. Less water encourages smaller bubble formation in the foam with a slightly stronger protein structure. Smaller bubbles in the foam equals a better rise. Finally, the reduced water content creates a better crust on the macaron shell keeping some moisture inside to create a crispy and chewy macaron.
So now you’re all set to make some macarons! Celebrate with me, won’t you? Feel free to search through the archives if you really want to get a feeling for what I was up to a year ago. Brace yourself for the terrible photography…
Makes about 25 macarons (depending on the size)
I use the recipe from Dorie Greenspan because she’s a genius. Simply follow every single word she writes out, and you can’t go wrong. I used green gel coloring because I made pistachio flavored macarons.
Adapted from Cooking Channel
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon water
½ cup salted, roasted, shelled pistachios
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
¼ cup butter, softened
¼ cup almond paste
¼ teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons water
1. Place the granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until it reaches 250⁰F (use a candy thermometer).
2. Add the pistachios to the syrup and mix until the sugar turns white again and coats the nuts. Let cool.
3. In a food processor, blend the pistachios until coarse. Keep running and drizzle the vegetable oil in. Pulse into well-combined.
4. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until a smooth paste is formed, about 3 minutes.
5. Spread about 1 teaspoon of the pistachio filling in between two macaron shells. Enjoy!