Dora of BoBo Macarons had given a master class on macaron making at the Bloggers' Buzz event, and that really pushed my confidence levels. I got down to business a few days after the class with a free mind and casual approach and voila, the perfect macarons at my disposal. I had tried espresso macarons a while back (when the macaron rage was full on) and although they weren't perfect, at that time I thought it was an accomplishment. After that I would have had at least 4 to 5 disasters and had almost given up on making macarons when Dora showed us how easy it was. Really, you need to see an expert do it all with ease to actually learn the art of macaron making.
So after the success with vanilla macarons, I was over confident that I had tackled the macaron monster. and happily agreed to make some chai spiced macarons for a shoot (as per request of course). Little did I know the macarons had a mind of their own. The day before the shoot, I shortlisted Meeta's recipe for the same (spiced chai macarons) and got down to business- confident to the core and a bit nervous at the thought of ending up with no feet at all. Well, feet were the least of my problems. The first batch had feet but came out cracked on top, like crazy cracked. Of course, what do I do first, panic. Panicked like crazy for about 1/2 an hour, read up on troubleshooting macarons, thought it was the temperature that caused it to crack and decided to make another batch. Followed the same recipe, reduced temperature a bit and nope, no difference, cracked tops on some, and those which didn't crack came out with crinkled tops. Chucked out that lot as well.
By this time, I was almost in tears. I immediately called up Shab (an expert at this) who calmed me down and I decided to do the recipe I was used to, with just the addition of the spiced chai powder. Piped them out onto two trays and this time, one tray came out sort of perfect, but the other again crinkled and cracked tops. The problem here was... I had no clue what the hell I was doing wrong, to actually rectify it. If one tray of the same batch came out right and the other didn't, it couldn't have been the macronage or the setting time or the temperature. The only reason I could come up with was the tray lining used. One was a silicone mat and the other just baking paper. The macs on silicone mat came out good whereas the other was rubbish. I got around 6 to 8 decent macs from that lot, but it still wasn't enough for the shoot.
My mum called at the exact minute I was fretting over the macs and managed to freak her out as well. Her solution, just buy them from the store. If only chai spiced macs were readily available..and that too not filled, because that I had to do on the day of the shoot since they wanted to capture the piping technique. I had other dishes to prep for the shoot, plus a prop consultation by the stylist and I was a mess by then. I decided to give the macs a break and started tackling my other dishes. And then at around 9 at night I decided to give macs one last try. Yup, you guessed it right..disaster again. I mean I just didn't know what to do. Sorted out around 10 decent macs from the 4 batches I made, which means just 5 sandwiches. I knew I was in deep shit and had to figure out a way to make the macs work at the shoot. Lesson learnt..never ever agree to do macs for anyone. Like Dora said, your mood clearly reflects on the macs you make, I completely believe that now!
In the pic above you can see the disastrous macs (see the cracks?). Even after sandwiching them, they looked ugly. The flavour however was brilliant and I hope to try them out again when my macaron phobia is over. Comparing the vanilla macs to the chai ones, I'm in awe of how great they turned out. The biscoff / speculoos spread is a current fav and Nutella has been happily replaced. Keeping the macs simple with vanilla worked because the speculoos filling is fab and that was the only way to bring out its flavour. I loved the combo and some of our friends who tried it, loved it as well.
Recipe adapted from here, makes around 18 to 20 sandwiched macs (originally from Ottolenghi)
Ground almonds/ almond meal- 60 gms
Powdered sugar- 100 gms
Caster sugar- 40 gms
Vanilla paste- 1/2 tsp (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
Egg whites- 60 gms (I used eggs whites from a carton Two Chicks)
For the filling
Double cream- 1/4 cup
Speculoos spread- 4 tbsp (Lotus spread)
Granulated sugar- 2 tbsp (optional)
If you are trying macs for the first time, do read Demystifying Macarons by the ever talented Helen Dujardin and you will be fine (except if the macs just decide they will not make us happy).
Before you start, get the baking trays lined with baking paper and the piping bag with round tip nozzle ready.
Sift the icing sugar and almond meal together once or twice to make sure there are no lumps. Its ok if they are not too fine.
In a free standing mixer with whisk attachment whisk the egg whites till frothy.
Add the caster sugar bit by bit, while continuously beating, till soft peaks form.
It should hold its peak shape when you lift the whisk, but shouldn't be too dry and stiff.
Add two spoons of almond powder mix into the meringue and fold it all in using a spatula. You can be a bit vigorous here.
Add the remaining almond powder mix and slowly fold it in till you get a smooth mix.
To check if the consistency is right the batter should fall back in ribbons when you lift the spatula.
Also put a spoon full of the batter on a plate and if it spreads out on its own (not too fast) then you are good to go. If it doesn't, give a couple more folds and loosen it out. This is very tricky, if too loose you are ruined.
Fill the piping bag with batter and pipe small rounds on to the trays. leave around 2 inches gap between the shells.
Gently tap the trays on the kitchen counter to rid of the air bubbles and keep aside to dry. This can range from 15 minutes to about an hour, depending on the humidity of the place.
They are ready to bake when a film forms on the shells and when you lightly touch them, they no longer stick to your fingers.
Pre-heat oven to 140C and bake the macarons on the middle rack for 12 to 14 minutes. And do pray that nothing goes wrong in the oven.
Once time is up, take the trays out of the oven and leave aside to cool completely after which you can carefully remove the shells from the paper and store in an air tight container till ready to pipe.
For the filling, whip the double cream till soft peaks form.
Fold in the sugar and speculoos spread and mix till they all come together.
I have eye balled the measurements here, if you need more spread flavour coming through, then add more.
Either fill a piping bag with the filling and pipe on to the macaron shells or if you are lazy like me, use a small tea spoon and spread on to the shells.
Sandwich them and store in the refrigerator in an air tight container over night for the flavours to set in.