I wish macarons tasted disgusting so I wouldn’t try to make them so much. Unfortunately they unequivocally live up to their prestigious reputation in the pastry world, the crème de la crème of French pastries if you will. The little dainty princesses also have a reputation for being extremely difficult and fastidious. I couldn’t count the times I’ve failed on both hands and feet, I might as well be making macawrongs. Some 70% of the time the top will crack no matter how long I dry them, other times the top will be browned and the underside gummy and stuck to the paper, or they don’t develop feet at all, or they spread like hell, etc., etc. I may have crumpled to the floor in defeat a few times and leaked fluids out of my eyes, ahem.
Now that I think about it, most of those failed attempts can be attributed to simply not being bothered to follow through the procedures. Whether it’s cooking the sugar to the right temperature if I’m using the Italian method, or drying out the shells, or spacing them far apart enough during piping; one little mistake is more than likely to ruin the entire thing. And that would be easier to swallow if not for the costs involved, not to mention the time and effort. I mean, almond flour don’t grow on trees (ok technically it does but that stuff is why storebought macarons cost a fortune).
I’d principally like to thank Sift & Whisk and her picture-perfect macarons for inspiring me to take the ill-fated leap today. I wanted to make something also coconut flavoured to go with the cake, and so the idea for these were born. I made a pastry cream with the leftover coconut milk to fill these with, and to be honest, the whole thing turned out pretty great. It must’ve been the pressure from the prospect of publishing a post (<– dat alliteration).
The tops of the shells turned out a little uneven because of the drop in temperature when I pulled them out of the oven from drying them (it was raining so I dried them in a very low oven to accelerate the process). But even then I’d call this a triumph, you would too if you’ve seen some of the atrocities that have happened in my kitchen *traumatic flashbacks*. And there was a scary moment when the pastry cream threatened to split, because there were no more eggs, but thankfully it was all good after a chill and it came back together.
The next step is to master the French meringue method now that I’m finding the Italian much more reliable but having a denser interior. But for now, it looks like I’m on my way to breaking my own record of eating dozens of macarons in a row.
Coconut macarons (makes 40 smallish filled cookies)
For the shells:
104g almond meal
104g icing sugar
1 large egg white or 35g (1)
104g caster sugar*
1 large egg white or 35g (2)
*I’ve used raw or golden caster sugar to great results. It doesn’t tinge the natural white colour of the batter.
For the coconut pastry cream filling:
1 large egg yolk or 20g
15g caster sugar (1)
12g corn flour
125g coconut milk, unsweetened
15g caster sugar (2)
Sift the almond meal and icing sugar together a few times. Using a food processor would give rise to a finer mixture but sifting alone works for me. To this almond and icing mixture add the first portion of egg white, and mix until you have a very thick, uniform paste.
In a pot bring the caster sugar and water to a boil and wait for it to reach 115ºC/239ºF. Then simultaneously start whisking the second portion of egg white to soft peaks. When the sugar syrup reaches 118ºC/244ºF immediately take it off the heat and pour over the egg whites while still whisking. It’s possible to tell the right stage by spooning a little syrup into cold water and feeling the consistency with your fingers. If it forms a firm ball that can still be squished, it’s ready. Keep whisking on high speed until the mixture is about 50ºC/122ºF, or when the bowl is warm but not hot to the touch.Take about half of the whipped whites and fold into the almond paste mixture, then fold in the other half. Now we need to do le macaronage (sounds like a dance), where you fold some 20+ times until the consistency thins a little and just flows back into the bowl like lava. I like to scrape around the bowl then press down in the middle with a spatula.
Transfer as much of the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a 1cm round tip as you’re comfortable holding. Pipe out equal amounts of batter in desired shapes/sizes, spacing any two at least 2cm apart on a lined baking sheet. Glue down the baking paper with a dab of the mixture if you like.
Then bang the sheets down on the counter a few times to release air bubbles. Even after a long hard spank ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) mine still retained unpopped bubbles at the surface, so I took a toothpick to them.
If you’d like to add insurance that the tops won’t crack, you can leave them to dry until the tops are no longer wet to the (very gentle) touch. Alternatively turn the oven on very low, turn it off and dry the shells inside. Take them out before you preheat.
Preheat the oven to 160ºC/320ºF. Now, everyone has their own way of baking; starting out on a higher temperature and gradually decreasing it is my preferred way, because otherwise I get short feet, burned tops and gooey insides. Also, I tried not insulating the bottom with a second sheet, and it helped crisping up the bottom as opposed to a wet one.
Bake at 160ºC/320ºF in the middle of the oven until they start developing feet. Then turn it down to 150ºC/302ºF to continue cooking. If they start browning you can put a sheet of foil on top. Lift up one of the shells in the centre to see if the bottom comes away clean, if so they’re ready; if not keep them in a while longer.
Cool them down before peeling them off the paper, I learned this the hard way. Match pairs of similar sizes and set aside until ready to fill.
To make the coconut pastry cream, heat the coconut milk and one part of the sugar till almost boiling. In the meantime whisk together the yolk and sugar until pale, then add the corn flour. Pour in a little of the hot milk at a time and keep whisking until the yolk mixture is tempered. Pour the entire mixture back into the pot and continue to whisk on medium heat to bubble for a minute. It should be thickened and leaving tracks when you whisk. Sieve the mixture onto the butter and mix to melt the butter. Put cling film on the surface and chill in the fridge until completely cool and set.
Pipe out or spoon the filling onto one of the shells, top it with the other shell and gently sandwich them together.
They’re darn good now but even better when the flavours mature and the filling moistens the interior, about a day refrigerated. Bring up to room temperature when ready to eat.