10 April 2010

The Easter Macaron Hunt!

When it was announced that this month's MacTweets challenge was Holidays of April, I decided that pistachio macs needed to be made.  Something about the taste of pistachios always makes me think of spring.  This has a lot to do with fact that my aunt always used to make the same confetti-angelfood cake with pistachio pudding icing for every birthday when I was growing up.  Fast forward a few decades and I will forever associate the flavour of pistachios with birthdays - and there are a lot of birthdays in my family in April.  In fact, when I married my hubby (a scorpio, like me), I married into even more April birthdays, to the point that we now have a whopping 13 birthdays in our combined family.  Even harder to believe is that only two of those 13 share the same date. 

With my flavour decided, I knew I could no longer hide from my problem: every time I make macarons, the colour always seems so washed-out and pale, no matter how much colour I seem to use.  They seem vibrant enough when they go into the oven, but when they come out, their colour has faded - the way paint fades when it dries ( and thank god that it does, or my living room walls would be "electric raspberry" instead of "burgundy").  I knew I needed help in the tinting department, so I turned to the enormous network that I am now proud to be a tiny part of - my fellow food-bloggers from around the globe. Out went my tweet for help, wondering what type of colouring everyone uses to get their vibrant macarons that pop right off the page, and I received great suggestions from fab foodies like @OneVanillaBean, @VinoLuci and @bakingbynumbers.  The feedback was unanimous: paste colours are the way to go.  While I was not all that surprised, I was a little apprehensive; only because of the experience I had with them years ago when decorating house-shaped cookies for our wedding.  I had wanted vibrant, rich coloured royal icing, but ended up with less-than ideal colour and royal icing with a new & funky taste... and I don't mean funky in a good way.  Since then, I have been very leery of using the paste colours and have gone the route of powders, which is why I end up with pale macarons.  I could no longer hide; it was time to pick myself up and get back on that paste-colour horse....

So mac-night came and I got all my ingredients together. Seeing that I needed surprisingly few pistachios in my batter (a mere 30 grams), I decided to use my handy spice-grinder (coffee grinder actually, but no coffee allowed in this one) to pulverize them to powder, knowing all they would do in my food processor is bounce around hopelessly.  It worked like a dream - perfect pistachio flour was mine! Mwah-ha-ha!!!  High on success, I gave the almonds a try, only to find out that almonds are clearly fattier than pistachios... as I was now looking at a coffee grinder full of almond butter.  Ah well - you can't win them all, can you?  Set that aside to clean later....

Going down my mental checklist as I baked;  Ganache made and cooling? check.  Room-temperature, properly aged egg-whites whipped to the ideal peak-ness? check.  Templates on parchment-lined pans, piping bag prepped? check, check.  Almond flour? Pistachio flour? Sugars? Paste colours? check, check and check.  

Ok, here goes nothing...(deep breath)... dip fork tines into colour and immediately stir into meringue, and... "oh dear god, what have I done???"  Well, these were certainly *not* going to be pale, wishy-washy macs!  Too late to turn back now - I had to commit myself fully, begin folding in the nuts and sugar, and remind myself how the colour fades as they bake. I honestly have no idea why I got this freaked out over the colour of macs, when I'm usually the one saying things like "paint the walls hot pink and see how it looks!  It's only paint, you can always change it!" or "chop all your hair off & get a new 'do!  It's only hair - it will grow back!" - but all of the sudden I've got no guts when it comes to colouring my cookies... makes ZERO sense to me!

I did a quick taste-test of the raw batter to check for any flavour funky-ness, and was pleased to find they tasted just like they should.  WHEW!  Alright - just pipe a few nice, neat, tidy dots onto the parchment... or, in my case;  realize that I am piping-bag challenged and I actually have a tray of assorted-sized blobs ready to bake.  Oh well - I'll just have to work on that for next months challenge!  After a nice little rest to air-dry, into the oven they went and voilà!  FEET!!!! YAY!!!  But, wow, they are still really really green... careful what you wish for, right?

The moment of absolute hilarity for me was went I went to photograph them and noticed that they were the *exact* same colour as the tissue paper a store clerk wrapped my purchase in.  A-HA!  I have re-invented the traditional Easter Egg Hunt in macaron form!  Let's test your skills... how many mac shells can you see in this picture (and FYI, I have *not* retouched or edited the pics in any way!)

How many did you get?  A) 10  B) 11 C) 12  D) 14

The answer is B) 11.

Ok, smarty-pants, let's see you try this one.......

A) 4  B) 7  C) 11  D) there were macs in that photo?

The answer is B) 7.   Hee hee hee :-)

So. since joining the brilliant bakers on MacTweets I have now added *two* valuable lessons to my macaron resume.  First; use only 3 egg whites instead of 5, unless you have a way to unload 100 macarons, and second: vibrant, day-glo macarons aren't as scary as you think, but that's still no reason to get carried away with the food-colouring.

The ingredient list for my pistachio macarons is different tis month, but the method is the same, so to save myself some typing, and you a lot of reading, I'm only giving you the ingredient list this time.  Not to worry, the directions can be found here.  As for the filling, I made a simple, dark chocolate ganache with a splash of pistachio syrup for flavour (100ml cream, 120g chocolate, 30g butter, 15ml pistachio syrup), and the directions for ganache can be found here or here.

Pistachio Macarons
3 egg whites, room temperature and properly aged
2 Tbsp (30g) granulated sugar
1 Cup (125g) ground almonds
3 Tbsp (30g) ground pistachios
1 1/2 Cups (205g) icing sugar
pinch of salt

Happy Baking!


Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

They're beautiful!! I agree that now I have started using colours I would never go back to not - love the vibrancy!

Funny how we are all different. Since my mac workshop at Lenôtre in Paris, I have always weighed ingredients - find it works best for me. Darn macs. So temperamental!

Well done!

Cecilia said...

These are awesome! Love the day-glo green color! And such luck to have them match the green tissue. Btw, red is the one that leaves the nasty aftertaste. Thankfully they now make 'no taste' red.

MaryMoh said...

Beautiful macaroons. I love the game. I got them all right...yeah! :D

Jamie said...

There is a shop here in Nantes that specializes in macs and each one is an amazingly deep bright dayglo color: yellow and green and red and purple and pink, etc and I've always been a bit scared of what they could have put in to get them these colors but you have indeed put my mind at rest. I think the green is...well...green and I think tucking them into the tissue paper is brilliant and wonderful! But I must say that those shells are perfect! And love pistachio + chocolate (I've done it too). Love them! So thrilled you bake (play) along with us!

Anonymous said...

I love the vibrant colors! That's what makes macs macs. (And it cracks me up how we all celebrate the successful emergence of feet. Tell a non-mac-baker that the-macarons-have-feet-yay!, and they'll look at you like your crazy. ;)

Deeba PAB said...

Oh I love these Julia. Even played the guessing game...he he...won one, lost the second, but had great green fun!! Love the post, great writing, and beautiful macarons! Great packaging too. Thanks for mac-cing with us at MacTweets!!

Bonnie said...

I love the green color. So Springy...or St. Patrick's day. They are so pretty.