Some of you perhaps heard about my latest challenge last week on Facebook. Just when I needed to make 200 macarons for my first signing event in France, my oven packed in. Not typical of my old oven – reliable and German. Now if it was French … I would have just shrugged it off comme les français and said it had gone on strike.
Taken by surprise but thankful for a speedy installation of a new one (I guess that’s now my Christmas present), I suddenly felt like a total novice, armed with a thick instruction manual and with the daunting task of having to produce perfect macarons in the space of a few hours. Easy? I couldn’t even find the fan setting at first glance, like my previous oven. All the latest gadgets are so fancy, digital and downright confusing.
As if that wasn’t enough I gave myself a double challenge. Due to time constraints I had “cheated” using a carton of egg whites. They didn’t quite act like my organic, fresh-but-aged whites.
The whites whisked up very quickly, but then it came to the actual mixing stage (macaronnage). The mix was thicker than usual and so I mixed for a lot longer. The result was even thicker! As you can perhaps see from the first batch of green macarons, they’re a bit rougher. No problem. I knew I could to do better on the next batch, so decided to make a duo-colour macaron with a vibrant cheery pink colour and hide the green one underneath 😉 The rose ones were better after shaking the carton this time.
Et voilà: green tea and rose macarons were born, using Matcha Green Tea and rosewater for the buttercream. The next batch of crème de cassis & violet shells were even better. I couldn’t resist playing, though, by flickpainting the shells with dark food colouring before they went in the oven…
So what did I learn about using carton egg white?
To 1) shake the carton well before weighing it out and 2) don’t mix as much as you would normally with fresh (but aged) whites at macaronnage stage. Otherwise follow the recipe as normal.
My first step for the oven was to check that it was actually the temperature it was saying it was. I checked with an oven thermometer and all was ok. 160° was actually 160° (unlike my previous oven which was 20° hotter than the dial said it was – and so I had to adjust.)
I added a further challenge for my oven and myself! As this machine was new and supposed to be an improvement on my previous model, I took the plunge and put in 3 trays at a time on the fan setting, “multilevel” (I wanted to follow Zetta’s supportive comment on FB, but didn’t have time!) After 4-5 minutes, the feet formed. Why do I ALWAYS get such a kick out of that pied part? (No pun intended.) It never fails. But after the 8 minutes, I touched them to test the readiness and they wobbled more than usual. It would take more than another 2-4 minutes, I thought. Meanwhile, the 3rd bottom tray had mostly cracked shells while the top two were not cooked enough. In the end I accidentally kept them in for too long. After about 15 minutes they browned slightly.
What next? I’ll limit myself to two trays in future but at least I now know I can do 2 trays at a time! That will really speed things up. In the end I discovered that the top and middle shelves in the oven were the best positions for the trays and that the temperature was still best at 160°C for about 12 minutes as it says in the book for picture-perfect macarons.
Apologies if this all sounds a bit technical. It has just confirmed to me that the recipe works – even in challenging circumstances!
Now that’s a relief 😉 It just takes some experimenting with your own oven: to discover how many trays you can put in the oven at the same time, how evenly it cooks, to check if the temperature is just right and to have confidence that you can produce perfect macarons!