Guest posts and macarons have become quite the norm recently here, haven't they? I'm actually getting a bit tired of photographing these cookies so much 8p. In fact I'd have waited weeks to post these, except that I've gotten such positive feedback on the taste of them from friends and family alike! Plus, I've been dying to share these adorable lemon shapes with you as soon as I came across the idea on Erica's blog. Believe it or not I actually lost my Mac Mojo a bit this week and had to make these 3 times before they came out to my liking. Not only have I continued to struggle with my hot spot-laden oven but this recipe also added in a new factor of slightly adjusting the shape of the shells.
Fortunately, despite my meekness in dealing with certain issues in life, that's not a problem I have with baking! I simply take each imperfect batch (still delicious, thankfully) as a challenge to improve myself. And whether you've yet to try your hand at macarons or have failed a few times, let me assure you that the satisfaction of getting them right is so worth it in the end!
As I mentioned before, a lot of my macaron issues have been the result of reducing the sugar in the shells. Because sugar stabilizes the batter, decreasing it compromises the cookie's structure. So if you're new to them, I'd definitely recommend starting with a full sugar recipe. In the continuing evolution of my own shell recipe, I've also decided to add some (but not all) the customary sugar back in, while making other tweaks to reduce the experience of sweetness instead of just the actual amount of sugar.
Bravetart. Other than that there's not too much we can do without upsetting the delicate balance of the batter, so let's turn our attention inward...
The sweetness of the shells can be countered with fillings that can be only mildly sweetened with out losing structural integrity (like Swiss meringue buttercream, mascarpone, or whipped cream). Or why not try a tart fruit curd (like rhubarb raspberry) or dark chocolate ganache with a bitter edge? Plenty of great options there...but being stubborn as I am I was stuck on the idea a lemon white chocolate ganache. So how did I turn an ingredient infamous for being tooth-achingly sweet into a treat even the sugar-shunners in my life loved? I gave it a good sour kick in the arse with a liberal dose of citric acid (a natural powder often used to add sourness to food/drinks)!
Do you have your own way of showing those overly sweet macs who's boss that I haven't mentioned above? Lemme hear 'em, please! =D
Lemon Party Macarons [Printable Recipe]
Lemon-shaping method adapted from Macarons by Erica
Makes 25 to 30 macarons
XIAOLU'S NOTES: I purchased citric acid fairly cheaply from my local Indian store. If you don't have it, you may be able to add 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice instead. However I haven't tried this myself and therefore am not certain it won't cause curdling or other problems. Please do not try to convert this recipe to volume measurements if you don't have a scale (I use and love this one). This recipe is very sensitive and will not work if the measurements are not exact. Please also note that every oven is different and you'll figure out what works best for yours over time (see this post for great information on ovens and macarons). Since mine has major hot spots, I bake on 2 stacked pans for insulation if using parchment paper. If you're uncertain of your ability to pipe uniformly-sized macarons, like me, simply trace 1 1/4-inch circles on your parchment paper, flip the paper over, and pipe on the other side, using the outlines as your guide OR print (choose "fit to page") and slide this template under your parchment as a guide but don't forget to remove before baking! Macarons are best after having been refrigerated for 24 to 48 hours, according to French pastry master, Pierre Herme, "An osmosis takes place between the garnish and the biscuit. When freshly baked this is hard and crisp, but it absorbs some humidity from the filling and its inside becomes more tender while the crust on the surface stays intact" (quote via Not So Humble Pie). So even if you accidentally overbake the shells by a few minutes, maturing the macarons in the fridge for at least 48 hours should undo most of the damage =). See my first macaron post for helpful videos of the whole macaron-making process!
125 g almonds [not roasted or salted]
160 g powdered sugar
2 Tbsp lemon zest, air-dried at least 1 hour
Large pinch of salt
35 g granulated sugar
2 g egg white powder [optional, to stabilize batter in humid weather]
90 to 95 g egg whites [about 3 large egg whites]
Pinch of citric acid [optional, to stabilize meringue and add subtle tart flavor]
Tart White Chocolate Lemon Ganache (Recipe below)
Microwave fresh egg whites 10 to 15 seconds in the microwave on medium-low heat (I set my microwave to 40%).
Combine the almonds, powdered sugar, dried zest, and salt in a food processor, and pulse on and off until the nuts are finely ground (about 1 to 2 minutes). Sift the powder to remove any large chunks that remain. Put those chunks back into the food processor and pulse again for another 30 to 60 seconds. Sift again. You will probably have some slightly chunkier almond bits. Hopefully they're no more than a tablespoon or so, in which case you can throw them out.
Weigh out and mix your granulated sugar and egg white powder in a small bowl until uniform; set aside. Using a handheld or stand mixer, whip the egg whites on medium-low speed with citric acid until foamy, then turn the speed up to medium to medium-high and gradually add the sugar mixture until you obtain a glossy meringue (it'll look like shaving cream, hold stiff peaks, and stay in place if you turn the bowl upside-down; but don't overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry).
Add all of the nut mixture to the meringue and fold together. Use both a folding motion that scrapes the bottom of the bowl (to incorporate the dry ingredients) and a gentle pressing motion, to deflate the meringue against the side of the bowl. Slow down after all the dry ingredients have been incorporated, and continue folding the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that looks somewhat glossy and flows from the spatula in a thick ribbon. Test the batter by spooning a small amount of the batter on a plate: if the top flattens on its own within about 20 seconds, it’s ready to pipe. If there is a small peak, give the batter 2 to 3 more folds and test again. The peak shouldn’t disappear immediately either or it’s already overmixed.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/3 to 1/2-inch wide plain tip (I like Ateco #805 or 806) with half of the batter. (When your bag is too full, the pressure causes the batter to rush out in a way that’s difficult to control, making for sloppy macarons.) Pipe tiny blobs of batter onto the 4 corners and center of 2 baking sheets, then line baking sheets with parchment paper OR line with silicone mats. Pipe small rounds (slightly larger than 1 inch wide) straight down and about 1 inch apart onto the baking sheets. Immediately use a toothpick to pull out points on opposite sides of each round to create the lemon shapes. Then pick up each sheet with both hands and slam it firmly straight downward on the counter 2 to 3 times. This will to force out any large air bubbles. Immediately pop any bubbles that rise up but don't break with a toothpick. Do NOT do this once a few minutes have passed because you'll mess up the shell that's forming.
Preheat the oven to 285 to 300 degrees F. Let the macarons sit out for 25 to 90 minutes to harden their shells a bit (to prevent tops from cracking during baking). Test if they're ready by touching the top and side of one shell lightly. It should feel dry and not stick to your finger at all. Bake one pan at a time for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of the macarons. After the first 10 minutes of baking, rotate the pan and place a large piece of foil loosely over the macarons to prevent browning (If I’m baking on 2 stacked pans, I also remove the bottom pan at this point to make sure the macarons will be completely cooked on the bottom and not sticky). Let cool completely before trying to move the shells.
Once cool, remove the shells from the silicone mat or parchment and flip them over. If you have trouble removing them from parchment paper, freeze the macarons for about 10 minutes, then quickly peel them off before they have a chance to warm up and get sticky again.
Fill the shells (spooning or piping) with 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of filling and top with a similarly-sized top shell. For the best flavor and texture, store in the refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours before eating (see notes above for detailed explanation) but they are best if eaten within 6 days. Bring to room temperature before eating.
Tart White Chocolate Lemon Ganache
6 Tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp lemon zest
6 oz. white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 to 3/4 tsp citric acid
Pinch of salt
Heat cream and lemon zest in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil. Slowly pour the cream into a heatproof bowl containing the chopped white chocolate and let sit for 3 to 5 minutes. Stir gently until all of the chocolate is melted and you've obtained a smooth ganache. Sprinkle the citric acid and salt over the ganache and stir in thoroughly. Let cool to a cool room temperature until thickened before filling macarons. (It's fine to speed up the cooling by popping the ganache in the fridge but make sure it doesn't get too hard to pipe/spoon on.)