The Macaron Files : Tip #2/20 – Know Your Almonds

 It’s week 2 in the Macaron Files Series and this week we’re talking Almonds

Almonds are the key ingredient when making macarons, so it follows that you need to know your almonds.

To start, almond flour, almond meal and ground almonds are all the same thing! So don’t be confused if you see them labelled differently in various stores.

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If you choose to buy almond flour
  • Make sure that the almonds are fresh, so  basically they haven’t been sitting on the shelf for too long, because not only will this lead to stale almonds, but also oiliness which is something that you definitely do not want
  • Before using your almond flour you will most likely need to sift it to get out any residual grainy bits. Now, while you can get away with about a tablespoon of slightly rough almond pieces in your mix, any excessively chunky pieces are going to tear not so pretty little hole in your shells or give you a very rough exterior instead of the smooth shiny shell that you are after.
  • If you find that your almonds are oily, the easiest way to rectify this is by running it through the food processor for a bit with some icing sugar. The icing sugar absorbs the oiliness and since it is a part of your recipe, you’re not adding in any foreign ingredients. You could also put the almond flour on a tray and into the oven for a few minutes, but personally I’ve had far too many instances of being distracted and ending up with toasted almond flour so I tend to stick to the icing sugar method.
If you choose you grind your own almonds
  • The first thing that you would need to do is blanch your raw almonds. So, if the skin is still on the almonds, follow the easy steps below.

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  • Now, the tricky party about making your own almond flour is that its very easy to take it a bit too far and create something closer to almond butter than almond flour. The key is to run the almonds through the food processor in short bursts rather than trying to get it done in one go. I use a coffee grinder because I find that I get a finer powder, although it does take a whole lot longer than a food processor because of the restriction on how much you can do at a time.
  • Again, after grinding sift the almond flour to remove and chunky bits.
How to store you almond flour

The best way to store your almond flour, whether you have bought it or ground it yourself, is in an airtight container, either in the fridge or the freezer. Alternately they will also be fine in a cool, dry place. The main thing is to keep them away from heat and humidity. A warm environment will cause the almonds to give off their oil and like I said previously, you don’t want oily almond flour.

If you missed the first post in this series you can find it here : Tip 1/20 – Know Your Oven and look out for the next tip next Wednesday where I talk about the pros and cons of using baking paper vs silicone baking mats.

There are also a few spots left in our Women’s Day Macaron Class on 1 August 2015, so you go here and book.

If you found this tip helpful or have anything to add, please leave a comment. I would love to hear what you have to say.

xxx Viveshni

The Macaron Files: Tip 1/20 – Know Your Oven

Being Madame Macaron I get asked a great many questions about what I do to get the perfect macarons, so I thought that it was about time for this series of posts.
Each week I will be sharing one of my tips for getting the   perfect macarons and hopefully helping you to identify any issues that you may be having with your batches. So, save them , print them, collect them ,and by the end of the series you should have the perfect macarons every time!

One of the most often overlooked factors in making macarons and also one of the most important is your oven. 

There are 3 main factors that will affect your macarons.

1.The Temperature Control
The heat settings on your average home ovens are not always 100% accurate and a few degrees of extra heat can mean the difference between lovely feet that raise your shells up or skirts that frill out around your shells leaving your macaron looking like a rather pretty and tasty doily.
The best way to ensure that your oven is running at the correct temperature is to buy an oven thermometer. If however you aren’t keen on doing that and have some time and patience, you can test your oven by baking a few shells at 20 degrees lower than the required temperature. You would then increase the temperature by 5 degrees for successive batches until your shells form feet and bake in the required time.

2. Even distribution of heat
I went through many a batch of macarons where one half of the tray would be perfectly done but the other half was under baked. I tried a different tray and even different baking paper until I realized that it was a heat distribution problem, where one half of my oven was running hotter than the other. This can also cause lopsided macarons, where only one side of the shell is rising and you’re left with more of a wedge than a lovely symmetrical disc.
The solution to this problem is pretty simple. Half way through the baking process open the oven ( yes you can do that with macarons ) and rotate the tray 180 degrees. This will ensure that all your shells are evenly baked.
3. Using more than 1 shelf at a time
There is one rule that you need to remember when it comes to using more than 1 shelf in your oven and it is that hot air rises and cold air sinks. So the bottom shelf in your oven is always going to be a little cooler than the top and therefore your macarons will need a little extra time than those on the middle shelf. As always though, not every oven is the same and you will need to get a feel for how much longer your shells on the bottom shelf need to stay in for.
Please let me know if this tip helped and if you have any that you’d like to add.

xxx Viveshni

HumpDay Help : Ageing Egg Whites

I haven’t posted a Humpday help post in a while but I thought that it was time to repost one of my most popular ones, the one that brings all the bakers to the yard ( yes, that’s a very corny reference to Kelis’ Milkshake)… This one is macaron related… Ageing Eggs Whites.

There are a lot of macaron recipes that call for aged egg whites, including my own, and you may be like I was and ask what the heck an aged egg is.

Well, aging egg whites basically means separating your egg whites and yolks, and storing your egg whites in a loosely covered container in a cool dry place for 24 – 48 hours. Thereafter you can put it in a fridge in an airtight container.

So why do you have to do this?

The reasoning behind it is to dehydrate the egg whites as much as possible. This adds elasticity to the egg whites and helps you gets a stiffer meringue and the right consistency of batter for the perfect macarons. Just remember, that if you have had the egg whites in the fridge, you need to take them out and let them come to room temperature before using them.

Now I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself that there must be a shortcut, because really, who has 2 days to wait for your egg whites to dehydrate when the macaron craving calls.

Luckily, there is! After a bit of research I found out that if you haven’t had time to leave your egg whites out to age you can pop them into the microwave for about 10 seconds. This mimics the aging process to a degree, but you have to be careful not to put them in for too long. You want dehydrated eggs, not cooked.

I’ve used this method more times than I can count and I have to say that my macarons have actually, on many occasions, turned out better than with just traditionally aged egg whites. There are also a lot of sites that say you don’t have to age your eggs at all. In the end it’s all up to you to try it out and see what works best for you.

So that’s the low down on aging eggs.

Happy Baking!

Humpday Help; Flat Top Cakes made Easy

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With all the ‘naked’ cakes around these days, I went on a mission to find out the best way to get a  flat top cake.

The big secret is that most bakers cut the tops off the cakes to make them level. I bet that’s not the answer you were expecting! I did however find a tip that I tried. While it did work, my cake was not completely flat, but I would attribute that to my own haste in trying to get it done.

Here is the post on the tip from A Cozy Kitchen . It involves a strip of towel, some water and a couple of pins.

I personally have no problem with the domes and cutting them off to level the cakes, mainly because it gives my kids something to snack on and out of my hair while I do what needs to be done.

Let me know if you try this trick out and how it goes!

Happy Baking!

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Humpday Help : Buttermilk Cheat

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There are many recipes that call for buttermilk as one of their ingredients. Now the average person doesn’t (I’m assuming ) have a carton of buttermilk hanging out in their fridge, and if the urge to bake strikes and you are using a recipe that needs buttermilk I’m sure that a trip to the store just for one ingredient may cause some of us to put our baking off for another day.

I’ve been in the situation many times and with some research I found that there is a cheat that you can use AND it’s so simple.

For every cup of buttermilk you need : 1 cup of milk + 1 Tbsp of vinegar                                    Let the vinegar sit in the milk for a few minutes so that it can work it’s magic and you’re good to go.

You may ask why you cant just add the milk. Well my guess is that your recipe also asks for baking soda/ bicarbonate of soda and like I explained in my post about baking powder vs baking soda , you need an acid for the baking soda to react with. The milk alone is neutral, so that alone will not work and your cake won’t rise as it should, hence you need the vinegar as well.

I’ve used this countless times and it’s worked great for me.I hope this hint helps and if you try it, please leave me a comment about how it worked for you.

xxx Viveshni

Aging Egg Whites

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There are a lot of macaron recipes that call for aged egg whites ( including the one i will be posting soon) and you may be like I was and ask what the heck an aged egg is.

Well, aging egg whites basically means separating your egg whites and yolks, and storing your egg whites in a loosely covered container in a cool dry place for 24 – 48 hours. Thereafter you can put it in a fridge in an airtight container.

So why do you have to do this?

The reasoning behind it is to dehydrate the egg whites as much as possible. This causes the egg whites to lose elasticity and helps you gets a stiffer meringue and the right consistency of batter for the perfect macarons. Just remember, that if you have had the egg whites in the fridge, you need to take them out and let them come to room temperature before using them.

Now I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself that there must be a shortcut, because really, who has 2 days to wait for your egg whites to dehydrate when the macaron craving calls.

Luckily, there is! After a bit of research I found out that if you haven’t had time to leave your egg whites out to age you can pop them into the microwave for about 10 seconds. This mimics the aging process to a degree, but you have to be careful not to put them in for too long. You want dehydrated eggs, not cooked.

I’ve used this method more times than I can count and I have to say that my macarons have actually, on many occasions, turned out better than with just traditionally aged egg whites. There are also a lot of sites that say you don’t have to age your eggs at all. In the end it’s all up to you to try it out and see what works best for you.

So that’s the low down on aging eggs.

Happy Baking!