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.

IMG_8128

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.

IMG_8129

  • 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: How To Get Perfect Cupcakes

hump day help

While “working” on Pinterest I came across this tip that I think is awesome and I thought would be perfect for today’s post.

So, for all the cupcake lovers, here is a simple way via Foodista, on how to get the perfect cupcakes every time.

kellyneil.com 2011

For those of us baking in the land of Degree Celcius: 350F = 180C / 325F = 160C

If those perfectly risen cupcakes are still evading you, you may want to check out my post on My Top 5 Reasons Your Cakes May Be Flopping.

Here is also a simple Cupcake Recipe that you may want to try.

Please leave me a comment and let me know if you are enjoying these HumpDay Hints and finding them useful. I would love to hear from you xxx

signature sign off

HumpDay Help: My top 5 reasons your cakes may be flopping

hump day help

There was a time a little while back when I was having no joy with my cupcakes or cakes. As hard as I tried to stick to my recipe they kept sinking while they were cooling. So I did some research and spoke to some people and here are my top 5 reasons that you cakes may be flopping.

1. Are you following the recipe correctly? Baking is all about chemistry and ingredients reacting together to get the desired result, in this case, a cake that rises properly. If you were for instance to add too much baking soda, then too much of air would be created within the cake when it’s baking and when it’s resting the cool the air will escape and cause the cake to sink. Ingredients are also not interchangeable. You cannot substitute baking soda for baking powder.

2.Did you overmix the batter?  Recipes will often say ‘Mix until just combined’ . They say this for a reason. When adding in your flour you do not need your batter to be smooth and silky, you need the ingredients to be at the point when they just combined. Overmixing will cause too much air to be incorporated into the batter and cause air pockets in the cake. So, like with the baking powder when this air is let out of the cake, the cake will sink. We tend to get a bit carried away using our big mixers so be careful and use the machines on a low speed.

3. Is the oven temperature correct?  The temperature of your oven is an important factor in the baking of your cakes. If its running too hot or too cold there is a good chance your cake will sink. I would suggest investing in an oven thermometer if possible. Also opening the oven door to check on your cake will drop the temperature in the oven every time you do, so try not to open the oven door for about the first 80% of the baking time.

4. Are your ingredients fresh?  So this is where the fault in my baking lay. Baking powder has a shelf life of 6 months to a year, if stored correctly and even though it’s such a small percentage of your ingredients it an cause all kinds of drama. In my case, I was convinced by someone at the store that I buy my ingredients to buy the store brand of baking powder. It had obviously been on the shelf for a while and hence was the root of my sinking cake debacle. I’ve learned my lesson!

5. Did you take it out too soon?  The tried and tested method for checking if a cake is done is to insert a clean skewer into the center and if it comes out clean it’s done. I’ve found that this is not always 100% effective for me so I rather use the spring test. If, with a finger,you gently press down on the center of the cake or cupcake and the sponge springs, back its ready to be taken out of the oven. If you leave a little dent in the sponge it needs a little while longer to fully bake.

*Just as an extra tip: Preheating your oven is an important step that needs to be followed

IMG_7409-0

I hope that these tips help and please comment below if there are any others that you can think of.

Happy baking!

 

signature sign off

 

 

Photo Credit: Nicky – PolkaDots and JellyTots / Products made by Madame Macaron

Humpday Hints: Are Baking Powder and Baking Soda/ Bicarbonate Of Soda The Same?

The short answer to this question is no.

The long answer is this.

While baking powder and baking soda look the same and both basically do the same job of helping our baked goods to rise beautifully, they do this under very different circumstances and conditions.

So, baking soda is pure bicarbonate of soda or sodium bicarbonate. Because it’s a base, it needs moisture and acid to react, so ingredients like buttermilk or yoghurt are used when baking with baking soda. They also balance the flavour of the baking soda. The baking soda reacts with the acidic ingredient and forms bubbles. These are what expand in the heat of the oven and cause your cakes and other baked goods to rise. The reaction between the baking soda and acidic ingredient happens immediately, so if your recipe calls for baking soda, you need to be using the batter straight away or whatever you’re baking is going to flop. ( sad but true)

Baking powder on the other hand does contain sodium bicarbonate but also other things as well. Namely, the acids that it needs to react with, and because the baking soda needs moisture to react, there’s also a drying agent like cornflour mixed in as well. Most baking powders are ” double acting”. This means that there will be a reaction at room temperature first and then while in the oven. The more bubbles created, the fluffier the texture of the cake or whatever it is you may be baking. Important to remember , is also that baking powder has a shelf life of 6 months, so be sure to check the expiry date on the packaging.

So the big question… Can I substitute baking powder for baking soda and vice versa if I’m too lazy to go out and buy it? Well…substituting either will affect the flavour, texture and even colour of your baked goods, but here are some cheats from About.com 🙂

xxx Viveshni