Pistachio Macarons

I am so excited to share my homemade pistachio macarons with you.  They took a bit of time to make but wow … flavor-wise, they are pistachio overload!

I try to avoid coloring but honestly, creamy white shells would not look right.  I used a minute amount of gel color, a few drops of green and one drop of yellow to get the color I was looking for.

I rotate between Helene Dujardin’s recipe and a few others, but after years of making macarons, I personally find the real trick is to master the steps involved.  There are tons of recipes, and they all differ, but if you practice and get the technique right, you will definitely have success.  I remember getting frustrated and saying “that recipe is awful, let’s try another one … why are they not coming out … this recipe is awful …. and so on!”

Here is a great article on macaron troubleshooting that really helped me achieve those perfect feet (which alluded me for a very long time)!

I added a few drops of Real Flavors pistachio flavoring to the paste.  To make the pistachio filling, I mixed a very small amount of white chocolate ganache in order to pipe fluidly.  You do not need a lot, so I made a tiny, tiny batch of ganache.  White chocolate is already super sweet.

Here is how to make homemade pistachio paste.

If you haven’t made pistachio macarons, give them a try!

Happy baking!

Advertisements

Real Flavors – Pistachio Flavoring – Product Review

Pistachio Flavoring by Real Flavors is one of my newfound favorites!

I have been meaning to make homemade pistachio paste for pistachio macarons for a while now.  While time consuming, it was really worth the effort.  I added a few drops of pistachio flavoring to the paste and wow … it really amped up the taste!  The macarons were truly flavorful.

Here is how to make homemade pistachio paste.

If you read my post on Real Flavors, you will know that I looked everywhere for natural flavorings.  The search is over!  Here is where you can buy them!

Disclaimer:
This is not a paid advertisement.
Products are courtesy of Real Flavors

Homemade Pistachio Paste

Pistachio macarons are one of my favorites.  I love the nutty taste and slightly chunky yet creamy texture.  The green color is stunning and always catches my eye.

While a macaron can cost anywhere from $2.30 – $3.30, H still likes to treat me to a box.  To be honest, I would rather make my own, but macarons are very time consuming!

For pistachio macarons, I thought I would make them in stages.  The shells can be made and frozen for up to 6 months.  The pistachio paste will last several weeks in an airtight container in the fridge, or you can freeze it for several months.  I would suggest making a small batch, enough for your macarons.

The paste can be quite time consuming and after making it for the third time I thought, this is a lot of work!  I would rather buy it!  H concurred, but with the homemade version, I know it’s pure pistachio with a tiny bit of oil, and no added sugar.

All you need is a small food processor, and raw pistachios.  Okay, raw pistachios are not that easy to find, and they are pricey.  The first time, I bought a bag of salted pistachios from Costco.  Honestly, you do not have to go crazy and buy raw unsalted ones!  I had to get H to help shell them though!  I think he ate the same amount as the ones he shelled :(

The second time, I thought I would make it easy on myself and buy a bag of shelled pistachios.  These were a time saver!

Here is a picture of shelled pistachios, blanched with skins removed.

The hard part is getting the darn skins off.  Yes, you do need to get rid of them!  Trust me, they taste bitter, and they will make your pistachio paste look brown.  Look at all the skins that came off! Can you imagine if you kept them in – yuck!

Homemade Pistachio Paste

Here we go:

  • Bring water in a saucepan to a boil
  • Add the shelled pistachios
  • Boil for 2-3 minutes (I found 1 minute was not long enough)
  • Remove and drain well in a colander.  I prefer not to shock them in icy cold water because you need a bit of the heat and steam to remove the skins
  • Lay the pistachios on a dry and clean tea towel and rub the skins off as much as you can
  • Now, here is a trick that I did not find on the Internet: after trying to scrape the remaining skin off, I decided to put on a pair of disposable gloves.  Take each pistachio and rub gently between your fingers; the skin will pop off easily!  Yes, this can take time, but it will be worth it.
    • Optional: After blanching the pistachios, I find they are soft, so I prefer to roast them.
    • Spread pistachios on a baking sheet, let dry completely and bake in a 350°  oven (depending on your oven, mine took about 6-8 minutes).  Watch carefully and stir often.  After all this work, you do not want to burn them.
    • Let cool completely and process in a mini food processor with a tiny amount of oil.  I find it helps to get the mixture going.  Any “flavorless” oil will do.  I used extra light olive oil.  I do not like to add water or sugar.  If your food processor is a lot stronger than mine, the texture will be smoother.
  • Give the pistachio paste a taste.  I found it was flavorful and nutty, however, a tiny bit on the bland side.  While optional, this is where I used a few drops of Real Flavors pistachio extract.  The drops are very concentrated, so please use sparingly.  I found the paste tasted more flavorful the next day, after sitting in the fridge.  The flavoring really bumped up the pistachio taste, which is what I was looking for!

Note: 
Pistachio paste tastes great on toast or crackers.

 

Real Flavors – Product Review – Part 1

I almost gave up trying to find concentrated flavor extracts that tasted natural.  I did an extensive and exhaustive Internet search and tried a few name brands, but was never happy with the results.  Have you ever tasted something and thought, hmm, what is that awful artificial aftertaste?  Yuck!

When I came across Real Flavors, I was immediately intrigued!  I try to avoid coloring and artificial extracts as much as possible, but I was on a real mission to amp up the flavor of baked goods, most especially macarons.

Real Flavors uses real fruit and produce.  Can you imagine apples extracted from Northern Michigan, peaches from Georgia and oranges from Florida!  While speaking with Joe Caudy from Business Development, I could tell the company has a huge sense of pride in their products.  Their state of the art lab focuses on environmentally friendly processing procedures, which is also FDA registered.

While the flavor extracts can be used in food, beverages, and oral medications, one of my passions are macarons.  Macaron shells are extremely finicky.  It took me years just to perfect them.   Here is an informative guide on making macarons.  If you scroll through all the links, you will see just how labor intensive they are!  While macaron shells only consist of four ingredients: almond flour, icing sugar, egg whites and granulated sugar, they are truly a challenge to perfect.  This explains why macarons can cost upwards of $3.00 for just one!

Macaron shells are not typically flavored.  They are so finicky that any additional ingredients to the recipe can result in catastrophe.  The real flavor comes from the fillings; however, excessive moisture can result in soft, squishy shells.  For this reason alone, I don’t use fruit curds unless they are mixed with buttercreams.  Even fruit purees can be a bit tricky.

This is why I am so excited about Real Flavors!  These super concentrates are just that.  The ratio is 1/8 teaspoon compared to 1/2 to 1 teaspoon.  When working with concentrated extracts, it’s important to remember that a little goes a long way.  I mean tiny, tiny drops.  It is best to start with a minute amount.  I would definitely experiment with 1/16 teaspoon first.  This all depends on the quantity that you are making as well.  You can always add more!

I was amazed at Real Flavors product line!  Here are some of my favorites:

Blueberry
Raspberry
Orange
Strawberry
Peach
Mango
Passion Fruit
Watermelon
Lychee

Why stop there?  Here are some more decadent flavors that I cannot wait to try:

Pistachio
Hazelnut
Coconut
Banana Cream Pie
Key Lime Pie
Pina Colada
Champagne

While I get busy baking and experimenting, check out Real Flavors extracts and Hip Syrups.  Real Spices is another exciting product line, which will be available soon.

Disclaimer:
This is not a paid advertisement.
Products are courtesy of Real Flavors

Almond Flour by Grain-Free JK Gourmet – Product Review

Almond flour, also known as almond meal is made from whole blanched almonds without the skins. It’s gluten-free, has no trans fats and is a good source of fibre, calcium, magnesium and vitamin E. Just ¼ cup of almond flour = 3 grams of fibre, 6 grams of protein and only 1 gram of sugar!

I get a lot of inquiries regarding what brand of almond flour I use. When I first started my macaron craze, I tried a brand that was easily found in supermarkets. It was a bit coarse and I always had a good amount of leftover almond flour, even after a whirl in my food processor and sifting several times.

I even tried making my own almond flour, which is possible, but so much work! What a mess my kitchen was in. To make your own almond flour, you must combine blanched almonds with icing sugar in your food processor; otherwise you’ll end up with almond butter. You can also use unsalted almonds with skins, and I find it adds a nice speckle to macarons.

Pressed for time, I started searching for superfine almond flour and found one by Grain-Free JK Gourmet at my local health food store. It really is the finest ground almond flour I’ve used. Forget about your food processor, it isn’t necessary. If you were to pass it through a sieve, the residual amount is minimal.

Keep in mind, almond flour is not just for making macarons, it’s very common in a lot of baked goods, especially French pastries and cakes. You can substitute a portion of regular flour with almond flour for extra nutrition and for really moist results, but be careful. I would not recommend a 1:1 ratio as almond flour has a completely different moisture content as well as added fat. I normally use ¼ cup as a swap, so for 1 cup of flour, I would use ¾ cup flour + ¼ cup almond flour.

Almond flour can also be frozen to ensure freshness. Just be sure to leave it out at room temperature the day before, to allow any moisture to evaporate before using for macarons.

You can purchase this super fine almond flour directly from Grain-Free JK Gourmet’s website, or find a store near you here.

Disclosure:
Product is courtesy of Grain-Free JK Gourmet. This is not a paid advertisement.

Strawberry Macarons

Strawberry macarons are one of my favorites and look so pretty.

I used my go-to macaron recipe from Helene Dujardin and went with unflavored shells. I mentioned in a previous post that flavored powders and compounds are a bit difficult to find, and the few times I’ve tried them; I wasn’t impressed with the taste. I would get an explosion of flavor followed by a strange aftertaste, a lot like aspartame or saccharin, which I avoid as much as I can.

The filling is where you can get creative, and a lot of pastry chefs choose this method. You can also add reduced strawberry syrup made from fresh strawberries to any buttercream recipe, but since its February, I opted for a high-quality spread by Crofter’s Organic.

Basic Macarons

Makes approximately 25 – 30
Recipe adapted and printed with permission from Helene Dujardin

Ingredients

  • 100 grams aged egg whites (approximately 3)
  • 25 grams granulated sugar
  • 200 grams powdered sugar (icing sugar)
  • 110 grams ground almonds
  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites until foamy. Gradually add the 25 grams of granulated sugar and continue to whisk until you obtain a glossy meringue
  2. Combine the ground almonds and powdered sugar in a food processor and give them quick pulses. You want a super fine result. Have a sifter ready on top of another bowl, and sift the mixture. I usually repeat the process several times
  3. Add the ground almond mix to the egg whites and begin your macaronage. Start with quick strokes (folds) to break up the meringue a bit, and then slow down. You should not fold more than 50 times. This is where I made mistakes with my first two batches. The first time, I folded too long, the second time, I didn’t fold enough
  4. Fill a pastry bag with a round tip and pipe small rounds about 1.5” in diameter, onto 2 parchment lined baking sheets (or use Silpat). I don’t have a steady hand, so my “Sous Chef” drew circles from a template onto parchment paper for me
  5. After the macarons are piped, take the sheets with both hands and wrap them hard on a counter to release any air bubbles, being careful not to disturb the perfect round circles you just piped. Leave on your counter for 30 minutes to form a hard skin
  6. Preheat oven 295°F and bake 12-17 minutes (depending on your oven), rotating halfway through, top to bottom and inside to outside. Keep a close eye. If you can grab the top of a shell and it doesn’t jiggle, they’re ready. If they still move when you grab them, they need a bit more time (minute or two)
  7. Let cool completely before filling

Kitchen notes:

  • Filled macarons truly taste better after they have matured in the fridge overnight. They are tempting to taste right away, but I have noticed a complete difference in taste
  • I added a hint of pink gel paste to the macaron shells
  • For the buttercream, add a few teaspoons of high-quality strawberry jam (strained), a little at a time. You can also add a tiny amount of pink gel paste if desired

Lemon Macarons

DSCF5918

I’ve been posting a lot of lemon recipes lately.  H even offered to plant a lemon tree for me (along with a lime and cherry tree) since I love lemons so much.

I tried a new recipe for lemon macarons and despite overfolding (again), they came out well.  I was quite surprised because I thought they were going to be disastrous.  But then I thought back to the macarons with chocolate ganache I made in April.  The batter was so runny that I couldn’t even pipe the batter.  It came oozing out, yet; they were my best batch yet!  Go figure?

I added lemon zest to the icing sugar and almond flour.  I also incorporated homemade lemon curd into my standard buttercream to use as a filling.  I didn’t wait long enough for the curd to thicken, thus the buttercream was a bit watery, and was not smooth.  When making lemon curd, continue to cook until it coats the back of a spoon.

If this is your first time making macarons, I would highly recommend reading “Demystifying Macarons” by Helene Dujardin. You can also look at my previous posts on macarons.  Just enter macarons in the top right search bar.

Lemon Macarons

Makes approximately 30 macarons
Adapted from Fine Cooking.com

Ingredients

  • 7-3/8 ounces (1-3/4 cups plus 2 tbsp) icing sugar
  • 4-3/8 ounces (1-1/4 cups plus 2 tbsp) almond flour
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature (aged 3 – 5 days)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  1. Line 3 flat baking sheets with parchment or non-stick baking liners and set aside
  2. In a food processor, pulse the icing sugar, almond flour and lemon zest several times.  Using a medium-mesh sieve, sift the mixture into a large bowl and set aside
  3. In a clean stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium speed until foamy and the wires of the beater leave a trail, 1 to 2 minutes
  4. Add 1 tbsp of the granulated sugar and continue to whip for another 30 to 45 seconds.  Repeat 3 times with the remaining granulated sugar.  Once all of the sugar is mixed in, continue whipping the whites until they turn glossy and stiff (when you lift the beater from the bowl, the whites should hold a straight peak that doesn’t curl at the tip), 4 to 8 minutes more
  5. With a large rubber spatula, fold in half of the flour mixture. Once most of it has been incorporated, fold in the remaining mixture until just combined.  It’s important to not over-fold
  6. Using a piping bag fitted with a ½ inch round tip, pipe the batter onto the prepared sheets in rounds that are about 1 inch in diameter.  As you pipe, hold the bag perpendicular to the baking sheet and flick the tip of the bag as you finish each cookie to minimize the peaks
  7. Rap the sheet against the counter several times to flatten the mounds and pop any large air bubbles with a toothpick
  8. Let rest until the meringues no longer feel tacky, 30 – 40 minutes
  9. Position racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 300°F
  10. Bake, rotating the sheets and swapping their positions after 8 minutes, until the meringues are very pale golden, 15 to 18 minutes total.  Keep checking as oven temperatures vary
  11. Cool completely on cooling racks

Lemon Curd recipe
Substitute lime zest/juice for lemon

Buttercream recipe
Fold a small amount of lemon curd to the finished buttercream until you reach the desired flavor.  Do not add more than ¼ cup, or your buttercream will be runny.  If you’re pressed for time, just add 1 – 2 tsp lemon extract to your buttercream, and omit the lemon curd.

Kitchen notes:

  • Vanilla Bean Macarons: Scrape and add the seeds from half of a vanilla bean to the egg whites after they’ve formed glossy, stiff peaks. Distribute the seeds evenly throughout the batter by pressing the clumps of seeds against the edge of the bowl with a spatula
  • Chocolate Macarons: Reduce the amount of almond flour by 7/8 ounce (1/4 cup) and substitute a half ounce (3 tbsp) cocoa powder

Why Are Macarons So Expensive?

I have purchased macarons ranging from $1.95 to $3.50 each, and would say some were definitely worth the price, while others were quite underwhelming. The price alone inspired me to try my hand at making macarons.

After my first 3 attempts, I began to think the same two thoughts, “Never again, I’ll just buy them!” or, “These came out well, and were worth the mess my poor “sous chef” has to help me clean up!”

Here are the challenges I encountered and some excellent tips I learned along the way to making macarons:

What’s the weather like today?

I read many articles on how humidity can affect the baking process. Apparently, too much moisture in the air will cause chaos in your shells.  But, I’ve also read that bakers don’t really wait for a perfect day.  Just make sure the macaron shells have formed a hard skin before baking them.

Aged egg whites

The egg whites should be aged anywhere from 2-5 days in the refrigerator, then brought to room temperature before whipping to the correct texture. I find a pinch of cream of tartar is also helpful. Superfine sugar, also known as caster sugar, should be added slowly. If you overbeat the egg whites, it’s a disaster. If you underbeat the egg whites, it’s still going to be disastrous. I have tried testing the egg whites by placing the bowl upside down. If the mixture doesn’t slide, you’re good to go. If it does, you need to whip them a bit more. Another helpful tip that I just learned recently from experimenting is that I don’t use my KitchenAid mixer, I use a hand mixer. It’s easier to stop and check the texture of the egg whites, and I rarely overbeat them this way. You’re looking for stiff peaks and a glossy meringue.

Kitchen scale

I would not attempt to make macarons without a kitchen scale. The amounts have to be exact, in grams. This goes for the egg whites, almond flour, icing sugar and superfine sugar.

Superfine almond flour

Most almond flour is too coarse, even after passing through a sieve several times. I tried buying blanched almond slivers in bulk and making my own almond flour, but it was extremely time-consuming and messy. The finer the almond flour, the smoother your shells will be. Sift the almond flour and icing sugar at least 3 times, you want a super, super fine mixture.

Macaronage stage

This is where I get stressed out and start to hold my breath. Folding the tant pour tant into the whipped meringue is where most bakers go wrong. I have watched countless videos and read every article and trouble-shooting guide I could get my hands on.

You want to add the almond flour mixture and start to fold (not mix, but fold) with a bit of speed, but then slow down. I’ve read 50 strokes is good, but I’ve had horrible results. 60-70 strokes, forget about it. You’ll just end up with puddles. Then again, I have to say, when I’ve under-folded, the macarons looked hideous. Many times, I over-folded and despite the fact that I could not pipe the shells because the mixture was too loose, the shells came out beautifully. I read that the mixture should flow like lava. What the heck is that?

This is the stage where you can start to pull your hair out, or, leave the mess you just made in your kitchen, hop in your car and head to the nearest bakery that sells beautiful macarons.

Alternately, try watching this video to obtain the right consistency.

Perfect piping

Unless you have a steady hand or you’re experienced in making macarons, I would suggest using a template. You can find many on the Internet. I laminated mine and placed them under the parchment paper on my baking sheets.

Now, finally, the piping marathon begins! If the finished mixture is the “right” consistency, you should be able to pipe and see the circles start to spread slightly and flatten on their own. Too thick and you can see circle patterns where you’ve piped? You under-folded and now what can we do when the mixture is already in the piping bag!!!! This happened many times because I was so afraid of over-folding.

When completed, hold a baking sheet with both hands, and with a firm grip on the parchment paper as well, whack the sheets on your counter a few times. If you still have some peaks, the mixture wasn’t quite ready. You can try to dip your finger tip into a very small amount of water, then on a paper towel and gently, very gently press down on any shells that still have peaks. If you see air bubbles, break them with a toothpick.

Nap time!

The macarons need a nap and so will you by the time you get to this stage!

There is much debate over letting the piped macaron shells rest at room temperature to allow a skin to develop, or not. Apparently, this helps with achieving perfect feet – the beautiful ruffles around the bottom of the shells. I’ve read numerous reviews where bakers omitted this step. My tip, wait 30 minutes. Just don’t let them sit too long, such as 45 – 60 minutes. I did that once and the feet came out lopsided. I read that they napped too long and became attached to the parchment paper!

Also, if you used a template, remove it now before baking.

Naps over … what’s next?

Oven thermometer

I can’t say this enough; you must purchase an oven thermometer to ensure your oven is at the right temperature. The first few times, I didn’t bother and when I did buy one, my oven was off by 25 degrees! Even with my new oven, the temperature was off by 40 degrees and when it was replaced, that oven was off by 15 degrees!

Oven temperature and rack positioning

Here we go, finally, the moment of truth! 300°F is quite standard, but I’ve had tops that browned. 290°F and they didn’t rise. Center of the rack, bottom third of the rack, top of the rack. Hair pulling starts ….

After numerous tests, 295°F worked for me (oven temperatures will vary), and I placed them in the middle of my oven.

Close the door, turn on the oven light, crouch to watch them rise (please, please) and pray!!

What worked for me:

If your macarons are spreading too much and you’re not getting perfect feet, your oven temperature might be too hot. Here’s a trick I learned that has resulted in nice feet!

Preheat your oven to 325°F. Place one tray of macarons in the oven. Watch for them to rise (from the glass window). This could take anywhere from 4-6 minutes. The minute you see them forming perfect feet, open the door gently but quickly and slide a wooden spoon in the doorway and close. Turn the heat down to 295°F and let them bake until they’re done.

To test, nudge a macaron with your finger, if it moves, they need more baking time. If they don’t budge at all, they’re done. This can take up to 10 more minutes of bake time, depending on your oven.

If your macarons are getting brown, your oven temperature is too hot.

Cooling off

Now that the macarons are out of the oven, let them cool completely on cooling racks.

Gently peel them away from the parchment paper. If they stick, they were undercooked. Another lesson learned.

To avoid this, do the test above to make sure the macarons are baked enough.

Where’s my twin?

Pair up the macarons as best you can. Some will look oval, others not so pretty, but they will still taste great.

Filling your macarons

Pipe your desired filling onto one macaron and place the twin on top. Gently press down while holding the edges of the macaron. I find a gentle twist helps as well.

Do not, and I repeat, do not eat macarons just yet!

24 hour time out

Trust me on this one, you will be tempted after all that hard work to pop a macaron in your mouth, and you can, but they will not taste like a macaron should. You might even start to think you weren’t successful!

Macarons truly need some time out in the fridge for 24 hours. Place them carefully in a tight-fitting container and let the flavours meld together overnight. When ready to eat, take the macarons out and let them sit for 15 minutes. Cold macarons don’t taste good, especially if they’ve been filled with chocolate ganache or Swiss/Italian meringue buttercream.

Now, take that first bite. The result should be a crispy shell, followed by a chewy texture and delicious filling. Note that if you used a wet filling such as lemon curd or another type of fruit, the shells will be softer.

Storing those finicky macrons

Store macarons in a tight-fitting container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Macarons also freeze very well.


Despite all these challenges, I’m craving macarons right now, how about you?