And just like that, we’ve finished off yet another month of 2016 and I’ve realized how so far behind I am with May’s edition of A Year in Macarons!
Good news is that it’s finally here, and with my gap in travel this past weekend, I was able to whip up a batch of pretty ones, and a recreation of the first macaron flavor I created back in 2013… I introduce to you Roasted Black Sesame Macarons!
There’s nothing mysterious about this flavor here. That is unless you haven’t tried black sesame before. It’s an utterly amazing and fragrant-yet-mild flavor that has a delicate balance of earthy tea and roasted nuttiness. I grew up eating Asian-style pastries featuring delicious fillings of black sesame, red bean, and taro root… “exotic” delicacies I’ve grown to really enjoy and appreciate! And as it turns out, these flavors compliment the delicate structure of the macaron quite well, too!
I have about 5 more of these left from the batch I made this weekend. They certainly don’t last long! Here’s to wishing everyone warm and sunny days to finish the rest of the week and welcome June.
- 100 g egg whites, room temperature
- 75 g caster sugar
- 150 g confectioners sugar, sifted
- 85 g ground black sesame seeds, sifted
- 45 g almond flour, sifted
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1/2 c ground black sesame seeds
- 1/4 c honey
- 1/4 c unsalted butter, softened
- 1/4 c confectioner's sugar
- Measure out dry ingredients using the food scale. Let egg whites sit until room temperature.
- Meanwhile, pulse together powdered sugar, almond powder, and ground sesame in food processor until well blended.
- Meringue--In a very large bowl, whisk the room temperature egg whites, caster sugar, and salt into a meringue. I’ve found that it takes me about 7-9 minutes to completion, and I break it down into three basic steps:  Starting on a low-speed setting, whip the egg whites with an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes until frothy, adding ⅓ of the caster sugar and a pinch of salt along the way.  Move mixer to med-speed setting; continue whipping egg whites another 2-3 minutes until soft peaks form, and add half of the remaining caster sugar along the way.  Move mixer to high-speed setting; whip egg whites 1-2 minutes and add the remaining caster sugar along the way. Move mixer to highest speed for last minute until firm peaks form.
- Be careful not to over beat the egg whites! You will know when your meringue is ready by checking to see if (a) nothing falls out of the bowl when you turn it upside down, and (b) the meringue remains in the whisk/beater when you stop the mixer.
- Fold in the mixed and sifted dry ingredients into the meringue; this is the actual macaronage step. I find that it takes me anywhere from 40-50 folds (and I actually do keep count) to achieve the right consistency. Folding doesn’t require gentleness; the macaronage process requires one to “beat” out the air from the egg whites. When a shine develops and the consistency resembles lava or thick pancake batter, macaronage is complete. I’m careful to count the folds in order to not overmix!
- Transfer macaron batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip (I use the Ateco #11 round). Pipe even circles on prepped baking sheets lined with Silpat-like mats. For even circles, I count out 1-2-3-4 while piping to help ensure more even batter distribution for each circle. It’s not a foolproof solution, but it works surprisingly well! Alternatively, there are templates that can be used and placed under the Silpat-like mats for additional assurance.
- Knock the air bubbles out! To prevent cracking and empty shells, the extra air bubbles have got to go! In parallel, drop the fully-piped baking sheet from a 4-6 inch range onto a counter or table that can withstand an impact. Do this three times, rotate the sheet 180-deg and do so three times again. It’s loud and might seem excessive, but seeing those tiny bubbles rise to the surface and pop make it all worth it.
- Let the shells try in a dry place. The top coat of the shell should be dry to the touch; no batter should stick. This may take anywhere from 30-120 minutes. I tend to wait at least an hour to ensure a hardened shell. Drying the shell is required for a smooth shell and macaron feet to form without cracking. Bake too soon before the shells are dried and the shells will crack—I’ve had this experience once or twice before and it’s the last thing you want to happen after having invested so much work into preparing the shells leading up to the baking.
- Pre-heat the oven to 320º F. Bake for 5 minutes before lower temperature to 295º F for the remaining 10-15 mins, rotating the sheet a touch more than halfway through the baking process after feet have formed. While I prefer to bake each sheet individually to exercise greater control over each, in the interest of time, I have tried baking both together (on middle/bottom rack and switching them halfway through) and have found success.
- Remove shells from oven and let it cool completely before removing/peeling from the mat. Be sure to let them cool completely, as premature removal will result in decapitation—the “cap” of the macaron shell will literally come off, leaving the base/crinkly feet on the mat. No bueno :(
- As shells bake/cool, prepare the key lime curd and buttercream fillings.
- In a small food processor (magic bullet or similar), blend together ground black sesame and honey to make a "paste".
- With an electric or stand mixer, whip together softened butter and powdered sugar until well incorporated, 2-5 minutes.
- Add black sesame paste to butter and mix until well incorporated.
- Optionally transfer the filling to a pastry bag fitted with a piping tip (#11 Ateco, I use the same one for the macarons) in preparation for assembly.
- Sort and match macaron shells into pairs of roughly equal size.
- For each cookie pair, pipe 1-2 teaspoons (depending on size) of filling in the center of the cookie.
- Place the accompanying cookie on top and twist the cookies in opposite directions as you push the cookies together to help distribute the filling throughout the macaron, out to the edges. Repeat for remaining cookies.
- You can now enjoy your the fruits of your labor immediately! Or... store assembled cookies in an air-tight container in the fridge for 12-24 hours. This allows the flavors to penetrate through the entirety of the macaron, enhancing both the texture and flavor of the eventual tasting experience!
- To serve, remove from refrigerator and let the macarons warm to room temperature prior to enjoying. (Hint: if it's crunchy when you bite into it, it's probably still too cold)