I wish i had more information to make this a full on Macaron Geek post. But since i don't, i'll just do my best with whatever i know. Sorry that i've not been updating but yes, much has been happening in the kitchen while i serve house arrest... though i really should be focusing on my dissertation. In my defense, high kitchen activity equals lowered stress levels, so... better to destress, no? :)
anyway, i just came back from HANDS ON MACARON class at TOTT (Tools of the Trade). Apparently i had registered for another mac class with another cooking school but it was one of those you-cook-i-watch kind of things which isn't my cup of tea but at that time, i thought it was the only mac class available. But Gem found a mac class in TOTT that allowed us to get bustling and he registered and paid for the class for me. I WAS ECSTATIC. I'm back and boy, i am HIGH from the experience. Major high. I would probably be feeling higher if i were in a French kitchen, but this is a start. I'm so indebted to the boyfriend for his thoughtfulness and generousity. THANK YOU DEAR! I WILL REMEMBER THIS FOR LIFE! CAN YOU NOW SEND ME TO PIERRE HERMES' KITCHEN? Hee.
I've relearned the way to make macs the swiss meringue way. Okay, okay. I know swiss meringues aren't looked up to as THEE way to make macs. It is often read through blogs that PH uses the italian meringue, but at class, i was told he uses the swiss way. *shrugs* it would make sense to do it the swiss way since you don't have to let the macs rest for hours before baking. With people eager to buy some of those holy pieces of pastry, i'm not sure which way he sticks to.
But since i've tried PH's macarons and i've tried the swiss meringue ones... i really can't say that they are the same in texture. PH's are more "biscuity". The macs are drier, more crisp. The shells are crisp and the insides are softer, but not extremely moist. Surprisingly different from what i'm used to. I'm not sure if that's the result of them being flown all the way back to Singapore in my sister's luggage and sitting in the fridge for a few days because i was too in awe to eat them.
UPDATE: Sister said that the PH's macs are actually soft! So, it seems like the flight from France to Sg in the luggage cabin did dry them out. Ah so des ne. So, they weren't biscuity after all.
Anyway. The swiss meringue macs are chewier with very sturdy shells. But then again... it's because they haven't had time to mature in the fridge. I should wait a day or two before i give my full verdict. But i'm pretty sure that they aren't going to become crisp and light like PH's. Hmph.
I guess i can only say that in PH's kitchen, they have extremely controlled conditions like temperature and humidity. Being in Singapore, the humidity is already a meringue murderer. So, replicating the conditions and churning out macs like his is close to... I don't know. I still choose to be optimistic about my endeavours. Hurhur.
Things i learnt today (not in any sequence wrt to mac making):
1) Italian meringue buttercream: Do not be afraid to let the sugar boil! And DO NOT, DO NOT, stir the sugar! Just let it sit and boil away... Then do the bubble test with a fork, which will tell you if it's ready. How to? Stick a fork into the syrup, lift it out, and blow through the thongs and if you can blow out BUBBLES (i kid you not), then the syrup is ready. Problem is though, is when to put in the fork. Hmm. Trial and error i guess. Alternatively, you can go spend on a thermometer. Now i know why my italian meringue macs are kinda wonky... I hardly wait that long for the sugar to boil up because i'm afraid that the whole thing will caramelize and i will have a hard time scraping my sauce pot clean.
2) That it is very shiok to call the instructor "Chef??", "Chef!", "Uh..., Chef...?". Heh. Machiam in Gordon Ramsey's kitchen, but without the yelling of profanities. Didn't get to yell out "YES CHEF!" though. (You might be able t0 tell, FoodNetwork and the Asian Food Channel is very much a part of my life...)
3) When doing up the egg whites and sugar in a bowl over a Bain Marie, the water needs to be BOILING. Not simmering. Whisk it from all directions and NO pussy whisking. It almost looks like you're beating it to death. To tell if it's done, is to stick your finger in. Ouch. But yes, ouch is the reaction you want. You want the mixture to be HOT, but not cooked. Tricky. But do-able. She taught us to be instinctive in our baking, and not follow thermometers. Hmm. I think there may be howls of protests from both camps about this.
4) Once in the electric mixer, to tell if it is done, stick your finger in and if the meringue comes out standing up stiffly, with a good firm stretch till it kinda shrinks at the tip and droops over, it is done. Firm peak on the whisk does not mean a rod straight beak. She said that it should be a single beak that curls down slightly at the tip when the whisk is lifted.
5) When mixing the dry and wet, you can simply stir the spatula around. None of that folding you normally see in other mac videos. I think this is peculiar to the swiss meringue. Stir and mix till the batter is well mixed but still thick and drops down in a thick and slow ribbon when the spatula is lifted.
6) Piping. Learnt a NEW skill! Pipe perpendicular to the table, STOP, twist deftly in a small circle to cut off the meringue and more importantly, this will stop the macs from having pointy "hats", or, er, nipples. I'll stick to hats, okay? Anyway, I think this is more crucial for the swiss meringue because it is a very firm meringue and it does not spread out and flatten as much as the french and italian meringue.
Piped by my partner who is new to piping macs. Good try! Here was our first batch of green tea macs. Haha. This was without close supervision from Chef. This is Chef's perfect looking macs. Our choc macs! Turned out nice because we had more supervision from Chef during the meringue making part and piping. I was determined to have them without hats, so i took my time to pipe them. Okay, but they still have... nipples. Meh. Me with my piped choc macs. Very pleased. I am not usually this neat. 7) This mac batter bakes well at 150C. Chef says DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DURING BAKING! Hmm. Okay. I try. But my home oven is wonky and not trustworthy... 150C on the dial does not mean 150C inside the oven...
8) Fillings can be piped using a plastic bag with a corner snipped off. Keep it small though. No need for metal tips here.
9) Whipping cream for chocolate ganache must be 35% something... Milk fats, i think?
10) Chocolate couverture must have at least 53.5% cocoa butter and solids. Do not store ganache in the fridge to set, but leave it in the open.
11) Finished buttercream looks thick, gathered together.
12) Heat was from the top AND bottom of the oven. How strange. If i did that in my oven, i would get... Oreo cookies.
(Above) We get to drink all the Gryphon tea we want. Heaven much. Tea goes very well with macs. If only i had the time to sit still and enjoy my tea with the sweet macs.
(Above) The very cool induction stove. So that none of us get a chance to blow ourselves or TOTT up.
And of course, the finished products: Green tea mac with green tea buttercream (this was SOOOO DELICIOUS) and red bean paste dolloped on top. (sorry for the weird alignment. I can't figure out why Blogger has formatting issues i've never had before. also, the photos don't look too good due to the lighting and also because i had to switch between a proper camera and my phone's camera. Proper camera batt was dying on me. Gah.)
Sister's verdict of swiss macs: She prefers the french meringue macs i made a couple of days ago with Tartelette's recipe, in terms of texture (soft). She finds these too chewy. But lets see how it goes after a day or two of maturing in the fridge.
It was a really, really, REALLY fun day in the kitchen at TOTT. We had a chef who was generous with her sharing, classmates who were eager to learn, a fellow food photographer (with DSLR somemore), free tea, coffee and ICE water (godsent), TOTT staff to wash up after us and help with equipment, and the encouragement for one another when some of us didn't make it or made it with our macarons. It was good fun. :) I would so do it again! If only the classes didn't cost so much though.