Ever since I started baking macaron shells using Pierre Herme’s Italian meringue method, I have never had any failed bakes. Until this weekend. There were many, many mistakes. First of which was when I thought mixing the color gel into the egg whites for the meringue was a good idea! Okay, a little background story. The last time I made these strawberry cheesecake macarons, I had a really difficult time getting the shade of red I wanted. It just stayed pink! So, instead of the usual color gel and almond mixture, I thought it’ll be easier to let the mixer do the color mixing. Not!?! After a minute of mixing and no meringue, I realise, color gel = oil-based! Man, is that a total n00b mistake or what.
After swapping out a new batch of egg whites for the meringue I proceeded to prepare the meringue and then adding the color gel to the stabilised meringue before folding it into the almond mixture.
Then I thought I’d give heart shape piping a go. And that did not go well at all. In fact, I scrapped away 2 trays of ugly heart shaped macaron shells and finally went back to my tried and tested round shells.
I didn’t think much of it until my first batch of macaron started cracking after 5 minutes in the oven! I was perplexed. I tried the last batch, which was piped using “fresh batter”, in opposed to the ones scrapped of the botched heart-shaped ones. And even those cracked! I thought it must have been due to the dodgy way I tweaked with Pierre Herme’s method.
So I ditched the whole batch and made a new batch, following Monsieur Pierre Herme’s recipe to the T. And it cracked again! I was close to tears! Just then I remembered I have swapped out my regular baking parchment with a different batch of baking parchment. But I did pipe half the batch on the old parchment. So I tried baking those. And they came out perfectly!
This 1.5 batch of macaron shells taught me the importance of using the right baking parchment! They must be totally non-stick parchment paper. Non-negotiable. Silicon pad works well too. But, heat transmission does not work quite as well on silicon pads compared to baking parchment. So if using, increase the baking time for at least 2 more minutes. I am currently sticking to my winning formula of 6 minutes at 150C and 12 minutes at 120C. For silicon pads, add an extra 2 minutes at 120C to ensure shells are completely dried. Phew! For a while there, I thought I have lost my macaron touch. That was quite scary.
And just to keep track of the strawberry curd recipe used here. I thought I have finished the existing batch and ended cooking a new batch. Only to find out later that the last batch was still frozen in a corner of my freezer…
Makes a medium jar approximately 300g
170g strawberries, hulled and sliced
30g to 40g fine granulated sugar, depending on the desired sweetness
2 tbsp lemon juice
1) Blitz the strawberries and sugar in a food processor until no chunk of strawberries exists.
2) Add the lemon juice to the cornstarch to form a paste, then add the paste into the strawberry mixture in the food processor and blitz until it is well incorporate.
3) Scrap mixture into a heavy bottomed saucepan. If you want a smooth curd, you can strain it through a strainer. I wanted some texture in the curd so I skipped the step.
4) On low heat, cooked the curd for about 5 minutes until it has thickened.
5) Scrap the cooked curd into a heat-proof jar and allow to cool to room temperature before sealing.
Since this is a vegan curd, it keeps quite well. But just to be safe, I kept it frozen. The curd really takes on the color of the strawberries. My last batch was more pink than red. But surprisingly, this batch turned out to be a beautiful red color. So I guess, it’s not all bad.