French Macaron Baking Adventures, Part 7: Pistachios & Vanilla
By Lisa Maliga, copyright 2016
I had a bag of organic California pistachios and decided to make macarons with freshly ground pistachio flour. So, I read how the flour was made and spent several hours going through the steps. The pistachio nuts were removed from the shells, boiled in hot water to remove the jackets, dried out in the oven, and then ground and sifted. Adding some powdered sugar to the food processor [or spice grinder], prevented the pistachios from turning into pistachio butter. This was the same process for making almond flour out of whole or sliced [preferably blanched] almonds. And this was why I’ll pay about $12 per pound for finely sifted almond flour; which I still have to sift four more times!
After all that sifting, the baker encountered whipping the meringue, the exacting macaronage process, piping round discs of macaron batter, and then getting those delicate little cookie shells in and out of the oven.
Making the buttercream filling is the easy part.
I thought I’d spend part of my Saturday afternoon baking macarons with aged egg whites that were weighed out the night before. The recipe called for 100 grams of egg whites. The scale read 189 grams. I double checked it, subtracting the weight of the small glass bowl yet again. Still over 178 grams. So I subtracted more than half the egg whites until the scale read 109 grams. Okay, that was close enough.
But something didn’t seem right when I mixed the egg whites and added the sugar. The whites weren’t getting glossy. Peaks weren’t forming. Almost 18 minutes later, I had something that seemed like meringue but as soon as I added half the flour/sugar mixture and worked up a sweat trying to incorporate the ingredients, I knew I had a failed batch. The batter would be dumped in the compost heap instead of poured into a piping bag.
My first failure that never made it into the oven. I’d read of that happening and wondered what had gone wrong. Now I knew.
I’d left 3 eggs on the counter, along with the butter I’d use for the filling; some foresight in case I needed more egg whites. I thought I’d try the empty plastic bottle egg separation method I’d seen on a couple of YouTube videos. It looked so easy, but I accidentally jammed the top of the bottle into the yolk and there went that egg. I’d be having an omelette for supper that night! I had two eggs left and fortunately another dozen in the fridge. I used the warm water soak method to get them to room temperature. That took about 10 minutes.
I colored the batch green because of the pistachio flour. It also contained that marvelous vanilla bean paste which gave it more intense flavor and added interest to the shells. The shells came out flat but with feet. The surface was incredibly smooth and shiny, even with the added spots resulting from the two types of nut flour and the vanilla bean specks.
My day of macaron baking began at noon and I finished cleaning up just before 7:00 PM. However, I had 35 completed macarons with light brown vanilla bean filling that tasted very rich and scrumptious.
Want the recipe for vanilla bean shells? The amounts are the same except you can use 55 grams of almond flour and 55 grams of pistachio flour, which is what I did. You won't taste the difference but you'll get a more speckled effect with pistachio flour.
NEXT WEEK: Let's talk about lemon macarons!