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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

October Daring Bakers Challenge: French Macarons

So, as you may have been able to tell, we have not been diligent in our posting this past week. Suffice to say that major US universities are breeding grounds for the flu, and its been hard enough to get my work for school done in between the sneezing & coughing. BUT, luckily, I was diligent with this month's challenge from the Daring Bakers and completed it a few weeks ago, and naturally do have some thoughts to share. 

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

So, I hate to admit this, but I've never had a macaron. I've had the coconut macaroon version once or twice maybe, but was not a fan, so I was excited about this challenge, and less nervous than last months. Silly me.  I tried my first batch. This is what I ended up with...and these were the pretty ones...the ones that I could get off the sheet, and the ones that at least weren't a gummy mess...

Not so hot, huh? The second half of the batch, I added food coloring to, hoping to get a cute colored macaron. Nope, turned out absolutely paper thin flat. No feet, no rise...just an almond & egg mess. So, I started doing a little digging around and found a few tips. 

In several places, I noted that people referred to perfecting the macaron as a growing obsession, and I can see why. I hate when things don't turn out like I planned. It happens a lot....a lot a lot, but I still don't like it. So, after coming across numerous instructions to age the egg whites first, I decided to try that and see where it got me.

Look at the feet! Small, yes. Barely there, yes. Perhaps more easily identifiable in the picture at the top. But, having never had a 'true' macaroon, I still found these pretty tasty and looked adorable in my book. The cookie itself is incredibly light and airy, and the filling provides just enough sweetness to balance. The first half were filled with a pumpkin-marshmallow cream filling, while the second were filled with a simple dark chocolate ganache. To give the cookie a little bit of flavor, I followed the advice of someone else and ground a tea bag of spices in with the almonds. The tea was Celestial Seasonings Nutcracker Sweet tea that my mother-in-law introduced to me with its warm vanilla, cinnamon, & nutmeg flavors. In my next attempt (because yes, there will be more, when I happen to have a surplus of almonds to grind), I'll probably try something with lavender, and maybe a green tea version, and a blueberry tea version...and maybe an apple tea version...ooh the possibilities

I guess the lesson of the macaron is something to the effect if at first you don't succeed....but if you do, keep at it anyway, they wont last long! Thanks to AmiS for a unique challenge and for introducing a new obsession in this cute little treat.

Claudia Fleming's Macaron Recipe:
Preparation time: Not taking into account the amount of time it takes for you to bring your egg whites to room temperature, the whole baking process, including making the batter, piping and baking will probably take you about an hour to an hour and a half. How long it takes to make your filling is dependent on what you choose to make.
Actual baking time: 12 minutes total, plus a few minutes to get your oven from 200°F to 375°F.
Equipment required:
• Electric mixer, preferably a stand mixer with a whisk attachment
• Rubber spatula
• Baking sheets
• Parchment paper or nonstick liners
• Pastry bag (can be disposable)
• Plain half-inch pastry bag tip
• Sifter or sieve
• If you don’t have a pastry bag and/or tips, you can use a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off
• Oven
• Cooling rack
• Thin-bladed spatula for removing the macaroons from the baking sheets
• Food processor or nut grinder, if grinding your own nuts (ouch!)

Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)

1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.
2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.
4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.
5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).
6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.
7. Cool on a rack before filling.

Yield: 10 dozen. Ami's note: My yield was much smaller than this. I produced about two dozen filled macaroons.
Additional Information:


Susan @ SGCC said...

Oh honey, I feel your pain! My first 4 batches came out just like that. I was ready to pull my hair out!

You persevered and beat those macs at their own game. Your end result looks great!

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

I feel your pain too. Over the past year, I have had some spectacular success and some dismal failure with macarons. Going to Elysée Lenôtre in Paris this December to learn how to make them from the masters!!!

Cocina Savant said...

Susan: Thanks!! Yours turned out so beautiful :) you inspire us all!
Mardi: That sounds so exciting!!!! We're going in to Paris in January & I can't wait to try a 'true' French Macaron :) I'm excited for you, maybe you can share some tips!!!

nikki said...

With those feet, you'll be an expert in no time! I'm sure the tea flavored macs that you're planning will be delicious and you can not go wrong with the Nutcracker Sweet, always a favorite.

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

Check out my post about Lenôtre here:

and my recent success at home following the Lenôtre instructions:

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