Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Daring Bakers October Challenge--French Macarons

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.


Before the challenge reveal date I had never eaten nor heard of a French Macaron.  To me, a macaroon was one of those chewy cookies made mostly of coconut.  I was a little intimidated by the challenge after reading so many posts about how these cookies are so hard, how successful macarons have large feet and you have to "age" your eggs, yada yada yada.  In my research I found that macarons come in every color possible and every flavor you can think of.  I was a little overwhelmed about the possibilities but decided that I needed to stick to as traditional of a version as I could get so I could experience a true macaron.  I posted on the forum and was informed that the most "traditional" would be to not flavor the cookie and to use nutella or ganache for the filling.  So, I decided on a semi-sweet and a white chocolate ganache.  

My next hurdle was finding almond flour.  After calling 4 stores I was about to give up and borrow a food processor to make my own, then I thought of one other option and I was in luck!  I did age my eggs as was suggested, but I wanted to make them over the weekend and the revel date was Thursday, so I only aged my eggs 2.5 days instead of the 3 days that were recommended.  I set the container of aged eggs out to come to room temperature (I probably should've taken the lid off the container) and it seemed like they were taking FOREVER!  So, I cheated a little on that, (I think they were still a good 45 minutes away from "room temperature") and off I went baking away.  Here is the recipe from Daring Bakers.

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.

I didn't have any trouble mixing things up.  I only have one silicon pad, so I used some parchment paper too.   I went back and forth a little on small macaroons and larger ones.  But here are my beauties all piped out.

The next hurdle was my annoying oven. I really can't wait to buy a house and an awesome, reliable oven.  I swear our oven is off by 50 degrees, but because every time I count on it being off 50 degrees, I burn things.  So, I usually turn it up about 25 degrees.  But it turned out 25 was not enough.  Not knowing what they should look or taste like I was a little unsure if they were cooked completely, but after we each tasted a couple we decided that the first pan was indeed under-baked.  But, I just threw the pan back in the oven for a few minutes and it all worked out.

The recipe details weren't very clear if you should cool completely on the pan or on cooling racks.  But I quickly learned when the inner half of the cookies stayed on the pan that I needed to let them cool completely on the pan.   

One of the measures of successful macarons is that you have large "feet" (the airy looking bottom half).  I think I was successful on that measure :)

Here is a close up of the feet on my first pan.

Another measure of successful macarons is that they are not golden brown on top, you're supposed to pull them out just before they start browning.  But I was a little worried about under-baking the 2nd pan too so they got probably a little too brown, but still not bad.  And I think this second pan had even better feet than the first!

I made semi-sweet ganache and white chocolate ganache.  But we both found the semi-sweet to be a little too dark for our liking.  So, I ended up mixing some of the white chocolate with the semi-sweet to make a "milk" chocolate ganache.  

I think white chocolate was our favorite but both were absolute DELICIOUS!!!!  And the next day I came to realize that cooled macarons are even better because the ganache sets up enough that it doesn't squish out the sides of the sandwich---yum yum I'm craving them now!  I absolutely fell in love with French Macarons!  I have found a new favorite treat!  Just another reason why being a Daring Baker is so great, you're "pushed" to try something new that you probably wouldn't have ever even thought of trying and you end up finding something you love! 

And a pat on the back:  The non-procrastinating type Daring Bakers (like me) post our challenge pictures early on a forum only DB members can view.  I posted mine the first week of October (after making them on the 4th of October).  One of the two Daring Baker "Macaron experts", Tartelette, commented on mine saying "They turned out perfect! Great job!"  How cool is that?


Lauren said...

Amazing job!! I'm so glad you loved them - the macs look flawless & oh so delicious =D.

Note on the almond flour - sometimes its called almond meal or ground almonds, and I tend to find it in the section with baking nuts (sliced, slivered, etc). Its a staple in gluten free baking, so I know a lot of stores I can get it from =D.

Simon said...

Nice work considering that you've never had, let alone heard of macarons prior to the challenge!

Namratha said...

You got some beautiful 'feet' there! This was my first time tasting and making mac too :)