October 27, 2009

Birthday Macarons (Daring Bakers October Challenge)

I can run, but I can't hide. A wise friend told me that my 30's will be as great as my 20's, but with money. I like that!

In honor of my birthday, Daring Bakers made today the posting date for the October Challenge. Okay, not really, it is just a coincidence, but it's still pretty fun to post such a great recipe today!

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.


Introduction: Unless you’ve been frozen in permafrost for the past five years, you’ve likely noticed that cupcake bakeries have popped up all over like iced mushrooms. Knock one down, and three take its place. Much has been made about not only the cupcake’s popularity, but also its incipient demise as the sweet du jour. Since we seem to be a culture intent on the next sensation, pundits, food enthusiasts and bloggers have all wondered what this sensation might be. More than a few have suggested that French-style macaroons (called macarons in France) might supplant the cupcake. This may or may not come to pass, but the basic premise of the French macaroon is pretty damned tasty.

In the United States, the term “macaroon” generally refers to a cookie made primarily of coconut. But European macaroons are based on either ground almonds or almond paste, combined with sugar and egg whites. The texture can run from chewy, crunchy or a combination of the two. Frequently, two macaroons are sandwiched together with ganache, buttercream or jam, which can cause the cookies to become more chewy. The flavor possibilities and combinations are nigh endless, allowing infinitely customizable permutations.

I was excited for this challenge, but very intimidated. For such a simple recipe (egg whites, sugar, almond flour), it is extremely tempermental and will make you want to rip your hair out while you fling the fallen egg whites across the room, screaming "I HATE YOU STUPID MACARONS!"

That is, until you peak in the oven and discover that yours have grown "feet", the proper macaronage base, and then you're screaming "I MADE FEET! THEY HAVE FEET!"

see the little "feet" at the bottom?

All in all, I attempted 5 batches of French macarons. The only successful batch was the first one. The next 3 fell flat (like little pancakes) and the final one looked right, but the nut flour was rancid and they tasted terrible. I used walnuts that had been in the freezer for a while and they must have gone bad at some point. Ick.

Mariel and her roommate helped me bake and fill the successful batch with a simple chocolate ganache.

If I had more time and patience (and more egg whites), I might have tried a more complicated flavor of macaron with a different filling, like a buttercream. Some of the Daring Bakers got very creative with their flavors! They look fantastic.

I don't think I will ever make these again, as it's a little too ungapatch (Yiddish for fussy), even though the final product was delicious! Thanks for a really great baking challenge this month, DB! I can't wait to see what we're making for November.

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. Most bakers will agree that the egg whites should be aged for about 3-5 days, in fridge, covered with paper towel).

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:
David Lebovitz breaks it down: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/archives/2008/09/making_french_macarons.htm...
More macaroon 411: http://www.seriouseats.com/2007/10/introduction-to-french-macarons.html
Get inspired by our own Tartlette!: http://www.mytartelette.com/search/label/macarons
Go behind the scenes of Paulette: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXIvX0-CEu0


Charli said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Happy bday! Your macs look great (even if only the first batch turned out...finicky things)

Susan said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Happy Birthday! I am not a Daring Baker, (I'm a TWD)but have made the macarons with good result.

Anonymous said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Your macarons look fantastic! Happy Birthday!

Lauren said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Happy Birthday! Your macs look fantastic & very Daring of you to make 5 batches - Wonderful job =D.