Tuesday, October 27, 2009

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.

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 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.

Why did I procrastinate this challenge until 10pm yesterday? Lack of planning or a very busy month, or perhaps a combination of both. I was excited about making these and hoped to spend the month figuring out how to make them best in my house. But I have attempted them, and here they are:
In case you don't already know from the picture, I did not succeed at making beautiful perfect French macarons. They did rise some, but not much. They did not obtain a lovely foot. Part of it could be my oven which is 60 years old and super special. But I'm sure if I put in the time I might be able to figure out how to make them work appropriately in my oven.
I need to work on folding in the flour even more gently. I also think I needed a longer time at the lower temperature to set the shape. Plus I tried to do multiple sheets at a time which didn't work and burnt the bottom of one set, and caused others to spread while waiting so I really think this is a recipe you need to make more than once to figure out.
Taste wise, they are yummy. Making my own almond flour was fun! I have plenty of almonds on hand anyway and I aged some egg whites that were left from another recipe. Honestly I just wish I had made them multiple times before the due date.
I also ended up making a toffee ganache filling because that's what I had on hand and it was super sweet with it, too much for my taste. A good dark chocolate ganache would be preferable.
I'm not great at choosing options and making variations like a lot of the daring bakers so choosing a filling is more about what I have on hand than anything. I encourage you to try macarons. (And yes, that is how it is spelt for the French version. :D ) They are a lovely little sandwich cookie and I will be trying them again in the future.
My sad little cookies waiting for fillings.
French Macarons


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.


Deeba @Passionate About Baking said...

You tried & you got somewhere. I got this far in my third attempt, and finally found feet on my 7th. Well tried my dear! Love your spirit!

Michelle said...

An excellent effort... that's the point of being a DB'er. Onward to the November challenge! :)

pinkstripes said...

Toffee ganache sounds yummy. Great try! Make them again.

Megan said...

Toffee ganache sounds amazing! Ours came out very similar... and while I didn't wait until the last minute, I waited long enough that I didn't have time to attempt them again before they needed to be posted too. I wish I had some gorgeous ones to show off. At least we can be happy they are so yummy no matter what they look like! (And they happen to look pretty cute!)

Katie said...

I am so glad to know that I am not the only one who struggled with the macaroon challenge. I think yours turned out better :) Mine stuck to the liner, so that there were only a few good enough to eat and take photos of. Hopefully we have better luck in November's challenge!


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