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.
I have never tasted a Macaroon so making one had never been on my list, until now. So this was indeed a challenge and though the recipe is simple, the process is labor intensive. I had to make two batches because the first one was far from my expectations – in other words a major Macaroon flop! Being a Daring Baker means pushing your limits even if it means trashing an entire batch and starting all over. (I’m guilty!) But the efforts are well worth it.
I had my macaroon shells ready, but didn't get a chance to fill them and take pics before I headed out to Michigan for the week. This morning the first thing on my list was to make the filling and start clicking.
Recipe Source: Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern
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.
Variations allowed: Fleming’s recipe calls for almond flour, but you can grind the nuts yourself if you are feeling ambitious or can’t get a hold of almond flour. (It is available at many online sources, however.) If you do grind the nuts yourself, be sure to add at least a cup of the powdered sugar with the nuts before grinding. This keeps them from turning into almond butter. Grind the nuts as fine as possible in your food processor. Maida Heatter suggests grinding nuts for at least 60 seconds, or longer than you think you need. They need to be extremely fine—powdery, in fact, like flour. If using almonds, try and hunt down blanched or skinned almonds. This helps with the texture and color. You might also consider toasting your nuts ahead of time and rubbing off the skins in some clean toweling. I made my own Almond meal at home.
Flavor & Fillings: We were allowed to choose flavorings and filling of our choice. Filling had to be made from scratch.
• 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
• 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)
The 'feet' on the Macaroon
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 over fold, 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.
Once I piped the shells onto the sheets, I let them sit for 2 hours before baking them. I was super thrilled to see 'feet' on my macaroons. Though the recipe is simple, getting it right is a definitely a challenge. And after the first 'mac' failure, the 'feet' felt like they were God-sent :D I also colored the batter with orange food color, to depict fall. But once the almond mix was in, it kinda toned down the color a lot.
Yield: 3 dozen.
Crisp and evenly done
I chose to make a coffee flavored filling. My friends and hubby are big time coffee lovers, so I knew they would enjoy this.
Coffee flavored Chocolate Ganache:
You will need:
1 cup milk/dark chocolate morsels
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tsp Instant espresso powder (vary to suit taste)
Place chocolate morsels in a heat proof bowl. Heat the cream until it starts to boil. Stir in the espresso powder and immediately pour over the chopped chocolate. Let sit for a minute and stir with a spatula until smooth. Cool and let it set in the refrigerator for about an hour. Spoon (or pipe)about a tablespoon on one macaron and sandwich it using another on top.
Storing: Unused Macaroons can be frozen for up to 3 months and filled Macarons can be stored in a container for 2 days on the counter, and for up to a week in the refrigerator.
The Macaroons were too sweet for me and I may not make these again. I did learn a lot and who knew a simple recipe would be so hard to master?
Thanks to Ami S for a truly wonderful challenge!