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 hadn’t tasted a French or Parisian Macaron before this month’s challenge and I, like many others, always associated a Macaron or Macaroon as a coconut-type cookie. These don’t contain coconut (unless you flavor or theme them so) and the shells itself have very few ingredients. I didn’t know much about these fine delicacies until I started reading up and researching this month’s Daring Bakers challenge.
French macarons are notorious for being difficult to master. After researching, reading many instructions and tips and looking over the list of few ingredients I thought “What could be so difficult?” I read that one of the many keys to a successful macaron are the presence of the feet. The feet?
My first attempt (yes, initial major failure) I was nervous – how could I possibly mess it up, I did my homework and I’m ready! Had everything measured out, templates created for 1 1/2-inch rounds when piping, sifted almond flour and confectioner’s sugar, room temperatured/aged egg whites, laid out to dry for almost two hours. Ugh! The cookies never rose into cute little domes and no feet! They spread out and became tasty almond cookies. Great texture – crispy on the outside and chewy inside but nothing resembling the cute and infamous macarons I had been researching. Disappointment. However, I was not to be beaten by the macaron so I attempted them again this morning.
The second attempt proved more successful and like many of my fellow Daring Bakers I could now feel the elation that most everyone else had described as “the happy dance”…I had feet (small feet, but feet nonetheless!). For the filling I made a bittersweet chocolate ganache and also tried a hazelnut-chocolate spread.
I made several changes the second time around and I’m not completely sure what led to a more successful end than the last.
- Changed recipes – used Martha Stewart’s Parisian Macaroon recipe (also here).
- Lightly sifted the almond flour and confectioner’s sugar after measuring.
- After piping each cookie sheet, I gave each pan at least 6-8 hard taps on the counter to remove any air bubbles.
- Placed an extra pan in the oven and set my prepared pan of piped macarons on top of it during baking.
- Started with oven up to 375 degrees. Once I placed the pan in the oven, I turned it down to 350 degrees. Every three-five minutes I would open the oven door slightly. Half-way through baking time (7 minutes) I gave the pan a 1/4 turn.
- The second attempt, the dough was slightly thicker, sticky.
- About 1 Tbsp of filling. Filling should be smooth.
- Try a filling that is more complimentary, less sweet than using a chocolate ganache.
- The Martha Stewart recipe was true to the yield size – made excactly 16 macarons.
- Created 1 1/2 inch template circles on the parchment paper to assist in even sized circles when piping.
- Let dry for 45 minutes vs 15 minutes.
Makes about 16 filled macarons
1 1/4 cups plus 1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar
1 cup (4 ounces) finely ground sliced, blanched almonds (used almond flour – found this at Trader Joe’s)
6 tablespoons fresh egg whites (from about 3 extra-large eggs)
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
- To make the macaroons: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together confectioners’ sugar and ground almonds. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip egg whites with salt on medium speed until foamy. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar. Continue to whip until stiff glossy peaks form. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in the confectioners’ sugar mixture until completely incorporated.
- Line baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Fit a pastry bag with a 3/8-inch #4 round tip, and fill with batter. Pipe 1-inch disks onto prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between cookies. The batter will spread a little. Let stand at room temperature until dry, and a soft skin forms on the tops of the macaroons and the shiny surface turns dull, about 15 minutes.
- Bake, with the door of the oven slightly ajar, until the surface of the macaroons is completely dry, about 15 minutes. Remove baking sheet to a wire rack and let the macaroons cool completely on the baking sheet. Gently peel off the parchment. Their tops are easily crushed, so take care when removing the macaroons from the parchment. Use immediately or store in an airtight container, refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month.
- To fill the macaroons: Fill a pastry bag with the filling. Turn macaroons so their flat bottoms face up. On half of them, pipe about 1 teaspoon filling. Sandwich these with the remaining macaroons, flat-side down, pressing slightly to spread the filling to the edges. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
- Variations: To make coffee-flavored macaroons: In step 1, add 2 drops brown food coloring to the egg whites after they are whipped. In step 4, blend 1/2 cup macaroon filling with 1 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder dissolved in 1/2 teaspoon warm water for the filling. To make cassis-flavored macaroons: In step 1, add 2 drops purple food coloring to the egg whites after they are whipped. In step 4, use 1/3 cup good-quality cassis jam for the filling. To make pistachio-flavored macaroons: In step 1, add 2 drops green food coloring to the egg whites after they are whipped. In step 4, combine 1/2 cup macaroon filling with 1 tablespoon pistachio paste for the filling.