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. Check out Ami's blog, Baking Without Fear for her take on this recipe.
Now I have to say...this challenge has really been the realization of a long unrequited desire of mine. I first had Macarons when I was in Paris nearly 20 years ago. I was attending a college summer program in Aix-en-Provence and on the long weekends (we only went to class for 3 days a week) we traveled throughout Europe on trains seeing the sights. For most of these trips it required us to take a train to Paris to make a connection to our final destination. Pauvre Moi..suffering all those jaunts through Paris! On our way to Lucerne & Munich, we had one such stop in Paris with enough time for lunch and a patisserie stop. I believe it was Le McDonald's for lunch...mais pour dessert...an event that would change the course of my culinary life. I cannot be for certain if this is THE place,
but through the magic of Google Earth I transported myself back to the streets near Gare de l'Est and found want I believe may be the place I first tasted the fabulous macaron. I have confirmed that Le Grenier a Pain does indeed sell les macarons...so I am sticking to this as my story. My friends and I were charmed by the little colored hamburgers in the case and each chose 4 to go, boxed up in the french way. (Like these which ARE NOT mine)
Once on the train bound for Switzerland we opened our treasures and I took a bit of the tender cookie. I am quite certain I ate a pink one first, but I do recall having a yellow and brown one as well. The 4th color escapes me. I was in pure heaven. I didn't know what they were called.....silly me had not paid attention, not knowing I would be so enamored. I spent the next few years just trying to put a name to the face. I finally had success at the library whenI found a book of fancy french pastries. Many more years passed and suddenly MY secret cookie was suddenly the rage of foodie blogland. Here are two classics:
David Lebovitz take on Macarons
Tartlette's Take on Macarons
With so many recipes and so many other people making them, I got brave and tried a recipe a year or two ago. We shall not speak of that experience here since it was an utter failure. I figured it was just not meant to be for me to make such creations in my home kitchen. Enter...this months Daring Bakers Challenge. A nudge to give it another try. While still not an entire success, this try was much closer to that sweet little bit of goodness I had 20 years ago.
I can see from these pictures that my batter was too thick..maybe too much beating of the egg whites? They should be flatter with no peaks. But once baked...woohooo..I did have the required "legs" and the taste....YES...I achieved the taste. Its amazing how long the memory of a taste bud is.
I went with a whole batch of pink...the macaron of my dreams! The filling was harder to decide. I started with something simple..strawberry jam.
I had plenty to play with so figured I would take it a notch up...Strawberry Almond Buttercream
And so tasty...I have unfortunately eaten more than a plateful of these little sweeties.
So I got braver..daring shall we say. I wanted to take my pink macarons to their pinnacle of cuteness, so stuffed a few with a Vanilla Peppermint verrry green buttercream. They tasted like wedding mints...which isn't a bad thing at all!
They ARE a little gaudy though :-D
Here's a little wobbly group of pink and green. Next batch...my goal is flat tops.
Out of the fillings that I tried, I have to say tastewise I really loved the jam the best. The gooiness of it really melds the two halves together in a very yummy way.
So...any suggestions on what I can do with all this leftover icing?????? I'm seeing some preppy little cupcakes in my future.
Check out the recipe..few ingredients and not really that complicated at all. I think it just takes LOTS and LOTS of practice on getting the eggwhites just right. The finer you can get the almonds the better too.
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.
For the buttercreams I used this recipe
adapted from "Ateco Simplified Cake Decorating."
1/4 c butter
Speck of salt (if needed)
2 c sifted powdered sugar
3 T milk or light cream
1/4 t vanillaWhip the butter until fluffy.
Gradually add in 1 cup of the powdered sugar and reduce speed to low, add in the liquid, salt and flavoring. Last the rest of the powdered sugar. If firmer icing is needed, add in a bit more powdered sugar, if softer icing is needed, add in a bit more of the milk. Flavor as desired. (For the Vanilla mint I used 1 tsp vanilla & 1/2 tsp peppermint extract. For the Strawberry Almond I used 2 tbls strawberry jam in place of some of the cream and 1/2 tsp almond extract instead of vanilla)