Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mah-valous Macarons - Daring Baker's October Challenge

Let's just say it: these are a bitch, n'est pas? So of course, only the most DARING BAKERS would try them.

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.

Having made several different Macarons for catering events (including the CITY TEAS for Fete du The with Algabar), I added the personal challenge of using Muscavado Sugar (a moist brown sugar) and a Banana Cream for my filling. It took two trials before these worked. Oh, those finicky egg whites!
What else can be blogged about Macarons, at this point, that hasn't been blogged before? For those of us who read food blogs, think of food and recipes as stories, or find fascination in the world defined by what we eat; Macarons are touted as "the beast to be conquered". When we DO create these chewy, yet crunchy disks of bliss and they have FEET (a term used for the soft insides that bubble out as they rise and cook and are very desired as a mark of success), even quiet cooks will let out a "YES!" from their kitchens. That being said, there are plenty of people who have never heard of these sweets and haven't tumbled on the difference between these and the coconut yummies also pronounced "Macaroons". Just in case you are one of those, here are a few "quik notes" for you:
Both Italy and France claim origins for this cookie that traditionally used egg whites, sugar, and almond powders. Originally these cookies were single shells; crunchy on the outside and meringue like chewy on the inside. In the 20th Century the famed pastry chef, Laduree, created the idea of using ganache to make a sandwich of two Macarons. A couple of the most famed Parisian Pastry shops, including Pierre Herme and Laduree, experiment each season with both savory and sweet ingredients and colors for their famous Macarons. People line up on the streets to buy these examples of the most perfect Macarons. Although Italy, France and most of Europe love and know these cookies, the United States has only recently began to appreciate their exquisite design and taste.
I love a challenge, so even though the recipe as given for this month's Daring Baker's Challenge is not my favorite way to make these "bad babies", I stayed fairly close to it. My flavor changes were to incorporate the brown sugar to the powdered sugar ( I used half and half of each), and also half and half of brown sugar for the granulated sugar. In the first trial I think I used too much brown sugar (it contains a lot of moisture) so the egg whites fell flat. I also made sure the egg whites were fully whipped before I added any of the sugars to them. I also added a twirl of Banana syrup on the top of the shells as they dried. By far, the easier way to make Macarons is to use dried flavoring (teas, powders, and dried fruit flavoring) to sustain the volume in the egg whites, but with careful and patient timing some moisture (liquid or puree flavors) can be incorporated.
In the oven - feet rising - a yelp of "yes" is heard.

Baked, cooled and ready to fill

Banana Cream Filling

2 ripe bananas, puree
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. banana syrup
Whip together, adjust as needed for taste.
Pipe onto every other cookie and sandwich with another plain Macaron.

MACARON RECIPE (as given for Daring Baker's October Challenge)

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.


Vera said...

These look lovely!

Beth said...

You are a very, very brave woman to attempt a brown sugar addition. Kudos to you for making it work!

Anonymous said...

Your macarons look wonderful! I love the flavor combo.

anna said...

ooh these sound SO good

Jill @ Jillicious Discoveries said...

I love that you were so creative with your macarons! Banana cream--I'm drooling. They are beautiful. :)

Audax said...

Very brave to do brown sugar well done. And the flavour combination banana/brown sugar macarons sound delicious. Cheers from Audax in Australia.

Dewi said...

Your macarons look pretty marvelous indeed. Was it a fun challenge to make?

Buttaz said...

Not only am I a newbie daring baker but also new to the macaron (I've not even had one).

Your look great and I love the idea of a banana filling.

My attempt