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.
Actually I think macarons are a cross between a cookie and a candy. These are NOT the usual macaroons! This month's challenge were les Macarons (the french version of the macaroons) and even though the recipe is quite simple the techinque is challenging. The Canadian/American version is usually made with coconut and this European variety is made with ground almonds. Frequently, two macaroons are sandwiched together with ganache, buttercream or jam, which can cause the cookies to become more chewy. Ok, you are wondering what are feet and how are they related to cookies. The feet I am referring to is this little platform that forms under the cookie - a sign of a well made macaron. As the cookie rises in the oven, this little platform appears. The challenge is that everything you add to the basic recipe throws the formula off so they may not turn out. A few drops of coloring can make the egg whites too wet! Even humidity affects them - hats off to our Daring Bakers in hot humid climates!
For the first batch (that did not turn out) I followed the Daring Baker's recipe. I followed Tartlettes recipe on the second and third times and it was quite a difference. After piping the cookies on the second batch and leaving them to dry - a kind of skin formed over them - they actually did dry, where the first batch didn't.
I am not going to talk about my first footless batch. I am over it.
I decided to try to make them with a green tea flavour (using Sencha ) and was thinking that they would be a very pale green, but because they almost looked too pale ( before I folded the egg whites into the mixture of almond flour and powdered sugar) I added a couple of drops of green food colouring...YIKES...they turned bright green. It looked like slime! I made a pink raspberry creamy filling to attempt to make them look a little prettier. The last batch I did the same way, but didn't add food coloring and they are a khaki green...I really enjoyed this challenge and can see myself making a gazillion of these in different colors and flavours.
There are quite a few websites with info about Macarons so if you would like a challenge...give it a shot...it is fun!
I used the recipe for the shells (which worked very well!) from our very respected Daring Baker Helen of Tartelette. Thank you... thank you Tartelette!
Here is the recipe:
Notes: Use eggs that have been preferably aged 3-5 days in the fridge.
For the shells:
90 gr egg whites (30 gr granulated sugar
200 gr powdered sugar
110 gr almonds
1 tablespoon sencha powder (similar to matcha-found in tea shops or Japanese grocery stores)
Prepare the macarons: (from Tartelette)
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, (think bubble bath foam) gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue (think shaving cream). Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry. Place the powdered sugar, almonds and sencha in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. ( I sifted it as well to get them as fine as possible). Add this nut flour to the meringue along with some food coloring if using, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that falls back on itself after counting to 10. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper lined baking sheets. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit. (They will feel dry when you touch them -like a skin forms on them) In the meantime, preheat the oven to 280F. When ready, bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool. If you have trouble removing the shells, pour a couple of drops of water under the parchment paper while the sheet is still a bit warm and the macarons will lift up more easily do to the moisture. Don't let them sit there in it too long or they will become soggy. Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store them in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer.
Raspberry swiss meringue buttercream (adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook)
Makes 4 cups (can also be used as a frosting!)
4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
1 tablespoon raspberry jam
A few drops of red food colouring
In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine the egg whites and sugar. Cook , whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch (about 160 degrees F).
Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg-white mixture on high speed until it holds stiff, but not dry) peaks. Continue beating until the mixture is fluffy and cooled, about 6 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition (if the frosting appears to separate after all the butter has been added, beat on medium-high speed until smooth again, 3-5 minutes more. ) Add food couring and beat in raspberry jam. Beat on lowest speed to elimanate any air bubbles, about 2 minutes. Stir with a rubber spatula until frosting is smooth.
Now spread a good amount of filling on the flat side of one of the macaron shells and sandwich the other cookie over it. BE GENTLE or you will crack the shells ( I learned from experience).
Until we bake again...