Tuesday 27 October 2009

Daring Bakers October 09 Challenge: Macarons

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.

There are two distinct types of macaroon/macaron. Usually the term “macaroon” refers to a chewy cookie made of coconut and egg white, often on a base of rice paper, but French “macarons” are either ground almonds or almond paste, combined with sugar and egg whites and are sandwiched together after baking. The filling usually consists of ganache, buttercream or jam. The flavour combinations are almost endless and for our challenge we were allowed to make them any flavour we wished.

Until this challenge I had never made macarons before. They had been on my ‘to bake’ list for many months but I had always put off doing them as I felt daunted by how elegeant and dainty they were and had heard they were difficult to make. So it was with nervous excitement that I set about this challenge.

Macaroon making is a little time consuming but not actually as difficult as you may think. Although, to achieved picture perfect macarons does require a lot of skill and mine could certainly be improved upon. One thing you must do is have your egg whites at room temperature. This ensures they beat up properly, as the meringue base texture is an integral component to macarons.

As this was my first time making macarons I decided to keep things fairly simple. I made the a basic vanilla macaron mixture which I then decorated and filled in two different ways to create two different flavours of macaron. I topped half the batch with some freeze dried raspberry pieces and filling them with raspberry jam and the other half I filled with chocolate ganache and topped with a dusting of cocoa powder. I’ll let you in on a secret – you can buy freeze dried raspberries but they are quite expensive, but they often come as part of a berry mix in some types of breakfast cereal – just fish them out and save yourself some pennies!

Everything was going well until I tried to remove the macarons from the paper. They had stuck fast and the thin sugar shells were so delicate that they shattered when I tried to ease them off. In a panic I sourced the internet for help and found some very helpful advice from Tartlette (who makes the most amazing looking macarons!). She suggested dampening the base of the paper in a little water, which would dissolve just enough of the sugar crystals to allow you to remove the macaron safety from the paper. This worked a treat and I’m so greatful to Tartlette for her advice. Just don’t leave them on the damp paper for longer than about 5 seconds or else the macarons will start to go soggy.

I was really quite proud of my little macarons. They look so dainty and elegant that I decided to host an afternoon tea party with my family and grandparents, complete with scones, finger sandwiches and a tier or miniature cakes, in order to show them off (recipes to follow). They had a thin delicate sugar shell with a moist, slightly chewy almond middle. I found the raspberry one a little sweet for my tastes, but I loved the chocolate one. The bitter dark chocolate was the perfect partner to the sweet crisp macaron.

Thanks Ami S for such an elegant challenge. Click to see other Daring Bakers macarons.

Macarons – vanilla & raspberry and chocolate & vanilla macaron varieties
(Recipe by Claudia Fleming from The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern)
225g icing sugar
190g ground almonds
25g granulated sugar
5 egg whites (must be at room temperature)
(I added 1 tsp vanilla extract)

Preheat the oven to 93C. Combine the icing sugar and ground almonds in a medium bowl. (If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a half the icing sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery).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.Sift a third of the almond 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 mix in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.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. Pipe 1inch/2.5cm sized mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners or parchment paper.Bake the macaron for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 190C. 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 coloured.Cool on a rack before carefully peeling off the paper and sandwiching together with your choice of filling. (If they appear stuck to the paper, don’t pull them. Cut around the macarons and brush the underside of the paper with a little water. Leave for 5 seconds for the paper to go damp before easily peeling off the paper. Don’t leave too long or your macarons will go soggy).
Makes 25-35 macarons depending on size.

I made all vanilla macaron shells but made two differently flavoured macarons from them. I topped half the batch with some freeze dried raspberry pieces and filling them with raspberry jam and the other half I filled with chocolate ganache and topped with a dusting of cocoa powder.


Anonymous said...

You did a fantastic job! I want to try making some, one day...

Suelle said...

Those look really wonderful as a first attempt! Macarons are something I've wanted to try for years, but have been putting off because some of the recipes are so complicated and technically demanding.

Unknown said...

So elegant!

symphonious sweets said...

I have always wanted to try to make these but, have been a little intimidated. Yours look beautiful!

Rachel said...

Looks very pristine..

Hilary said...

Gah. Yours look so nice. There goes my 'It's the English climate' excuse. Apparently macarons can be successfully baked in England. Just not by me. I haven't even bothered posting!

Hilary said...

Oh, and I can't believe how lovely your afternoon tea spread looks. Cutest thing ever!

Engineer Baker said...

Gorgeous, and a perfect excuse for a tea party! I bet chocolate shells with raspberry would be amazing, but vanilla with chocolate would be my favorite of the two you made as well.

Elle said...

Such sweetly beautiful macarons and you are so clever to hold a tea party to enjoy them with family! Great tip on the freeze dried berries in the cereal! I like chocolate with the almond flavor, too.

Jill @ Jillicious Discoveries said...

They look so beautful! And I loved your tip about freeze dried raspberries--good idea! :)

Simones Kitchen said...

They look gorgeous and I am sure they were a huge success with your teaparty! Good idea too...

Dharm said...

Great Job! I like the choc bits on top too and I wish I was invited for the tea party!!

The Caked Crusader said...

I think you made a fab job of these - so dainty and elegant.
Love your cake stand with all the little sweetmeats set out!