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Macarons – Daring Bakers Challenge October 2009

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S [1]. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern [2] as the challenge recipe.

Unfortunately, my two attempts at this recipe were quite disappointing. I had made macarons a few times before (not having perfected them…yet), so I thought I would manage quite well and hoped that this would be the perfect recipe and the macarons would look gorgeous. This was not the case. My macarons looked worse than all other trials – including my first one, when I didn’t even know what they should look like. The macarons didn’t form “feet”, didn’t have a nice crisp top – they just puffed a bit in the oven then the top dried a bit and they sunk back down. Fortunately they were still moist and tasted quite good.

For the filling, I made salted caramel which had mixed reviews. Most people enjoyed it immensely, others found it extra sweet, and I just found the taste a bit strange, I think I’m just not a caramel liking person, unfortunately. I like butterscotch, flavours, so I’m not sure why I don’t like caramel?

I made two batches of this recipe, as I thought the first time it mustn’t have worked because, perhaps I didn’t beat my meringue mixture enough (as it says stiff peaks and other recipes state glossy meringue), or that drying them out in the oven caused the problems that occurred. Neither seemed to be the cause, I decided to keep beating the meringue, but it just would not form a glossy meringue. Either I put my KitchenAid on too fast and over beat the meringue, added my sugar too late or there may not have been enough sugar to form the meringue, although I’m not totally sure.

I have decided to share all my previous macaron experiences with you all, to give you an idea of problems I have had through each recipe, as well as give everyone suggestions for recipes they may or may not like to try. I never got around to posting these (apart from the latest one), as each had something slightly wrong with it (not necessarily the recipe, most are my mistakes while learning and trying to achieve the perfect macaron, inside and out).

The following photo was my first ever attempt at macarons and was Nigella Lawson’s pistachio macarons from How to be a domestic goddess. The recipe did not state to leave the macarons to form a skin, resulting in biscuit looking macarons. This flavour was beautiful and as I recall the inside texture was also lovely, with the only problem being the look. They had half the recipes’ pistachio buttercream in them (the full amount is way too much, like stated on many other blogs).

After reading many more macaron tips, I had decided to trial out the pistachio macarons using Syrup and Tang’s French meringue method [3](replacing the almond meal for pistachio meal). After leaving them to sit for half and hour the formed quite lovely macarons that probably could have been beaten a few more times, for a better look and because they were a bit meringue-y still. Also – half almond, half pistachio may have worked better. I filled these with a rosewater buttercream. (For the buttercream: 25g butter, 1/4 cup cream, 1/2 cup icing sugar and 1/8 teaspoon rose water – beat the butter till soft and lightened in colour. Beat in the cream, then the sifted icing sugar or mixture with the rose water).

I had heard that the Italian meringue method was by far the most reliable and best around, I used Syrup and Tang’s Italian meringue method [4] for these macarons. The two problems I had (apart from my enthusiasm with the pink food colouring) were the sugar syrup forming large chunks when drizzled into the egg white mix, as well as bumpy tops. The first problem may have occurred as my sugar thermometer didn’t reach into the sugar syrup, so I had to keep tipping the saucepan up to read the temperature. This disruption may be the cause of the sugar lumps. The second problem may have been able to be fixed by beating the mix a few more times. I would like to try this again as the inside was lovely and moist, filled the entire shell and seemed the perfect consistency. These were filled with white chocolate and raspberry ganache from Gourmet Traveller [5].

The recipe that produced the most beautiful macaron was Helen’s from Tartlette [6]. Helen’s recipe [7] produced a gorgeous glossy smooth top with pretty feet. My only problem with these were a bit of a hole under the shell of the macaron – could this be an oven problem? I filled these with a simple chocolate ganache.

My latest trial were hazelnut macarons [8], which had a beautiful flavour, although were lacking slightly in appearance.

Macarons

Recipe adapted by Ami S from Claudia Felming’s The Last Course.

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.) (I used castor sugar)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature) (I aged mine overnight at room temperature, covered in a paper towel)

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.

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 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.

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.

Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).

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. (I also tried leaving them at room temperature for 30 mins at room temperature, bu they still didn’t rise like they should).

Cool on a rack before filling.

I filled my macarons with salted caramel

Salted Caramel

Recipe from Chef Pang Kok Keong on Chubby Hubby’s blog [9]

200g sugar
1 vanilla pod
200g cream
3.75g fleur de sel (I used salt flakes, as that’s all I had 🙁 )
140g butter, chilled

In a 1 litre heavy based pot, cook the sugar, stirring all the time to get an even caramel. Then add in the vanilla pod, scraped. Add in the warm cream a bit at a time as it will bubble up and splatter. Then add in the fleur de sel. Stir to make sure all the caramel has dissolved. Cool the mixture to approximately 40 degrees Celsius. Add in the well chilled butter, cut into cubes. Using an immersion blender, blend in the butter till you achieve a smooth glossy paste. Line the surface of the caramel with plastic wrap or greaseproof paper to prevent a skin from forming and chill in the fridge until needed.