Sunday, November 1, 2009
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.
THE DARING COOKS OCTOBER 2009 CHALLENGE: MACAROONS
I have always wanted to make these little treats. There are so many ways they could be flavored or colored. Of course since this was my first attempt I opted to go with a green (Very unnoticeable). I'm not sure what happened with that since I have seen macaroons with very vibrant colors. The filling is a simple ganache. One tip I could give that wasn't provided in the recipe is that it is best to use aged egg whites, which means let it sit either uncovered in the fridge or countertop (if it's not too hot). This allows the excess water to evaporate. Apparently moisture and macaroons don't go too well together.
Here is the recipe. I think it worked great.
Note: Macaroon making is somewhat labor intensive, yet simultaneously less difficult than you think it will be. One thing you must do is have your egg whites at room temperature. This ensures they beat up properly, as texture is an integral component to macaroons. You will be piping the batter onto parchment paper or nonstick liners, and some home bakers use stencils to make sure their macaroons are uniform in size. It’s your choice.
Be aware that you are beating your egg whites first to soft peaks. Soft peaks means that the peaks of the meringue curl over when you lift up the beaters. After you add the granulated sugar to the soft peak meringue, you will beat the mixture to stiff peaks, which, true to their name, stand straight up. Be careful not to overbeat your eggs.
You will also be folding the nut flour into the meringue. As with most recipes when you combine something with beaten egg whites, be gentle in your mixing to keep the egg whites light.
Some recipes call for drying the piped macaroons on the counter prior to baking for 30 minutes to an hour. This recipe stipulates that you bake the macaroons at a low temperature for 5 minutes, then take them out of the oven, raising the temperature, and baking them for an additional 7 to 8 minutes. Drying is necessary to get the trademark “feet” on your macaroons. Experiment to find the best technique for you.
If you plan on using parchment paper rather than nonstick pan liners, be careful when removing the macaroons from the paper, as they can stick and are very delicate. Some recipes suggest lifting up a corner of the paper and letting a drop of water fall onto the hot baking sheet, thus producing steam, which helps the macaroons release.
Variations allowed: Fleming’s recipe calls for almond flour, but you can grind the nuts yourself if you are feeling ambitious or can’t get a hold of almond flour. (It is available at many online sources, however.) If you do grind the nuts yourself, be sure to add at least a cup of the powdered sugar with the nuts before grinding. This keeps them from turning into almond butter. Grind the nuts as fine as possible in your food processor. Maida Heatter suggests grinding nuts for at least 60 seconds, or longer than you think you need. They need to be extremely fine—powdery, in fact, like flour. If using almonds, try and hunt down blanched or skinned almonds. This helps with the texture and color. You might also consider toasting your nuts ahead of time and rubbing off the skins in some clean toweling.
If you’d like to use a different nut besides almonds, you are welcome to substitute them. Hazelnuts or pecans are good substitutes, but feel free to experiment with others. Our own Helen, of Tartlette fame, suggests that if you do want to use a different nut other than almonds, to have half almond, half other nut, as almonds are drier than other nuts and help again with that all-important texture. If you have a nut allergy, you can make nutless meringue cookies sandwiched with a filling, but it would be great if you could attempt to obtain the size and shape of standard macaroons.
Flavor variations are, as I said, infinite. In Fleming’s original recipe, she calls for adding vanilla bean seeds to the granulated sugar, and folds in the zest of a lemon to make lemon macaroons. You can add cocoa powder, instant coffee or espresso powder, green tea powder, fruit zests. You can tint the batter (Helen again suggests using powdered food coloring to keep from adding too much moisture to the batter). The same goes for fillings—anything goes. Ganache, buttercream, jam, caramel, custard. Here in L.A., there is place called Milk (http://www.themilkshop.com/) that bakes extra large macaroons and makes them into delicious ice cream sandwiches. You must make at least one filling, preferably from scratch, but what that filling will be is entirely up to you.
An important note about coloring and flavoring: liquid food coloring can be used, but be cautious! Use 1-3 drops maximum, otherwise, according to Helen, it increases the moisture in the batter, and that can ruin the macaroons. She suggests one trick: mix the liquid color with the almonds and powdered sugar and to let that air dry for a couple of hours. This reduced the moisture a little bit. If you use more than 3 drops of food coloring, you’re going to have a disaster. That means using fruit puree is out. One way to flavor the macaroons is to use 1-2 teaspoons of citrus zest, 1-2 teaspoons of matcha (green tea powder), or 1-2 teaspoons of herbs or freeze-dried fruit powders. If you want savory macaroons, you can try 1 teaspoon of saffron or other savory dry flavorings. If you want to use powdered color, Helen says that up to 1 tablespoon is a safe amount.
Mandatory:-Make Claudia Fleming’s recipe for macaroons-Fill and sandwich the macaroons
Optional:-Flavor variations and decoration-If you have a nut allergy, find a good nutless meringue cookie recipe but you must make them into cookie sandwiches with some kind of filling
If you are vegan, I don’t know what you can use as an egg substitute. Suggestions are welcome.
Preparation time: Not taking into account the amount of time it takes for you to bring your egg whites to room temperature, the whole baking process, including making the batter, piping and baking will probably take you about an hour to an hour and a half. How long it takes to make your filling is dependent on what you choose to make.
Actual baking time: 12 minutes total, plus a few minutes to get your oven from 200°F to 375°F.
Equipment required:• Electric mixer, preferably a stand mixer with a whisk attachment• Rubber spatula• Baking sheets• Parchment paper or nonstick liners• Pastry bag (can be disposable)• Plain half-inch pastry bag tip• Sifter or sieve• If you don’t have a pastry bag and/or tips, you can use a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off• Oven• Cooling rack• Thin-bladed spatula for removing the macaroons from the baking sheets• Food processor or nut grinder, if grinding your own nuts (ouch!)
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.
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