The French Macaron: Take One

More French.  I know.  I can’t help it.

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.

I actually had no idea what a macaron really was. In America the term “macaroon” usually refers to a cookie made primarily of coconut.  European macarons are cookies made of almond flour or almond paste and sugar and egg whites…which are then sandwiched together with buttercream or ganache…the texture is both chewy and crunchy.  Turns out, they are an art form of sorts and seem kind of fussy.  If you want to see what I mean, go here.  Helen of Tartelette is widely regarded in the food blogging world as one of the Queens of the Macaron.  Here are some of hers…you can see why:

Tartlettes Macarons II
Violet Macarons from Tartelette

Aren’t they amazing looking?

Tartlettes Macarons III
Red Berry Macarons from Tartelette

One of the important characteristics of the cookie is the “foot.”  That’s the bottom part of the cookie, the part touching the baking sheet, where you can see all the air bubbles that were in the batter.  It almost looks like it is separate from the shiny top.  They are really beautiful.

Mine don’t look anything like this. Hence the “Take One” in the title of the post.

Macarons
Yummy...but oh so flat.

You can just barely see the “feet” on these little wafers, but they aren’t nearly as puffy as they should have been.  In fact, I felt like I was making the milanos again! Here’s what Ami had to say about the elusive macaron:

French macaroons are notorious for being difficult to master. Type in “macaroon,” “French macaroon” or “macaron” in your search engine of choice, and you will be inundated not only with bakeries offering these tasty little cookies, but scores and even hundreds of blogs all attempting to find the perfect recipe, the perfect technique. Which one is right? Which captures the perfect essence of macaroons? The answer is all of them and none of them. Macaroons are highly subjective, the subject of passionate, almost Talmudic study and debate. Chewy? Crisp? Age your egg whites? Ground the nuts or use nut meal or nut flour? Cooked sugar syrup, or confectioners’ sugar? In the words of a therapist, what do you think is the ideal macaroon? The answer lies within you.

The answer is not within me, yet.

I will say that these little cookies are delicious.  And the texture, while flatter than it should have been, was still discernible and quite wonderful.  Crunchy and chewy at the same time – genius.  I put pumpkin pie spices in the cookie batter and used cream cheese filling sweetened with sugar and blueberries (the lavender one.)  The flavor possibilities are overwhelming.  So, I can guarantee that when I have egg whites hanging around (which I most certainly will since we love this pie so much) there will be a Take Two and Take Three…and so forth.

DSC04661

Oh macarons…I am not finished with you yet.

The recipe I used is below.  For lots of flavors and varying degrees of success, check out The Daring Kitchen.  And don’t forget about Tartelette’s recipes, too, which many said were more successful than the challenge recipe.  I intend to try hers in the upcoming attempts.

French Macarons

Ingredients
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)

Directions:

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.

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8 thoughts on “The French Macaron: Take One

    1. gatheraroundthetable

      Very true…but I’ll still be trying them again. 🙂 Your peanut butter filling looked so yummy…that’s a great idea.

  1. Don’t get fazzed I think for a 1st attempt they worked out Ok and a few mores tries you will get there. And remember the Daring Bakers’ is about the journey not so much the endpoint. Cheers from Audax in Australia.

  2. The fact that you got any feet at all is great for a “take one”…you might have more success with another recipe; the challenge recipe didn’t work well for me either.

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