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.
When the October Daring Baker challenge was announced there was much rejoicing! Both those who have and hadn't yet made macarons. I was so excited!
For those of you have have not come across a macaron before, they're a meringue cookie made using ground almonds (sometimes other nuts are also added for other flavours), then sandwiched together with a buttercream, ganache, jam etc. The cookie has a crispy shell and are pleasantly chewy in the middle. They are quite sweet so having one or two at a time is enough to sort out any craving for something sugary.
I'd seen various sites with these beautiful, delicate looking things and wondered if I would ever give them a try. It's a good thing I'm part of the Daring Bakers, otherwise I don't think I would have tried baking these given their reputation for being difficult to make, but with the challenge pushing me forward, I had to do it. And boy did I have fun!
I actually went a little crazy with excitement, as the first thing I did was write a short list of flavours I wanted to try, and of the 10, I did 8 of them. Not bad eh? :)
Because I did so many flavours, apart from the recipe in this post, I've made each flavour its own recipe in the All Things Sweet section. There's also a list at the end of this page with all the links to the recipes.
There are a few things I've learnt about making macarons:
- Do EXACTLY what the recipe says
- WEIGHING your ingredients is a must
- Do not flavour the meringue with anything WET
- They're so much FUN!
Really, once you get the hang of making macarons, you'll see how much fun you can have with flavours and colour, and now I'm addicted to making these little bites of joy.
The thing I (and other Daring Bakers) found with the recipe given was that the sugar used while beating the egg whites to a meringue was quite a small amount in comparison to other recipes. I also found that baking the macarons at a lower temperature for a longer time gave better macaron feet that didn't deflate once taken out of the oven (something I've adopted from the macaron recipe given by the fantastic Tartelette), I've included these and a few other changes in the recipe below, but to see the recipe as given to us you can go see it at the Daring Kitchen.
At the bottom of this page I've put the amounts for a 1 egg white batch which is great when you're testing and trying things out without using mounds of ingredients.
225g / 8oz Confectioners’ (Icing) Sugar
190g / 6.7oz Almond flour/Ground Almonds
75g / 2.6oz Granulated sugar
150g / 5.3oz Egg whites (about 5), aged & at room temperature
- Sift and combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl.
- Tip: 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 is glossy and holds stiff peaks.
- Tip: If you turn the bowl upside down they should make no move to fall out
- Add a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine.
- Tip: If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time.
- Add the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.
- Tip: A good way to tell if the batter is ready is when you fold it onto itself, it should blend into itself in about 30seconds
- Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip. You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off.
- Tip: 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 parchment paper.
- Tip: I don't recommend using a silicon mat, I had trouble taking the macarons off each time I used it. Once piped, bang the sheet down on a counter top a couple times to flatten any mounds and bring up air bubbles, also to settle the almond meal to the bottom giving smooth tops.
- Leave the unbaked macarons out to dry, between 1 - 2 hours.
- Tip: If you have a fan assisted oven you can dry them in less time by just having the fan turned on with the macarons in the oven.
- While the macarons are drying, preheat the oven to 140°C/285°F (120°C Fan Assisted)
- Once dry and no longer sticky to the touch, bake for 20-22mins
- Cool on a rack before removing from the parchment, 15-30mins
- Fill and sandwich
Almond White Choc Ganache
250g White Chocolate
250ml Double Cream
1 1/2 tsp Almond Extract
- Finely chop/grate the chocolate and put into a heat resistant bowl.
- Put the cream & almond extract into a saucepan and heat until just about to boil.
- Remove from heat and pour hot cream & extract over the chocolate, using a whisk stir the cream and chocolate together making sure all the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.
- Refrigerate and stir with a fork every now and then so that it's all the same consistency until thick enough to spread (about 2 - 3 hours)
- Tip: Basically, the longer you allow it to cool, the thicker the ganache, cooling it in the fridge speeds up the process but make sure to stir the ganache so that it cools evenly, also, keep an eye on it because it can become too thick for spreading if left too long in the fridge. If that does happen, allow to soften up at room temperature or using a water bath. The macaron shells are very delicate so rather have the ganache on the softer side, then pop in the fridge to firm up
1 Egg White Batch
30g / 1oz Egg White, aged & at room temp
45g / 1.6oz Icing Sugar
15g / 0.5oz Granulated Sugar
38g /1.3oz Almond Meal/Ground Almonds
You'll find that most serious macaron bakers swear by using aged egg whites, and I did notice a difference with the feet between using fresh & aged. Some say 3 days is best, some say up to 5 days is best. To age your egg whites, leave them in the fridge (or if in a cool climate) on the counter covered with a paper towel to stop anything from getting inside, and allow to stand between 3-5 days. If aged in the fridge, leave out until room temperature before using.
You can add up to 1tsp of dry flavourings/colouring per egg white, ie. cocoa, flavoured teas, powdered colour etc
If using zest, leave to stand and dry out for a few hours or over night
If halving the almond meal and using other nut meals, ie pecan, macadamia etc, also allow to dry out overnight
Store in an airtight container in the fridge but sit out for an hour or two temperature before eating
Thanks to this months' Hostess, Ami, for such a great challenge, I had fun and will definitely be making more macarons!