Tuesday, October 27, 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.
This month's challenge started off as what I thought would be my favorite challenge (besides the Cheesecake Pops; nothing will ever top my first DB challenge!) not only because I love coconut, but because the recipe was so short! It fit on one page! Usually I go through a quarter of a ream of paper just printing the Daring Bakers recipes!
Sadly, this month's challenge recipe landed itself right at the end of my list of favorites. In fact, it probably is leading the list of not-favorites. Who knew that French Macaroons weren't macaroons at all? They actually are macarons (which I am not about to try to pronounce). And who knew they don't have coconut in them?
I was thrilled to see that they had almond; that is another favorite of mine. I didn't find almond flour so I just ground my own almonds and mixed it with 1 cup of the powdered sugar to yield 3 cups total (2 cups of almond flour and 1 cup of the powdered sugar). I loved the taste of the batter before being baked however, I should have just eaten it all raw because it wasn't until it was baked that my likings soured. It was far too sweet and I'm not at all fond of sandwich cookies. I filled them with a basic chocolate ganache made from 1 part heavy whipping cream and two-parts chocolate.
I was able to get my cookies to grow "feet", which apparently is one of the tell-tale signs of a true French Macaron, however, I think having feetless cookies would have resulted in a prettier cookie. The feet made the cookie look messy-- it's like it needed some slippers or feetie pajamas to cover up those ugly toes or something.
The recipe itself was simple and I thank my mother for lending me her silicon baking mat. I made some on parchment paper but they mostly burned on the bottom but weren't set enough on the top. I probably threw out more cookies than I harvested.
I won't be making French macarons again but I'm holding out hope that I will someday make coconut macaroons! I've never been one for the original true foods that recipes are derived from anyway. Give me the knock-offs!
Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups
Almond flour: 2 cups
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)
1. Preheat the oven to 200°F. 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 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. 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.
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.