Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Daring Bakers Make Macarons....Maybe....

Yum


When this month’s Daring Bakers was announced, the very first thing I did was a Google search. I had no idea what macarons where. I thought at first they were talking about macaroons – you know, the coconut covered shortbread cookie? I thought – “what’s so daring about that?”. Well, little did I know how much different a macaroon (mack-a-rooooon)  is from a macaron (mack-a-rohn). My first impression was that they looked like lovely little sandwich cookies, with all their pretty colors, their smooth shells, and all the flavor combinations! However, after doing some research on them, I became quite intimidated. Quite. Apparently, these suckers are rather difficult to make.

There are three main recipe types for making macarons – the French method, the Italian meringue method, and the Spanish meringue method. What’s the difference?

Apparently, the news on the street is that macarons might be pushing cupcakes out of the limelight. I highly suggest you try and find yourself one, if you have never had one. Having never had one myself, I tried to find one in my area, but apparently the Midwest isn’t “in the know” yet. My bestie, who adores these things, actually gets hers shipped from Paris (on special occasions only, of course).

After doing a ton of research, watching tutorials on how to make these puppies, and reading all the comments and tips that people were leaving on the Daring Baker’s forums, I thought I was ready to make these things. I practically had the recipe memorized I had read it so many times. Since I knew these things are hard to make, and was most likely to fail at least the first time, and also because almond meal is a whoping $10 for ___ ounces, I decided to make 40% batches (thanks so much for the scaled down version, Audax!) and keep the flavors simple – vanilla bean macarons with nutella filling.

Armed with all my knowledge, I rolled up  my sleeves, kicked all people and dogs from the kitchen, put on some lovely French love songs, and dug in. I sifted my almond meal and powdered sugar three times. That sucks, let me tell you – it takes forever, and I only did a 40% batch! Whew! I carefully whipped my egg whites which had been sitting on the counter for 2 days into nice soft peaks. Then I added the sugar, and continued to whip until I reached hard peaks. Ok, so far, so good! Then I folded in my almond meal, powdered sugar, and vanilla beans, and successfully piped my little circles. Into the oven it went, and I anxiously awaited my results.

Crap. Little flat crispies filled with air bubbles. Apparently, I forgot what I was doing and made Milanos!! J


Back to the forum I went, and did some more research. Seems my mixing needs a little work. Second time around, I made sure my meringue was whipped to a little more hard peaks. I piped the batter onto the BACK of a cookie pan this time, and nested it on top of another pan. That’s right, two cookie sheets, nested together, turned upside down. It’s supposed to help distribute the heat evenly. I also adjusted the temperature of the oven. Into the oven the pans went, and I crossed my fingers for the next 20 minutes. Double crap. Same little crispie milanos as before.

Back to the forum I went. The tip I utilized this time said that the first six strokes, when you are whipping the first batch of almond meal and powdered sugar into the egg whites, use 6 hard and fast strokes to get air out of the batter, and then after that use a more gentle folding approach. Sounded logical, since my batches were full of air bubbles, I can assume that I was folding air INTO my batter. I also followed another tip and banged the pans on my counter top before they went into the oven. This is supposed to help release any air bubbles that might still be trapped inside the batter. Didn’t do any good though, because I still had flat little air pocked crispies.  By this point, it was 12:30 at night, I was getting frustrated, was coming down from a massive sugar high (I kept eating the cookies as I was making them. What? They tasted good…) and my husband took my firmly by the shoulders, led me into the living room and told me to take a break.

The next day I went back to the forums, and asked for help. I was told to read the forum again, read all the tips and tutorials and what not. Yeah, I did that already. Before I ever started. I needed something else. I decided to go for a different method. So, after much scouring, I found a method that uses the Italian merangue method. This method worked out considerably better than the first one! It seems my problem was in my macaronage, and once I got rid of that, I had no problems!

Well, I had one small problem, but I know what I did wrong. I tried to bake two pans at the same time, and rotate them in the oven  halfway through. The pan that started on the top developed a beautiful sleek shell and feet (FEET!!!), but when I rotated it to the bottom shelf, all the insides fell and I was left with a giant air bubble in the middle!

The pan that started on the bottom shelf and finished on the top was all cracked and crackling looking, but its texture inside was a (I gather) perfect combination between chewy and crispy.

I used my cracked shells as bottoms and pretty shells as tops, and VIOLA! Challenge completed! LOL.


P.S. For those of you that nailed this challenge the first time, and perfectly, I tip my hat to you.

Macarons - The Almost Foolproof Method

For the Macarons:
120g egg whites, divided
35g sugar
150g finely ground almonds
150g powdered sugar

For the sugar syrup:
150g sugar and 50g water



Process the ground almonds and powdered sugar in the work bowl of a food processor.
In a stand mixer, whip 60g egg whites to soft peaks, add 35g sugar.
In the meantime, in a saucepan on high heat bring the water and sugar for the syrup to 230 F. on a candy thermometer.

Slowly add the boiling syrup to the egg whites and continue to whip on medium – high speed until they are completely cooled and you have a shiny meringue (10-15 minutes).
Mix the remaining 60g of egg whites and the sifted almond/sugar.


 Carefully fold the almond/sugar into the meringue.


Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip with the mixture and pipe macarons about 3 inches in diameter on silpat lined baking sheet.



Bake at 320 for 15-25 minutes.
Check to see if macarons are done by grabbing the top of one macaron and trying to shake it. They are done when the top barely slides against the skirt. If they are not done, extend baking time by two minutes intervals, checking after each extension.

Recipe Via : http://www.myfoodgeek.com/2007/06/08/almost-foolproof-macarons/

19 comments:

  1. it’s nice to know that not only I have a problem with THEM. Love your post and love the result.

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  2. Your persistence is totally amazing. I'll go hide in the corner knowing I would have given up. Sooooo lazy!

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  3. Wow, I admire your dedication! The macarons at the top picture with the Nutella jar looks absolutely perfect - if you hadn't told about your Milan adventure, I would have believed you nailed them at first try, LOL!
    I made one attempt with the challenge recipe and failed, and after that I went back to my old trusted recipe again.
    Great job on this challenge!

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  4. Good for you keeping going to try and get ones that work. They are tricky arn't they and some people make them seem so easy! Nutelle is always a good ingredient to!

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  5. Beautiful macarons
    it's worth the hard work they looks amazing !

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  6. I like your macaroons! I thought it especially interesting how the macaroons themselves seem to be hollow. I showed that picture to the hubby and he said "Now if she could find a way to fill that part, that would be really cool!" I agree! :)

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  7. hehe my first attempt at macarons looked so much like your flat "milanos". i was so exhausted from grinding the nuts I was gonna cry when it failed.

    your final result is very good! keep on improving! well done :)

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  8. Persistence does paid off at the end, wonderful effort you really deserve the title of Daring Baker well done. Cheers from Audax in Australia.

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  9. Haha I got air bubbles in one batch *I think* because I kept opening the oven door to check them out! Where does your friend order macs from in Paris? I'm doing a post tomorrow on Parisian macarons from a recent trip.

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  10. Very daring dedication =D. Your macs all look lovely! Wonderful job on this challenge!

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  11. Nice work with the challenge. I certainly wasn't one of the ones that had gotten it right first go.

    The good thing about macarons, as you alluded to, even then they failed, they're still good :)

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  12. wow i share similar story as urs, helen's recipe worked for me at last

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  13. I love that you shared all your experiences making them--way to keep going! I think you did a great job--they looked delicious! :)

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  14. Hehe I love Nutella! It's instant macaron filling in a jar!

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  15. Wowow you really work on these work! I admire your tenacity :)

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  16. I loved your write up..especially the French love songs..I could almost hear them lol! Your final macs turned out lovely, and you can NEVER go wrong with Nutella. Fantastic job all around!!

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  17. Next time I make macarons, I'm going to follow your lead and set the scene with French love songs even if it doesn't help the macs, I'll be relaxed and singing! Way to persist with this challenge, your hard work = success.

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  18. Replies
    1. Haha, Thanks Ilan! They are definitely no where as perfect as yours are! :)

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