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.
At first, I wasn't going to participate in this month's challenge because macarons are made primarily of two ingredients I do not like: nuts (i.e., almond flour) and meringue. However, because I've always been curious as to if i could ever create the coveted "feet" on the first try, I went along with the challenge and decided I would just give these French cookies to my students and colleagues afterward.
Now I can say proudly that I've made macarons and even saw the "feet" on my first and second attempts. The second batch didn't come out as well as the first one, but they tasted much better. While both batches didn't come out perfectly, they were good enough for my first and second attempts. I have posted some process photos below for the chocolate macarons:
I put the almond flour and powdered sugar in my (NEW!!) food processor...
...and sifted the mixture twice and still got bumpy macarons. Oh well.
I added about 15 grams of cocoa powder and then sifted again.
Beat the egg whites until you reach stiff peaks.
Fold the almond mixture into the stiff egg whites in 3 installments. Keep folding until the batter looks like magma or lava. Do not under- or over-stir!
Put the mixture into a piping bag. I didn't use a tip the first time around. With the second batch, I used a 1/2-inch rounded tip. I didn't see any difference in the outcome.
See? The pre-baked macarons look pretty good (shape-wise) without the aid of a tip. I'm not that great of a "piper", but I was pretty satisfied with how they were turning out at this point, despite the bumpy texture.
For the first batch, I made chocolate macarons with coffee buttercream and Mexican chocolate ganache. I didn't like the taste of the chocolate ones because I could taste the almond flavor. The buttercream and ganache were divine though!
For the second batch, I made a "cinnamon roll" macaron because I was craving cinnamon rolls. I added a blend of cinnamon (~10 grams) and brown sugar (~10grams) to the almond flour and powdered sugar mix. Then I made my go-to cream cheese frosting that I use for my favorite cinnamon rolls.
I, of course, just had to take a bite of the macaron for the blog (sorry for the many bad photos!), and that was when I realized how yummy these were. I have to admit that these were really, really good. I also added a little bit of Mexican chocolate ganache in the middle of a few of the macarons, but I didn't like that variety very much. It was overkill.
CHALLENGE AFTERTHOUGHTS: I don't regret participating in this month's challenge; it was a good experience, and I can now say I've made macarons. I doubt I'll ever make them again, even though the cinnamon roll macarons were very good. I have a bunch of them sitting in my freezer, and I plan to give them away to my students on Monday.
*UPDATE* I gave them away today and my students and colleagues LOVED both varieties. Some came back for seconds. I got rid of them all very quickly. I was surprised at how no one had heard of macarons, especially my colleagues who have traveled to Western Europe many of times.
I personally think they were pretty easy to make even though mine didn't come out perfectly. If I were to make them again, I would need to find a better way to sift the dry mixture. Anyway, I enjoyed studying many videos and food blogs relating to macarons, including Tartelette's (she won't be referenced to very often by other bloggers in this challenge HAH!) and Mad Baker's blogs. Thanks for this challenge, Ami! Also, thanks to all the food bloggers and youtube cooks with their tips, photos, videos, and blogs about macarons. Don't forget to check out what the other Daring Bakers did for this challenge!
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
2 large eggs
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water (I used instant coffee)
In a small heavy saucepan set over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the water. While stirring bring the mixture to a boil, stop stirring, and continue to cook until it registers 235-240°F on a candy thermometer.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment or with a hand held beater beat the eggs until they are frothy. Add the sugar syrup in a thin stream, beating, and beat the mixture until it is cool. (The mixture should change to a pale white, thick mixture. You will be have to beat the mixture for 5-10 minutes in order to reach that point.)
Change to the paddle attachment and add in the room-temperature butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, the espresso or coffee mixture, and beat the buttercream until it is combined well. Leave at room temperature so it will be easier to spread.
1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners' or icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
Beat together cream cheese and butter. Add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract and salt.