THE DARING COOKS OCTOBER 2009 CHALLENGE: MACAROONS
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 I got to know this month’s challenge was french macaroons my first thought was YES! I love macaroons. I fell instantly in love with these wonderful creatures when I was in Paris a few years back. I was wandering down Champs Elysées, and spotted a bakery that I had to enter. There were lots of things to choose from obviously, but the macaroons stacked on the shelves immediately caught my eye. They were so cute, looking like sweet mini-hamburgers, I knew I had to try them. They had all kinds of flavours and colours, but I safed it, and chose the chocolate macaroon. One for me and one for my boyfriend. We went outside and sat down on a bench, and took these mysterious things out of the paper bag. (At this time I had never heard of macaroons, and didn’t know what to expect.) I took a bite – looked at my boyfriend who just did the same – we both smiled and started to giggle. It was sooo good! I didn’t know what to say but smile at this. That crisp shell sandwiched together with a thick layer of tasty chocolate ganache was probably one of the tastiest chocolate-things I had ever eaten. From that day, I was a dedicated macaroon lover.
I dreamt about it, and started exploring the net looking for recipes, just to realize this was a big thing in the baking world. Big, because of its delicioius taste, its super cute look, the varieties in taste, filling or colour, but also, if not mostly because making macaroons is an art. It takes time. It takes practice. And there are a gazillion ways on how to supposedly get the best result, and I have a long looong way to go when it comes to making perfect macarons. So, after my first thought, I started to move from Yes! to oh-oh, No….. My two previous tries didn’t turn out too well. Not too bad either, but I didn’t get those characteristic feet around the edges. And they were a little uneven in size and shapes. The taste was good, but they were quite flat, and not very impressive looking. Not like the mini-hamburger I had in mind. More like a crèpe, I’m afraid. But third thimes a charm, right?
So, I rolled up my sleeves, put on my apron, and started to bake with great confidence. A little too confident maybe. I had read about what to do to ensure the feet. Letting the piped shells rest for some time before popping them in the oven, stacking them on several baking trays and not over-folding the batter. I tried it all. Though I think I failed at the last one. My bowl was a little too small, and it was hard to fold the batter properly, and it sunk together too much at the end. And my piper was not acting very cooperative, so the batter turned more and more runny as my kitchen got more and more messy.
I eventually gave up and spooned the batter onto the tray instead, and popped them in the oven. And to my disappointment, no sign of feet. I still had a slight hope maybe one of my 3 trays would grow some feet, but no, not this time either. Arrgh. My kitchen turned against me today, ever had a one of those days? First I managed to continue whisking above the eggwhites, in the air, leaving eggwhites all over my kitchen bench. Then, my piping-instrument was just acting just evil, also leaving a great mess, only this time brown and chocolate flavoured. I had a real yin yang thing going on there… Then, I dropped my bowl of grinded almonds on the floor…. And then, no feet! I think I deserved some feet today. But the taste was good, though. I made all the shells with cocoa powder and decided to be more creative with the filling. I had plain chocolate ganache of course, and used that as a base. I also made some with coffee flavour and some snickers-macaroons, with peanut butter and ganache. Not overly creative, but what can I say – I’m a chocolate lover!
They were all quite good, despite their sad apperance. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I didn’t have too great expectations. So somewhat surprised, I found them really good! They had a crispy edge, with a softer chewy texture, and with a heavenly thick layer of chocolate gancache in between, the missing feet were almost forgotten. The peanut butter-chocolate ones, aka snickers macaroons were delicious too. You gotta love that peanut-chocolate combo! I can’t really say I feel any closer to mastering the art of French macarons yet, but after all, I am an amateur. It was a fun challenge though! And a tasty one! Here’s the recipe!