I’ve tried to remember the first time I saw a macaron, but honestly, I can’t. It surely wasn’t until I started writing here, more and more frequently crossing paths with amazing people who bake amazing desserts at home with little or no formal training. I’d not heard of Pierre Herme, either. No, I was caught up in the the world of savory dishes with only an occasional dessert made for a special occasion coming from my kitchen rather than the circular, often brightly colored sweet sandwiches that comically remind me of tiny hamburgers — or perhaps moon pies.
Even after I’d begun to realize that macarons were a fascination for many and saw them in every imaginable color and flavor, it wasn’t until a year ago that I tasted my first: antique rose in color, delicately crisp, and oh so sweet, it tasted of rose as well. For someone used to sinking her teeth into a nice bran muffin, I was a bit perplexed and beginning to understand what all the fuss was about. There didn’t appear to be much to the tiny thing, and yet I knew it was quite the opposite. A paradox.
I’ve wanted to make macarons for quite a while now, and yet I’ve procrastinated. Instead of delving into the endless recipe variations, comparing quantities of ingredients, and analyzing techinque, I’ve gazed at the beautiful the colors and admired perfect the shapes. Finally, I was forced to consider not only how a macaron is made, but to make them along with countless other bakers this month. 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.
After a few days of reading everything I could find about macarons and sifting through the forum comments and advice at The Daring Kitchen, I decided to devote a Sunday to the task. Not a frilly person by nature, I skipped the gorgeous pinks and bright greens and headed straight for the sturdy, practical flavors of chocolate and peanut butter.
In a house full of men, what would you expect?
Chocolate with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Buttercream
Makes 12 filled macarons
3 egg whites
50 gr. granulated sugar
200 gr. powdered sugar (minus 2 T)
110 gr. ground almonds or almond meal
2 T unsweetened cocoa
The day before you plant to make the macarons, place the egg whites in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap letting them sit at room temperature for 24 hours. If you prefer, you can do this in the fridge as well. In fact, you may also use fresh egg whites if you put them in the microwave to dry them for about 15 seconds on 50% power.
Prepare 2 large baking pans with silicone liners and position the oven racks in the center of the oven.
In the bowl of a food processor, add the powdered sugar, ground almonds, and cocoa. Pulse to mix well and set aside.
Put the egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer and beat them just until they’re foamy. Gradually add the granulated sugar with the mixer running on high until the meringue is glossy. Remove the bowl from the stand.
Add the almond mixture to the meringue and give it a quick fold to incorporate the dry ingredients. Using no more than 50 strokes in total, working quickly and gradually slowing, carefully fold the mixture until it flows in a steady, thick ribbon from the spatula. Make sure it is not over mixed. To test the batter, drop a small spoon full onto a plate. If it flattens out, then it’s ready.
Fill a bag fitted with a plain tip and pipe circles about 1-1/2″ in diameter onto the silicone lined baking pans. Set on the counter to dry about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Bake the macarons about 15-16 minutes. Remove carefully to baking racks to cool completely.
Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Buttercream
12 oz. cream cheese at room temp
1-3/4 c. powdered sugar, divided
6 T unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. heavy cream
1/3 c. chunky peanut butter
In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and 1-1/4 c. of the powdered sugar until creamy. In a separate bowl, whip the cream to medium peaks, and gradually beat in the remaining powdered sugar. With the mixer on medium high, add the cream to the butter mixture in three parts. Finish by adding the peanut butter in several large dollops until well blended. Chill for 1 hour before filling the completely cooled macarons.
To assemble the macarons, spread about 1 tablespoon on one macaron held in the palm of your hand. Top with a second macaron and gently twist. Refrigerate the macarons at least one day for best results.
- The chocolate macaron recipe I used after much deliberation is one of Tartelette’s. This would be called an infraction and I expect either Lis or Ivonne to incarcerate me momentarily. I will say, however, that Helen’s recipe actually made me feel as if I knew what I was doing. Call me a coward.
- I purchased a carton of egg whites for this challenge expecting to screw up several times and ended up using fresh egg whites instead. Helen’s microwave technique to dry the egg whites works! In the meantime, I am drying out egg whites to give the challenge recipe a go next weekend.
- Reading like a crazed woman about how to fold the macaron batter must have paid off. They ended up looking like macarons.
- I read so many conflicting bits of advice regarding oven temperatures and settings, I decided to use convection since it’s what I most often use. Unfortunately, the baking time of 8-10 minutes suggested wasn’t nearly enough and I had to pop the macarons back into the oven twice. I think in the long run, they still weren’t quite done. Note the shriveled tops on a few as evidence as well as my fingernail pockmarks from handling them too much. Poor things.
- The buttercream recipe was adapted from a recipe I found a Epicurious and I have tons left over.
- I refrigerated my macarons overnight before tasting them.
- The flavor verdict is good: I’m not a big peanut butter fan, so I’m pleased to say the flavor is mellow and blends quite nicely with the chocolate. Overall, it’s a good flavor. The exterior of the macaron is crisp, provides a nice crunch, and becomes more chewy as you work through the center. I know. Not quite done, right?
- Claudia Fleming’s challenge recipe that all the “real” Daring Bakers made (instead of fudging like I did) is as follows:
Mandatory Challenge Items:
-Make Claudia Fleming’s recipe for macaroons
-Fill and sandwich the macaroons
-Flavor variations and decoration
-If you have a nut allergy, find a good nutless meringue cookie recipe but you must make them into cookie sandwiches with some kind of filling
If you are vegan, I don’t know what you can use as an egg substitute. Suggestions are welcome.
Preparation time: Not taking into account the amount of time it takes for you to bring your egg whites to room temperature, the whole baking process, including making the batter, piping and baking will probably take you about an hour to an hour and a half. How long it takes to make your filling is dependent on what you choose to make.
Actual baking time: 12 minutes total, plus a few minutes to get your oven from 200°F to 375°F.
• Electric mixer, preferably a stand mixer with a whisk attachment
• Rubber spatula
• Baking sheets
• Parchment paper or nonstick liners
• Pastry bag (can be disposable)
• Plain half-inch pastry bag tip
• Sifter or sieve
• If you don’t have a pastry bag and/or tips, you can use a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off
• Cooling rack
• Thin-bladed spatula for removing the macaroons from the baking sheets
• Food processor or nut grinder, if grinding your own nuts (ouch!)
Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)
1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). 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 (2.5 cm) 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 (190°C). 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.
Yield: 10 dozen. Ami’s note: My yield was much smaller than this. I produced about two dozen filled macaroons.