The “macsperience”- The Daring Bakers bake macarons for the October ‘09 challenge

by Sunita on 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.

Dating back to the 18th century, the macaron is a traditional French pastry, made of  egg-whites, almond powder, icing sugar and sugar. This sweet pastry came out of the French courts’ baker’s oven as round meringue-like domes with a flat base.

Macarons, also anglicized “macaroons”, are not to be confused with a similar pastry also called ‘macaroons’. Macarons are sandwich-like pastries made with two thin cookies and a cream or ganache between the cookies. Macaroons are dense cookies made either with coconut or with a coarse almond paste.

The macaron’s origin isn’t clear, but it may have been brought to France from Italy as early as 1533 by Catherine di Medici and her pastry chefs. Macarons gained fame in 1792 when two Carmelite nuns seeking asylum in Nancy during the French Revolution baked and sold macarons in order to support themselves, thus becoming known as “the macaron sisters.” The macarons they made were a simple combination of ground almonds, egg whites, and sugar. No special flavors and no filling.

It wasn’t until the 1900s that Pierre Desfontaines of Parisian pastry shop and café Ladurée decided to take two cookies and fill them with ganache. Today Ladurée continues to be one of the first stops for macaron-crazed fans in Paris. No longer a humble almond cookie, the macaron turned into a versatilely flavored treat with a thin, light crust briefly giving way to a layer of moist almond meringue following by a center of silky smooth filling.

Oh dear! That was my first reaction when I  read about the challenge for this month’s daring bakers. For a long time now, I have been an ardent admirer of this pretty French dessert. I have been drooling for so long  at all those lovely macarons on Helen and Aran’s blogs, each time wondering if I ought to give it a try. I usually take up a challenge, but the stories of disasters with this pretty but so temperamental dessert has always made me take a step back. Can’t blame me though! Blame those feet! Reading the recipe, one probably cannot imagine that something which seems pretty straightforward can also give disastrous results.

Now, what’s the “feet” that I’m talking about. Look carefully at the base of the macarons. Those are called feet, and, god forbid, if you’re unlucky,  instead of those “feet”, you will have something, which might still taste good, but will not look like a macaron should.

I must admit, I was very much intimidated by all this. And there are so many technicalities, aging egg whites, letting the unbaked shells rest for a while etc. But, I am really glad I took up the challenge. And, of course,there were all those lovely people pushing me on.

The following is the recipe that we had to follow-

Ingredients
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)

Directions:

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.

We were given the freedom to choose the flavour of the macarons and the filling. We could also use other nuts apart from almonds.

What I did-

On my first try, I followed the recipe  exactly as given.  Disaster struck and they cracked at all places. Next time, I followed David Lebovitz’s recipe for chocolate macarons. This time, I did not bake all the macarons at once. I put in a few into the oven,but this batch cracked too. For the next batch, I let the piped shells rest for a while till they felt dry to the touch and formed skins. The given temperature of 180deg C was reduced . And lo and behold; peeking through the oven door, I could see those happy macaron feet starting to appear!

I was alone in the house but that did not stop me from “yaaay “ing and dancing, jumping all round the house, yes, I was a bit carried away. As soon as Dinesh arrived, I probably drove him crazy, or maybe half deaf by showing off my macarons , explaining all the technicalities, all the things that could go wrong, how I have always been scared of trying to bake them. I’m not sure he was very interested in all that, but I told him anyway! Even Rengoni and Agastya were not spared with the details of my “macsperience”! Yes, when I remember that day, I still feel that I’m on cloud nine.

For the batter, I used David Lebovitz’s recipe. For baking the macarons, I reduced the temperature of the oven from 180 deg, as it proved to be too much. The first batch cracked, but the second batch ( with the same batter and with some resting) produced great results. I pre heated the oven at 170 deg C and lowered to 150 deg C . The tray with the piped shells was then baked in the centre of the oven for 10 minutes. I rotated the tray and baked for another 5 minutes.

My macarons were filled with the following  coffee – mascarpone mousse.

Ingredients-

6 tblsp of mascarpone cheese
9-10 tblsp of double cream
2 tblsp of honey
2 tsp of coffee powder (  I used espresso. You can use more or less coffee, mine had a mild coffee flavour)

Method-

  • Mix together the mascarpone, honey and coffee till fluffy.
  • In another bowl, beat the cream till it forms stiff peaks.
  • Fold in the mascarpone mixture.
  • Chill the mousse before filling the macarons.

Notes-

A few things that I found out and followed (from here):-

  • The ground almonds from the store were not fine enough. So, I pulsed them in the food processor together with the cocoa powder and the icing sugar. This was passed through a sieve three times to make sure there were no lumps.
  • Old egg whites- I used egg whites kept at room temperature for three days.
  • The final macaron batter should have the consistency of magma. The batter should not be too liquidy, nor too stiff. If you form a peak, it should slowly and completely sink back into the batter. If the cookies form peaks on their tops after piping, flatten them with a wet fingertip.
  • I also drew circles on the other side of the parchment to keep the sizes uniform.
  • I let the piped shells sit at room temperature for about an hour. Lebovitz’s recipe, which I followed, does not mention this step, but I followed it anyway, just to be sure.
  • The recipe called for the macarons to be baked at 180 deg C. I found this to be too high. I pre heated the oven at 170 deg C and lowered it to 150 deg C before placing the tray in the oven. I baked them for 10 minutes, turned around the tray and baked for another 5 minutes.
  • To remove the macarons from the parchment, I lifted them along with the parchment, cooled them on the rack for about 8 -10 minutes and peeled the parchment .

To be honest, I am not a great fan of the taste of macarons, a bit too sweet for me. But I am a great fan of cooking/baking techniques. And I was really glad I went along; the appearance of those “mac feet” did wonders for the ego ! I had many flavour combinations in mind, but, they will probably have to wait for another day.

Polariod Delicious Icon Polariod Digg Icon Polariod Email Icon Polariod Facebook Icon Polariod Reddit Icon Polariod StumbleUpon Icon Polariod Twitter Icon

{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

1 John October 27, 2009 at 2:30 am

Great Job! I too followed Lebovitz’s recipe, last month (before seeing this months challenge), with great success. I have my whites aging as we speak to use as Ami has asked, I hope I find hers to be as easy as my first attempt. BTW I love the coffee and Mascarpone Mousse combo!!!

Reply

2 courtney aka glamah October 27, 2009 at 2:31 am

Perfection. I found the challenge recipe wasn’t a good one. I had to use another for good results too. You should be proud about these babies!

Reply

3 RJ Flamingo October 27, 2009 at 2:34 am

Bravo, Sunita! They look abso-freaking-lutely perfect! I never got feet when I made them for Jamie’s Mac Attack challenge, but they were beautiful and tasty, and look at you! You got the whole package! Yay!

Reply

4 Marcellina October 27, 2009 at 2:36 am

Fantastic macarons! I love your coffee mascapone mousse and I can think of dozens of uses for it. YUM!

Reply

5 musical October 27, 2009 at 2:42 am

Wow! I mean how gorgeous can these lil’ things be! I could type down an entire list of adjectives here, but i am not sure if they’ll do justice enough to these lil’ beauties! Yup, your macaros and very dainty and pretty feet :) .

Hats off to your dedication!

Reply

6 Karen October 27, 2009 at 3:22 am

Look at your feet! Your macarons are sooo perfect :)

Reply

7 Bron October 27, 2009 at 3:35 am

They’re beautiful Sunita, well done!

Reply

8 Ellie October 27, 2009 at 3:35 am

They look so perfect. Very nicely done!

Reply

9 Rosa October 27, 2009 at 3:40 am

Your macarons are beautiful and really perfect looking! Great job!

Cheers,

Rosa

Reply

10 Dragana October 27, 2009 at 3:55 am

Suneeta, these look fantastic! congratulations to you!

Reply

11 nags October 27, 2009 at 4:18 am

I was about to say its great results in the first try but I can see it took more than that. I am very scared to try and bake these too! Your tips will surely come handy when I eventually take the plunge, whenever that is!

Reply

12 Julie @ Willow Bird Baking October 27, 2009 at 5:24 am

Beautiful! And what a lovely flavor idea! I’m glad to hear you achieved success with David Lebovitz’s recipe. I tried and, um, didn’t . . . so good to know it can be done :) I have to give it another go!

Reply

13 Ujwal October 27, 2009 at 6:51 am

Macaroons look very very cute.. I have read of many failures in other blogs and always felt that this is quite a complicated one.. Long way for me to give it a try.. Looks yummy and pictures are very very tempting

Reply

14 The Cooking Ninja October 27, 2009 at 6:56 am

lol! I see that you did the MACARON DANCE like all of us did when making this. Your macarons are perfect and beautiful! Job well done! I agree with u that they are a tat too sweet for me too.

Reply

15 Sudeshna October 27, 2009 at 7:13 am

I will give my tooth and nails to have a bite of these mascs. The pics are so lovely, wish I had an oven. Sunita you are compelling me to save money to buy an oven.

Reply

16 Happy Cook October 27, 2009 at 7:27 am

Oh yes i too know the disaster of making these cute ones. This looks perfect and so so yumm. I am sure you are glad you took up the challenge.

Reply

17 Nachiketa October 27, 2009 at 7:34 am

Congratulations!!!!
that’s lovely looking macaroons…..

Hope I have the bravado someday to give these a shot… :-)

Reply

18 kellypea October 27, 2009 at 7:35 am

Well you certainly had a lot to dance around about. Those are GORGEOUS! So perfect and cute and the filling? Great combo. Totally impressed!

Reply

19 Meeta October 27, 2009 at 7:41 am

they look awesome sunita – wonderful! so you gonna bake me a few when we all meet in london?

Reply

20 Ramya Kiran October 27, 2009 at 8:19 am

Perfect!

Reply

21 Priya October 27, 2009 at 8:42 am

Omg, those macarons are really beautiful..

Reply

22 Jamie October 27, 2009 at 10:00 am

Sunita, they are perfect! Stunning! And wow do I have to try that coffee-honey-mascarpone mousse! Beautiful job! And thanks for the shout out!

Reply

23 Bethany October 27, 2009 at 10:00 am

Beautiful Sunita! I can’t wait to join you guys next time!

Reply

24 Jenny October 27, 2009 at 10:12 am

Your macarons look just perfect! We also failed big time with the challenge recipe, so we returned to our old trusted one instead (very similar to Tartelette’s, that a lot of DB´s used). Coffee and mascarpone mousse sounds so so delicious! Wonderful job!

Reply

25 Esther October 27, 2009 at 10:56 am

They look fabulous, i can’t quite believe you have never made them before looking at those !

Reply

26 pontch October 27, 2009 at 11:40 am

Beautiful macarons! great job!

Reply

27 Nirmala October 27, 2009 at 1:07 pm

Hats-off for the wonderful feet! Those cute little ones were fantastic!

Reply

28 Audax Artifex October 27, 2009 at 2:38 pm

Chocolate is the hardest flavour to do. I’m impressed you have mastered macarons congratulations. Cheers from Audax in Australia.

Reply

29 MandyM October 27, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Your chocolate macarons looks fantastic. Of the 10 flavours I had wanted to try, chocolate was one of them, but I never got it right, meh! I’ll have to keep trying ’cause I can only imagine how great they taste. Lovely baking :)

Reply

30 Rashmi October 27, 2009 at 3:21 pm

Hi Sunita,

Been a regular reader of your blog and have dropped in few words now and then.For the past few days i am facing difficulty in opening your webpage.Some how or other,the page doesnt upload itself.

Rashmi.

Reply

31 deeba October 27, 2009 at 4:16 pm

Lebovitz worked for me too…and I just stuck to his good old recipe eventually. Love how perfect yours turned out Sunita…and of course, the filling is calling my name! BEE-YOO-TI-FUL!!

Reply

32 Hilda October 27, 2009 at 4:24 pm

They look and sound delicious Sunita. Chocolate is my favorite flavor (although P. Herme’s pistachio-sour cherry one supersedes all for me) so I would gladly have one, or four of these. Well done! (and now you have to be part of the mac club) ;)

Reply

33 sarah October 27, 2009 at 5:35 pm

Great job with the challenge! Glad you experimented to come up with a method that worked for you. I can totally relate to that ecstatic feeling of peaking into the oven to see…little feet! Beautiful photos!

Reply

34 Tartelette October 27, 2009 at 6:00 pm

They turned out perfect Sunita! Bravo for tackling macaron making! I hope you don’t stop there!

Reply

35 Lauren October 27, 2009 at 6:59 pm

Beautiful. Your macs are stunning – Flawless job with this challenge!

Reply

36 Gera @ SweetsFoods October 27, 2009 at 7:49 pm

Your macaroons turned out so beautiful. The filling with coffee/mascarpone mousse or chocolate, both, are absolutely gorgeous :)

Cheers!

Gera

Reply

37 Soma October 28, 2009 at 3:34 am

BEAUTIFUL! The Coffee Mascarpone sounds really really good.

Reply

38 Linda October 28, 2009 at 4:16 am

the fillings for your macaron sounds delicious. Anything with coffee and cream is a hit

Reply

39 Ivy October 28, 2009 at 10:01 am

Great job Sunita, they look beautiful and lovely choice of filling.

Reply

40 Mansi October 28, 2009 at 7:41 pm

There’s no parallel to Helen’s Macaroons, she’s a pro; but yours look pretty too Sunita, and I esp loved the coffee mascarpone mousse! must have tasted yummy:)

Reply

41 Hélène October 28, 2009 at 9:17 pm

They are magnifique. The pictures are stunning.

Reply

42 Cynthia October 28, 2009 at 10:58 pm

So thrilled for you! They are perfect! I totally understand the dancing, yaaying and the babbling explanations! :)

Reply

43 Sunita October 28, 2009 at 11:43 pm

Thank you so much, everyone, for your lovely comments. This challenge made me very happy indeed!
-Sunita

Reply

44 steph (whisk/spoon) October 29, 2009 at 12:26 pm

you got your feet! they look fantastic! i’ll have to give that recipe a try!

Reply

45 Sunita October 31, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Thanks Steph! Do give it a try, just make sure to lower the temperature as i’ve mentioned.

Reply

46 Laura March 5, 2010 at 12:13 am

Nice job! I had much, much better sucess with David’s recipe than with the DB recipe (although I sort of got feet with that recipe).

Reply

Leave a Comment

Thank you for dropping by and leaving your constructive feedback. I appreciate and value each and every one of them and will try to answer your queries to the best of my ability.

However, at times, the virtual life may take a backseat, and I may be unable to reply to your comments as quickly as I would like to. On such occasions, please bear with me, and I will try to respond as soon as possible.

Thanks for visiting SUNITA'S WORLD. I hope you enjoy your stay here.

Happy surfing!!

{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: