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.
I generally like to add my own little blurb when posting about my daring kitchen challenges, but I think Ami did a fantastic job in her introduction, so here it is. Thanks Ami for a fantastic challenge! The following excerpt in blue itallics are Ami S’ words. You can find her website Baking without Fear here.
“Unless you’ve been frozen in permafrost for the past five years, you’ve likely noticed that cupcake bakeries have popped up all over like iced mushrooms. Knock one down, and three take its place. Much has been made about not only the cupcake’s popularity, but also its incipient demise as the sweet du jour. Since we seem to be a culture intent on the next sensation, pundits, food enthusiasts and bloggers have all wondered what this sensation might be. More than a few have suggested that French-style macaroons (called macarons in France) might supplant the cupcake. This may or may not come to pass, but the basic premise of the French macaroon is pretty damned tasty.
In the United States, the term “macaroon” generally refers to a cookie made primarily of coconut. But European macaroons are based on either ground almonds or almond paste, combined with sugar and egg whites. The texture can run from chewy, crunchy or a combination of the two. Frequently, two macaroons are sandwiched together with ganache, buttercream or jam, which can cause the cookies to become more chewy. The flavor possibilities and combinations are nigh endless, allowing infinitely customizable permutations.
Famed purveyors of the French macaroon include the legendary Ladurée (http://www.laduree.fr/index_en.htm) and Pierre Hermé (http://www.pierreherme.com/index.cgi?cwsid=7450phAC194316ph5211130) in Paris, Paulette Macarons (http://www.paulettemacarons.com/) and Jin Patisserie (http://www.jinpatisserie.com/) in Los Angeles, and La Maison du Chocolat worldwide (http://www.lamaisonduchocolat.com/en/index.php#/home/undefined/1). This is by no means a complete listing of patisseries and bakeries that sell macaroons. If you want to check if any bakeries near you sell French macaroons, here’s a good place to start: http://www.seriouseats.com/2007/10/where-to-find-macarons-new-york-city-….
French macaroons are notorious for being difficult to master. Type in “macaroon,” “French macaroon” or “macaron” in your search engine of choice, and you will be inundated not only with bakeries offering these tasty little cookies, but scores and even hundreds of blogs all attempting to find the perfect recipe, the perfect technique. Which one is right? Which captures the perfect essence of macaroons? The answer is all of them and none of them. Macaroons are highly subjective, the subject of passionate, almost Talmudic study and debate. Chewy? Crisp? Age your egg whites? Ground the nuts or use nut meal or nut flour? Cooked sugar syrup, or confectioners’ sugar? In the words of a therapist, what do you think is the ideal macaroon? The answer lies within you.
Will French macaroon supplant the cupcake as the next sweet trend? There’s no way to know. I couldn’t have predicted the resurgence of leggings, yet here they are.
Macaroon making is somewhat labor intensive, yet simultaneously less difficult than you think it will be. One thing you must do is have your egg whites at room temperature. This ensures they beat up properly, as texture is an integral component to macaroons. You will be piping the batter onto parchment paper or nonstick liners, and some home bakers use stencils to make sure their macaroons are uniform in size.
Some recipes call for drying the piped macaroons on the counter prior to baking for 30 minutes to an hour. This recipe stipulates that you bake the macaroons at a low temperature for 5 minutes, then take them out of the oven, raising the temperature, and baking them for an additional 7 to 8 minutes. Drying is necessary to get the trademark “feet” on your macaroons. Experiment to find the best technique for you.”
If you would like a printable copy of the recipe used in this challenge, you can find it here.
These macarons were a big hit with all my regular sweet tooths, but a bit too sweet for me I’m afraid. Such a shame, I really want to like them because they are such pretty little things. Perhaps I’ll have to try a savoury version.