French Macaroons

Another challenge from the Daring Kitchen: The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was created by Ami S. (she is a member of the group but does not have a blog). She chose macaroons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

In the United States, “macaroon” usually refers to a cookie made primarily of coconut. But in Europe, macaroons have a base of either ground almonds or almond paste, combined with sugar and egg white. The texture made be chewy, crunchy, or a combination. It is common for two macaroons to be sandwiched together with ganache, buttercream, or jam – creating the possibility for endless flavor combination’s.

Ami tried many recipes, and decided her favorite macaroon recipe came from the cookbook noted above. The recipe for our challenge was an adaptation of that recipe.

It is important to note that macaroon making is somewhat labor intensive (this seems to be a pattern in the challenges if you recall the Vols-au-Vent I made in September). The egg white must be at room temperature to ensure they beat up properly. First the egg whites are beaten to soft peaks — meaning the peaks curl over when you lift up beaters. After the granulated sugar is added, beat the mixture to stiff peaks — meaning the peaks stand straight up. But, be careful not to overbeat the eggs. It is important to be gentle when folding the nut flour into the meringue, to keep the egg white light.

Some recipe call for a drying period for about 30 minutes to an hour prior to baking. However, this recipe states baking the macaroons at a low temperature for 5 minutes, then taking them out of the over, raising the temperature and then baking for an additional 7-8 minutes. Drying is necessary to get the trademark “feet” on the macaroons.

My macaroons did not get “feet” and they did not raise enough… I guess that means I did not let them dry enough and probably was not careful enough when stirring the almond flour into the egg whites.

The recipe called for almond flour and I chose to make my own, grinding almonds myself in a food processor. When doing this I adding a cup of the powdered sugar called for in the recipe to the nuts to prevent them from turning into almond butter.

Macaroons can be made into virtually any flavor.You can add vanilla bean seeds, cocoa powder, instant coffee, espresso powder, great tea powder, fruit zests, etc. The batter can be tinted as well, but it is best to use powdered food coloring. Anything goes for the filling as well: ganache, buttercream, jam, caramel, custard, etc.

The recipe:

2 1/4 c. powdered sugar
2 c. almond flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
5 egg white, room temperature

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Combine powdered sugar and almond flour in bowl.

Beat egg white in a different bowl using a stand mixture until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add sugar and beat until mixture holds stiff peaks.

Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If adding other flavorings, do so now. Sift remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.

Spoon mixture into pastry bag fitted with plain half-inch tip. You can also use a Ziploc bag with corner cut off. Pipe one-inch mound of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners or parchment paper.

Bake macaroons for 5 minutes. Remove pan from oven and raise oven temp to 375 degrees. When oven has reached the higher temperature, put the pans back in and bake an additional 7-8 minutes.

Cool before filling.

*I filled mine with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting.

I ended up with about 36 cookies = 18 filled macaroons.

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