The October Daring Bakers Challenge was French Macarons or Macaroons. French macaroons are very different from what Americans think of as macaroons-- a chewy, mostly coconut cookie. These are a combination of ground almonds, egg whites, sugar and flavorings, sandwiched with a filling of our choice. They are light, like angel kisses.
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 ground the almonds in my food processor, then added the confectioners sugar and ground them again, to get the "almond flour" as fine as I could. The cookies are baked in two stages-- once at a low temperature for just a few minutes to dry the bottom of the cookie, then at a higher temperature for the remaining time. This results in a "foot" that doesn't rise as much as the rest of the cookie, which creates the distinctive macaroon shape.
I made the cookie recipe with no added flavors (flavors or zests were optional) and filled them with a chocolate almond ganache. The cookies at first were a contrast in textures-- a crispy cookie and a creamy chocolate filling. But as they sat, the cookie softened to a texture that just dissolved in my mouth. Yum!
You can find the recipe and directions for the cookies here.
Confectioners’ sugar: 2 ¼ cups
Almond flour: 2 cups
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)
1. Preheat the oven to 200°F.
1. Preheat the oven to 200°F.
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. 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. 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.
The ganache recipe follows:
5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 Cup heavy cream, scalded
1/4 tsp almond extract
Put the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Pour the hot scalded cream over the chocolate and mix until blended. Add the almond extract, and mix to blend. Chill until the ganache is thick enough to spread, then put a liberal amount between each pair of macaroons.
The recipe made about 2 dozen filled cookies for me-- I must have made them larger than the directions called for. But they were delicious nonetheless!