Monday, November 2, 2009

Daring Bakers October Challenge - French Macarons

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 was so excited when I saw what October's challenge was.  I've been seeing these little delicate beasts pop up all over the place recently and I've been dying to try them myself.  I'm not typically one to vary too much from a recipe, but these suckers just beg to be tinted, flavored and laced with all sorts of things.  The first thought I had, as we were approaching Halloween, was that it needed to include pumpkin.  So I settled on spiced macarons (cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves) and got started, completely ignoring all of the trials and tribulations of my fellow Daring Bakers.  I'm not going to go into details, but I think this picture just about sums it up:
So I did some research (thanks to all of the early bakers this month and a HUGE thanks to Audax and Helen of Tartelette for all their tips)... found out I over-mixed the meringue as well as over-mixed during the macaronage (process of combining the meringue and almond flour/sugar mixture), used the wrong ratio of sugar to flour... I did a LOT wrong.  So I adjusted the recipe quite a bit (see below for recipe), which yeilded this:
FEET!  For those of you who aren't familiar with macarons, "feet" are what the ruffles on the bottom of the cookies are called.  No, I'm not making up all these terms. Here's a close up of the feet:

I added a little something extra to this batch... ok, so maybe I borrowed the idea from a fellow Baker (sorry I can't remember who you were, but it was a brilliant idea, so thanks!)... I added some Starbucks Via instant coffee to the batter to give it a latte twist.  I filled them with a pumpkin/cream cheese/mascarpone cheese recipe that I "borrowed" from Lisa over at Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives.  Thanks Lisa!  It's fab!  So here is my Pumpkin Spice Latte macaron:

I wanted to try a batch with more of a Halloween flair... ok, so maybe, now that I got the right consistency and feet, I was starting to become addicted to these uber sweet sandwiches with endless color/flavor combinations... and I wanted to make sure my blend of recipes and resulting feet wasn't a fluke.  So I got out my black food coloring and ended up with these:
Clearly I needed more food coloring, because these look pretty gross.  I would have added more coloring, but I mixed it in during the macaronage phase and I would have ended up over mixing if I had tried to add in more.  In the future, I would recommend mixing in any food coloring when you blend the flour and confectioners sugar together.
Regardless, I think I was able to spin it nicely... here we have ghoulish grey macarons with some green slime... voila!
They are actually lemon macarons (regular recipe with lemon zest), filled with lime curd. 

Macarons (my own interpretation of the recipe)
2 Egg Whites
1 1/4C + 1 3/4T confectioner's sugar
3/4C + 2 1/2t Almond Flour
5t extra fine granulated sugar
For pumpkin latte macarons, add 1/8t cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg and 1/2t Starbucks Via coffee.

(Below are instructions from Tartelette's as I found hers to be the easiest process for me)

For the whites: the day before (24hrs), separate your eggs and store the whites at room temperature in a covered container. If you want to use 48hrs (or more) egg whites, you can store them in the fridge. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry.
Combine the almonds, powdered sugar and spices in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add them to the meringue, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that flows like magma or a thick ribbon. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper lined baking sheets. Preheat the oven to 280F (I had to adjust this to 300F for my oven). Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool completely. If you have trouble removing the shells, try peeling the parchment paper away from the macaron as opposed to trying to lift the macaron from the sheet.  If they stick at at, leave on the counter to dry out some more, or put back into a cooling oven to help them dry.  Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store them in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer. To fill: pipe or spoon about 1 big tablespoon in the center of one shell and top with another one.

Pumpkin Filling
2 oz room temperature cream cheese
2 oz mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup canned or fresh cooked and pureed pumpkin
2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1. In a bowl, beat together both cheeses.  Add pumpkin, the sugar and spice.  Mix until smooth and uniform.  Chill for about an hour or so.
2.  Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip, then pipe onto every other macaron shell  and sandwich with another macaron shell.