Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Daring Bakers' 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.
For me, this was by far the toughest challenge in The Daring Bakers' Challenge. First of all, I've never eaten a macaron. I would know one on sight as, recently, they have gotten quite popular with home bakers in America, hence their blogging about them. However, I do not know how the texture should be. So even if my macarons happen to look like the ones in pictures, I would still have no idea whether they are truly macarons. This dilemma aside, I was quite adamant to have a go at it. They look so cute!
I tried the recipe provided in the Daring Bakers' Challenge and failed spectacularly the first time. I thought I had not whipped my egg whites enough. As you can see from the two pictures below, my batter was too wet and once the macarons baked, you can see little bubbles forming and no feet!
So I gave it another go. This time, I am very sure my egg whites have been whipped correctly. However, once I started to fold in the dry ingredients, I realised I'll be getting the same batter consistency as my first batch (which was too wet). I started mixing in extra almonds and sugar to get a drier consistency. The second batch was much better. I actually got tiny feet. However as I had to add dry ingredients, I had to fold the batter more times than is required. So my macarons didn't turn out well. They were all crinkly on top.
For my third try, I decided to use Syrup and Tang's formula for macarons. This time, my macarons finally turned out right. I was so excited when feet formed in the oven. They deflated a little when I took out the macarons but they still looked good. The shells had a hard-ish outer layer which cracks when you bite into it. The insides of the shells were moist and soft and sort of cake-ish. They were very good.
I decided to flavour my macarons with green tea. I added green tea powder to the shells and I whipped up a batch of green tea custard for the filling. For the sake of variety, I filled some macarons with good ol' peanut butter.
The recipe from The Daring Bakers' Challenge is listed first, followed by the recipe I used for my third batch (including the custard).
The Daring Bakers' Challenge Recipe
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)
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.
Yield: 10 dozen. Ami's note: My yield was much smaller than this. I produced about two dozen filled macaroons.
Recipe following Syrup and Tang's formula
112 grams Confectioners' Sugar
91 grams Almond flour
1/2 teaspoon Green tea powder ; if desired
56 grams Granulated sugar
2 aged Egg whites ; (at room temperature) (about 70g)
1. Sift the confectioners' sugar, ground almond and green tea powder twice, into a medium bowl. The mixture should be dry and clump together only slightly. If the ground almond is too moist, bake in oven at 140°C for 5-10 minutes before adding the sugar and green tea powder.
2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Gradually and slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
3. Add 1/4 of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold hard and fast to knock out some of the air in the whipped egg whites. Then add second batch and do the same; then the third and last batch. At first the ingredients will not mix well, but it comes together quickly. Then fold more slowly and gently as you continue until you get the consistency of "very cold honey". When small peaks dissolve to a flat surface, stop mixing. The final batter is pale and smooth, with no visible aeration.
To test the batter, place a tablespoon of the batter in a thin line on the remaining batter. It should disappear in 30 seconds. If not, do a couple more folds.
4. Stack 2 baking sheets together. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto the back of baking sheet lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper). Dab each corner of baking paper with batter so it does not slip. Pipe vertically over the centre, about 5mm above the tray surface. Tap the underside of the baking sheet to remove air bubbles. Air dry macarons on the counter until they are touch-dry (about 1 hour or up to 4 hours).
5. Preheat oven at 200°C. Put in macaron tray in the middle shelf, and immediately turn down temperature to 160°C. Bake for 8 minutes, rotating tray and baking a further 5 minutes. They are ready if shell moves only reluctantly on its foot when you lightly nudge it with a finger.
7. Turn off oven and leave the tray in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove macarons and cool on a rack face up before filling.
8. Pair macarons of similar size, and pipe about 1/2 teaspoon of the green tea filling onto one of the macarons. Sandwich macarons, and refrigerate to allow flavours to blend together. Bring back to room temperature before serving.
To store: Place in airtight containers and refrigerate.
Green Tea Filling
60 grams sugar
10 grams plain flour
10 grams custard powder
250 mililiters milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoons green tea powder (or more, if you like it stronger)
In a medium bowl, whisk together yolks and a third of the sugar until very thick and pale. Add in flour, custard powder and green tea powder. Whisk until well-combined.
In a saucepan, boil the milk with the remaining sugar. Once it boils, stir in vanilla and pour it onto the egg yolk mixture. Mix well. Pour mixture back in the saucepan and return to stove.
Over a very small flame, bring to boil, stirring continuously with a whisk. Let it simmer for two minutes, stirring. Strain the custard into a bowl. Immediately place bowl into an ice water bath and stir until custard cools.
To store: place some cling film over the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate.
Personal note: I'd like to thank Audax Artifex here for his tremendous help and encouragement.