Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: 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.

Macarons

Macarons are little French almond-y, meringue-y sandwich cookies, not to be confused with coconut-y American macaroons. They've become rather trendy lately, and I've been curious to make them for a while. From what I can tell, they're one of the holy grails of the baking world: simple on paper, but ridiculously complex in practice, with lots of little puzzle pieces that all have to fall into place correctly in order for it to work.

Like almost every other Daring Baker who tried this challenge, I failed the first time. I was a bit overambitious and took too many shortcuts, but the odds were stacked against this recipe anyways. The failure was so epically embarrassing that I didn't even snap pictures.

For my second attempt, I tried a different recipe. I've long admired Helen's (of Tartelette fame) perfect-looking macarons, they're one of her specialties, and many other Daring Bakers reported successes with her method. I felt confident at each step as I went along, and everything seemed to be going perfectly. I even did a happy dance when I saw the tell-tale "feet" appear (see photo above). In theory, when those ruffly edges appear, you know it's worked.

Macaron Fail

Not so much. Macarons are notorious for sticking to your silpat or parchment paper, and that's what my little buggers did. I'm pretty sure that I got overly excited about the feet and pulled them out of the oven too soon. They could have used at least a few more minutes, and they were completely ruined. Cracked, gooey, and just falling apart no matter how delicately I handled them. I even tried to put them back into the oven after they'd cooled in a desperate last-ditch effort to firm them up a bit, but that didn't work either.

The next day, I had one more egg white aged and ready to play with (I made small, 1-egg white batches knowing that I'd probably be messing up), so I tried again with Helen's method, determined to patiently leave them in the oven as long as necessary. Unfortunately, even with an extra 5+ minutes in the oven, I got the same results. Beautiful-looking, great feet, but the same sticky, crackly, and crumbly as soon as I tried to touch them.

Overall, I'd still call this a relative success. I feel like I've almost mastered the technique, and I got the feet twice, which I hear is the hardest part. This isn't necessarily the kind of baking I enjoy most, I don't tend to gravitate towards making dainty little bites of elegant-looking things, but I'm still really grateful that I had the opportunity to try making these.

My flavor combo was inspired by peach melba. The first time around, I ground up dehydrated peaches and scraped a vanilla bean into the batter, and was going to fill the cookies with raspberry jam. For my second attempt, I skipped the add-ins and just used a tiny drop of orange gel food coloring, and used raspberry jam as the filling. I still love the idea in theory, and if I ever make these again, I'll try again with the same flavors.

*For the original recipe, check out what our gracious hostess, Ami S. had to say here. Thanks, Ami, for daring us to tackle our fears and give these tricky little guys a try!

*And for a more tried-and-true method (and to see what perfect macarons should look like), check out all of the beauties over at Tartelette.

17 comments:

kellypea said...

Impressed with your daring persistence. I have zero! I tried one of Helen's recipes, too, and found that I took them out too soon. I popped them back in -- nearly twice as long as the time required and that seemed to do the trick.

glamah16 said...

Timing is tricky. I jusged more by color than time. But so happy you got feet! Love the idea of peach melba filling.

Joy said...

I'm glad you got the feet! Mine have bulging tummies! Haha.

I honestly do not have your patience and persistence. Bravo to you for trying. I think I'm off to bed after this disaster. :p

The Bon said...

I've held off on making them because it's so humid here during the time of the year that I want to bake. Like I said on twitter, my research has told me that macarons (and meringues) don't work very well when it is damp out. I don't know about you guys but we're not heating our house enough yet to tamp down most of the moisture in the air right now.

They still look delicious though, which is the most important part.

Audax said...

I love how you persisted at these and yes you are right about 90% there I think you just need a longer time in the oven. Also maybe try parchment paper that might help. Beautiful photos. Cheers from Audax in Australia.

EthidiumBromide said...

Next time, try raising the temperature of your oven a bit. The first few I had stuck a little to the parchment paper, so I raised the temperature by 20 degrees or so for both baking steps and all the rest peeled off just perfectly.

Forgot to get my post up before I left for lab this morning... will have to do it when I get home!

Lauren said...

Well, I think they looks fabulous. Not to mention the flavour! Love the peach melba concept =D.

Peggy Bourjaily said...

I think that broken mac pic is great!!! I had problems with them sticking too, but it was still fun and yours look really tasty.

Anne said...

Oooh! I've never tried making macarons, but I SO want to. Congratulations on the feet!

Add my vote to trying parchment paper. I love my silpat, but I find that sometimes it can be a bit too tacky, if that makes any sense.

culinography said...

Your macarons weren't crumbly, they were "with added texture"! :)

Good job and GREAT idea for a peach melba flavor combo!

Deeba @Passionate About Baking said...

GOOD FOR YOU Amy...well done indeed! YAY for persistence, and yes, success is sweet! Love the peach melba filling. Great!!

Cheap Ethnic Eatz said...

Persist, persist, persist...good for you. Once was enough for me for now. The still taste awesome though

Megan said...

You got feet!! You should be super excited. :) I love that you kept at it. I think I need to try that other recipe too to see if that works a bit better. I have some egg whites in the fridge right now and may or may not attempt these again. I think yours look gorgeous... and I love the peach melba idea!

Jill said...

Way to keep trying! I'm with you--Tartelette's recipes are much better than the challenge one. That peach melba filling sounds amazing! :)

nikki said...

Yay, feet! You're on your way...

Megan said...

At least you got some nice looking feet there! I had a sticking issue too. I bet they still tasted delicious!

Dharm said...

I'm so impressed you tried these so many times. Sorry they didnt turn out but you DID get the feet!!

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