The 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. (Recipe HERE)
Growing up in the bakery, I watched my Dad make macaroons, those small mounds of shredded coconut held together with a sweet cookie dough. But this month’s Daring Bakers’ challenge was M-A-C-A-R-O-N-S, spelled without the double-“o” and pronounced with a French accent - not to be confused with the double-"o" macaroon. Here’s a silly little YouTube video (click here) that attempts to demonstrate the French pronunciation.
But saying “macaron” is only half of the challenge. The other half is the making. The ingredients are few: almond flour sifted together with powdered sugar and gently folded into a meringue, made from egg whites beaten with a little sugar. Of course flavorings and/or colors can be added, although I kept mine quite plain. It is customary to add food coloring to make the maracons bright colors - deep pinks, greens, blues, yellows.
The macarons are baked at a very low temperature (I kept my oven at 280 degrees), for about 15 minutes. Once they are cool they can be sandwiched together with your favorite ganache, butter cream or jam. I used milk chocolate ganache.
Macarons aren’t really macarons unless they form “feet,” the little ruffled part seen at the base of each of these. I’m sure Dan thought I had stepped over the edge when he heard me whoop, from the kitchen, “YES! My macarons have FEET!” I found two things to be key in getting macarons to form feet. First, the meringue needs to be whipped to stiff peaks, but not so stiff that it becomes dry. And, secondly, the piped cookies should be left sitting on the cookie sheet for 30-45 minutes before popping them into the oven. This allows a thin shell to form on the cookies before they are baked, and I think that is what forces the feet to form at the bottom.
Macarons are characterized by a thin, smooth crisp shell, with a soft, airy inside. They are very sweet. Even the sweetest tooth is satisfied with a single macaron and a cup of tea, which is what Dan and I enjoyed after dinner. Ooo la la, délicieux!