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Macaron Mania – October DB Challenge

Posted by osakaben41 on October 27, 2009

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What a great challenge this month.  It have everything that makes the DBs worthwhile.  An excuse to bake something new, a whole world of technique to practice, and with just a cookie shell and filling to do, a fairly easy vehicle for playing with different flavors.  Beyond that though, this month really turned into a chance to think about the nature of creativity.

I’d love to say that the Lemon with Red Lentil/apple confit idea, inspired by this Nordljus post worked out, or that I had time to put together the Black Sesame/Drunken Cherry concept.  I’m going to have to wait a little longer to find somebody that wants to try David Leibovits’s Ketchup Macaron, or Pierre Herme’s Vanilla Olive Oil Mac.  In short, I just couldn’t keep up with all the great ideas out there, but more importantly was just plain unable to put a personal stamp on these.

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.

So with a promise to myself to keep revisiting these damn things over and over again, this month was spent more on trying to get comfortable with the technique than it was concocting new and exciting flavors.  For better or worse, I stood on the shoulders of giants this time. 

 

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 The first attempt was a plain almond shell with a cranberry buttercream filling.  The oven was too hot and they puffed up too quickly, resulting in some cases in hollow, cracked shells.  I also tried decorating them with reduced cranberry juice, but quickly learned that delicate meringue shells do not respond well to moisture of any kind.

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Hollow Shells = Oven was too Hot

The second, and for some reason, most successful batch was a Grapefruit and Pistachio Macaron with a citrus white chocolate ganache (borrowed wholly from Cannelle et Vanilla).  She relies on the French Method instead of the more stable Italian method (see below for explination), but despite the odds, they worked out fairly well. 

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 Cookie shell aside, every ganache I’ve made to date had been chocolate with hot cream poured on top.  This however was just melted chocolate with some orange and lemon juice to thin it out.  If you do nothing else, you’ve got to try this on something.  It’s just fantastic.

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However, in what was to become a theme, the early batches never quite worked out as well as the later ones.  Even coming from the same mixture, folded the same number of times, and baked at the same temperature for the same amount of time, my third batch always came out better than my first.  I thought at first it had something to do with the resting period, which it may.  Just as likely though, the process of piping the batter deflates it ever so slightly, such that the batter that comes out last is more viscous than that which comes out first.  It makes logical sense, but I still  have no way to solve this problem.

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Cracked shells, though not hollow inside. How odd.

The third batch was a Hibiscus cookie with dark chocolate ganache topped with cocoa nibs.  Again, I’m not sure exactly what went wrong, but I couldn’t get feet out of these, though they still tasted fantastic.  My best guess is that they were overmixed, but they went in the oven at the same temperature and for the same amount of time as the earlier ones that worked out better. 

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A fourth batch was intended to be the elusive Monte Blanc Macaroon.  For this I substituted chestnut flour for the almond meal, but didn’t even get far enough to take a picture.  The chestnut flour was so much drier than the almond flour that when I started folding the whipped egg whites in, the mixture quickly turned into a dry stiff sludge, closer to cookie dough than anything pipable.  It didn’t even make it into the oven.

The fifth attempt was a chocolate shell from Pierre Herme’s Chocolate Desserts book.  Thinking that I had made every mistake under the sun already I was feeling perhaps over confident.  The batter looked and felt right, but perhaps was undermixed.  The shells puffed up then collapsed like fallen soufflés.  Again, I was able to salvage a few usable shells with the third batch from that recipe, which again leads me to think that somehow the extra deflating in the piping bag is the secret to success.  (I’ve yet to fill these, but I’m leaning towards something either coffee related or a salted caramel.) 

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Someday I hope to be able to get to a point where the technique is solid enough, such that I can play with some really neat ideas out there.  The Daring Bakers did not disappoint this month, with more creativity than should be allowed by law on display.  Some inspiring examples include What the Fruitcake? , Test with Skewer , Stetted , and A Table for Two

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Not all shells failed

So thanks to Ami for a great challenge.  Let’s bring on November now.

(Updated)

Found some Chestnut Cream the other day, mixed it with some whipped cream and piped it through my new Mont Blanc piping tip (Sur la Table $1.29) for a laymans interpretation of a Monte Blanc Macaron.

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It might have been a heavy handed approach to an otherwise elegant dessert, but WOW, Chestnut and Chocolate is something we’re going to have to come back to.

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Claudia Fleming’s Macarons

Equipment required:
• Electric mixer, preferably a stand mixer with a whisk attachment
• Rubber spatula
• Baking sheets
• Parchment paper or nonstick liners
• Pastry bag (can be disposable)
• Plain half-inch pastry bag tip
• Sifter or sieve
• If you don’t have a pastry bag and/or tips, you can use a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off
• Oven
• Cooling rack
• Thin-bladed spatula for removing the macaroons from the baking sheets
• Food processor or nut grinder, if grinding your own nuts (ouch!)

Ingredients
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)

Directions:

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.

Additional Information:

David Lebovitz breaks it down:

More macaroon 411:

 Get inspired by our own Tartlette

Go behind the scenes of Paulette

Watch a pro pipe macaroons:

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11 Responses to “Macaron Mania – October DB Challenge”

  1. gatheraroundthetable said

    Wow – what great flavors. I only managed one try so far…what a fickle thing this macaron!

    Thanks for all the great links to more info – can’t wait to check it out before my next attempts.

  2. Lauren said

    Well, cranberry buttercream sounds pretty original to me =D. Ooo, and that ganache – I need to get some of that! Fabulous job on this challenge, and very Daring of you to make so many batches!!

  3. Simon said

    Whoa, some seriously nice photos of your macarons.

    This was one hell of a challenge, huh? It was good to see the mistakes made and the lessons learned from them. I certainly learned a thing or two reading up on what you experienced. :)

  4. osakaben41 said

    Thanks for the kind words guys. These things can be so humbling. (A post showing pictures of all the discarded Macawrongs would have stretched ten times as long). Oh and Simon, I think I may have to steal your apple pie approach for a small Thanksgiving dessert this year.

  5. Jill said

    I love that you showed all your attempts–that can be helpful to learn from. I have to try the melted white chocolate with citrus juice–that sounds amazing! That first picture was just beautiful! :)

  6. Beautiful work lovely photos and so many flavour and colour combination. bravo Cheers from Audax in Australia.

  7. OK, yours are some of the best looking macs in this challenge. LOVE the flavors, and the photos are beautiful! Well done times 1 billion!

    • osakaben41 said

      Thanks so much Lisa. I love the chocolate painted ones you did too. I swear I could keep trying these for the next 6 months and be happy.

  8. Namratha said

    Wow, your macs look so pretty, too pretty to eat! :) Nice flavor combos.

  9. [...] and pretend they never happened.  Except of course when they’re really spectacular and noteworthy.  Under those standards have I got a whopper for [...]

  10. [...] (though this is something to come back to later), I wanted to revisit my earlier failure with hibiscus.  That time I ground up dried flowers as finely as I could (not fine enough it turned out), added [...]

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