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Macaron Madness with the Daring Bakers

Posted By Susan On October 27, 2009 @ 7:10 pm In Baking,Cookies and Brownies,Daring Bakers,Desserts,Ethnic,French,Recipes | 74 Comments

(Matcha Macarons with White Chocolate-Passion Fruit Ganache and Blackberry Swiss Buttercream)

For years, I’ve been absolutely mad about French macarons [1].  Something about biting into one of those delicate little round disks with their frilly “feet” and crispy outer shells yielding to soft, almost chewy, centers beneath and filled with luscious, creamy fillings, could literally make me swoon with delight. When I was in Paris, I ate them by the dozen!  However, after baking eleven batches ( yes, eleven) of them using three different recipes over the past 5 days, I think I must be just plain mad!

Oh, the trials and tribulations I endured trying to make these macarons!  I used curse words that I didn’t even know I knew – some even in French!  The whole ordeal started out simply enough.  The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S [2]. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe. When I first learned of the challenge, I was both excited and terrified at the same time.  I had often wanted to try my hand at making macarons, but had always held back.  From reading many of my favorite blogs like Helen’s [3] and Jen’s [4], I knew that macarons are among the divas of French pastries – temperamental and exacting.  Successful macarons require undivided attention and a certain finesse. They are finicky and unforgiving.  One careless slip of the wrist and it’s all over!  But yet, I couldn’t help but be intrigued.  Prepared properly, macarons are sweet little packages of perfection.  If I could pull it off, the rewards would be great! 

(Raspberry Macarons with Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache)

I carefully planned my foray into the world of macarons.  For days, I researched and compared recipes, studied technique, and looked at lots and lots of pictures.  I made a list of all the various flavors I wanted to try.  The list got longer and longer, until I finally had to be brutal and limit myself to just five.  I gathered together all of my ingredients and set aside an afternoon for my macaron-making marathon.

Pursuant to the rules of the challenge, I had to make at least one batch of macarons using the recipe provided as well as make at least one filling from scratch.  I decided to start with raspberry macarons filled with a dark chocolate ganache.  To flavor them, I used freeze-dried raspberries that I pulverized into a fine powder.  I scrupulously followed the recipe and was rewarded with a gorgeous rosy pink batter that indeed appeared to “flow like magma”.   When I popped them in the oven to bake, I was psyched!   When I removed them from the oven, my spirits were as deflated as those flat, footless, gummy macaroon pancakes they had turned into! In plain English, dear readers, they sucked!

(Big flops using the challenge recipe.  UGH!)

I threw them in the trash and tried again…and again…and again, all with the same result. Four batches – all disasters!   By this time my trash bin was getting full and so I had to alter my strategy.  I went online to the DB forum and was a tiny bit relieved to find that many others had had the same experience with this recipe.  Yay!  It wasn’t just me!  I then decided to try a different recipe.

For my next attempt, I used the basic macaron recipe [5] from Syrup and Tang. [6] Several others had been having luck with it and I hoped that I would too.  This recipe was a bit different than Claudia Fleming’s, in both the ratio of ingredients and method.  I made more raspberry macarons as well as some lemon and chocolate-hazelnut ones.  These turned out much better.  I got crispy shells and tiny ballerina slipper feet, and I was thrilled.  But they were an absolute bitch to peel off the baking sheets!  I lost probably half of my macarons that way.

(Cute, little ballerina slipper feet using Syrup and Tang’s recipe.)

Okay.  Moderate success.  Now I was ready to try yet a third recipe, this time from the Macaron Goddess, herself – the lovely Helen of Tartelette [3].   Helen’s macaron recipe [7] was also different.  She uses a higher ratio of powdered sugar to ground almonds than the other two.  I made more chocolate-hazelnut macarons using Helen’s recipe, plus some lemon, matcha and lavender macaroons too.  Honestly, of the three recipes, these were the ones that turned out the best.  I’m not just saying that because Helen is my friend and I love her.  It’s the truth!  My macarons using Helen’s recipe weren’t perfect, but that was mostly because of me. Even with her recipe, I still had a few batches that flopped.  I think I’ll need a lot more practice before I can start boasting about my macaron-making skills.  But, they were the ones that had the frilliest feet and the nicest texture of all.

(Much better “feet” with Helen’s recipe.  Though still not as smooth as they should be.)

With my five flavors of macarons safely tucked away in my freezer, it was time to begin working on the fillings.  This was another hair-pulling exercise in futility!  I had to consider flavor, texture and color.  Should I make ganache?  Curd?  Buttercream?  The stress was killing me!   I finally decided to do a little of each.

Here’s the 411 on my macaron menu:

Raspberry Macarons with Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache (adapted from one of Dorie’s [8] recipes)

Lemon Macarons with Raspberry Cream (based on Dorie’s [9] recipe for Extraordinary Lemon Cream)

Chocolate-Hazelnut Macarons with Fleur de Sel Caramel and Nutella

Matcha Macarons with White-Chocolate-Passion Fruit Ganache

Lavender Macarons with Blackberry and Vanilla Bean Buttercream

(Oooh!  I really like this shot! Since I rarely drink tea, I’m glad I could use that teapot for something!)

Out of all of the fillings I used, the ones that worked the best were the ganaches and the buttercreams.  The caramel and the raspberry cream didn’t hold their shape once piped into the macarons and dribbled down the sides a little.  It was a shame because that raspberry cream was hands down the best tasting filling of the lot, although the passion fruit ganache was a very close second.

(dribbly Raspberry Cream filling oozing out of a lemon macaron)

Even though my macarons won’t win any beauty contests, I am very pleased with the way both the flavors and the colors turned out.  They really tasted delicious!  I’m also pretty proud of myself for completing this challenge with not one, but five different kinds of macarons.

I can’t say that I’ll be making macarons again anytime soon.  I was so frazzled and aggravated and MAD during the whole several day process, that I barely had the energy to photograph them and write this post!  As a matter of fact, out of the eleven batches I made, I was really only happy with four.   I think that for the time being I should just restrict myself to eating them!

(These were my two very favorite macarons.  Get a load of those feet!!!)

I am not going to waste my time typing out the challenge recipe.  It didn’t work at all for me and I can’t, in good conscience, recommend it.  Maybe a more seasoned baker could have pulled it off.   If you really want to try it, you can certainly find it on any one of the hundreds of sites of other DBers.  Visit The Daring Kitchen [10] for the blogroll of members.

As for the fillings, I made both of the ganaches and buttercreams myself.  I also made the raspberry cream (on a wing and a prayer).   I’ve provided the recipes for each below.  The caramel and the Nutella were store bought.

If you’d like to try Syrup and Tang’s macaron recipe, you can find it here [5].  He has very detailed step-by-step instructions along with lots and lots of pictures.  Helen has numerous macaron recipes [7] in all kinds of interesting flavors on her site as well.  She has also written a comprehensive tutorial on making macarons for Desserts Magazine [11].  I downloaded a copy of it when it first came out.  Unfortunately, I think now you have to pay for it. Here is a link to the recipe [12] that should still work.  I do think it’s worth a look if you are serious about learning the correct way to make macarons.

(Lavender Macarons with Vanilla Bean and Blackberry Swiss Buttercream)

Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients:

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Directions:

Place the chocolate in a medium-sized bowl and set aside. Bring the cream to a full boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. While the cream is coming to the boil, work the butter with a rubber spatula until it is very soft and creamy. Set the butter aside.

When the cream begins to boil, remove the pan from the heat and, working with the rubber spatula, gently stir the cream into the chocolate. Start stirring in the center of the mixture and work your way out in widening concentric circles. Continue to stir—without creating bubbles—until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Leave the bowl on the counter for a few minutes to cool.

Add the butter to the mixture in two additions, mixing with the spatula from the center of the mixture out in widening concentric circles. When the butter is fully incorporated, the ganache should be smooth and glossy.

You can use the ganache now, leave it on the counter to set to a spreadable or pipeable consistency or chill it in the refrigerator. If the ganache chills too much and becomes too firm, you can give it a very quick zap in the microwave to bring it back to the desired consistency, or just let it stand at room temperature.

White Chocolate-Passion Fruit Ganache

Ingredients:

8 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped (Do not use white chocolate chips.)
1/2 cup passion fruit puree
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Directions:

Place the passion fruit puree and white chocolate in a medium-sized bowl and set aside. Bring the cream to a full boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. While the cream is coming to the boil, work the butter with a rubber spatula until it is very soft and creamy. Set the butter aside.

When the mixture begins to boil, remove the pan from the heat and, working with the rubber spatula, gently stir the passion fruit/cream into the chocolate. Start stirring in the center of the mixture and work your way out in widening concentric circles. Continue to stir—without creating bubbles—until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Leave the bowl on the counter for a few minutes to cool.

Add the butter to the mixture in two additions, mixing with the spatula from the center of the mixture out in widening concentric circles. When the butter is fully incorporated, the ganache should be smooth and glossy.

Chill the ganache until it is the desired consistency for piping.

Blackberry Swiss Buttercream

Ingredients:

4 ounces egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 to 1/2 cup blackberry puree depending on your taste

Directions:

Place a medium sized pan with about 3 inches of water over high heat and bring to a boil.  When boiling, adjust the heat down so that the water keeps at a simmer.

Combine egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in a medium-sized heat proof bowl and place it over the simmering water, whisking vigorously until white and foamy or until mixture reaches 160 degrees F. This should take about 5-7 minutes.

Pour the contents of the bowl into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a wire whisk attachment.  Whip the egg white mixture on high speed until it reaches stiff peaks, about 6-8 minutes.

Switch to the paddle attachment and turn the mixer to medium. Beat in the butter a piece at a time. As you are adding the last chunks of butter, the buttercream may start to look curdled.  Don’t worry, just keep beating and add the remaining butter, it will all come together.

Once all of the butter has been incorporated, add the blackberry puree and continue to beat until thoroughly combined.  You should have a lovely, silky, purply buttercream.  If your mixture curdles again, turn the mixer up to high and beat the hell out of it!

Use immediately or chill.

Vanilla Bean Swiss Buttercream

Ingredients:

4 ounces egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste

Directions:

Place a medium sized pan with about 3 inches of water over high heat and bring to a boil.  When boiling, adjust the heat down so that the water keeps at a simmer.

Combine egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in a medium-sized heat proof bowl and place it over the simmering water, whisking vigorously until white and foamy or until mixture reaches 160 degrees F. This should take about 5-7 minutes.

Pour the contents of the bowl into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a wire whisk attachment.  Whip the egg white mixture on high speed until it reaches stiff peaks, about 6-8 minutes.

Switch to the paddle attachment and turn the mixer to medium. Beat in the butter a piece at a time. As you are adding the last chunks of butter, the buttercream may start to look curdled.  Don’t worry, just keep beating and add the remaining butter, it will all come together.

Once all of the butter has been incorporated, add the vanilla paste and continue to beat until thoroughly combined.  You should have a lovely, silky, vanilla-specked buttercream.  If your mixture curdles again, turn the mixer up to high and beat the hell out of it!

Use immediately or chill.

Raspberry Cream

I used this recipe for Raspberry Curd from Recipezaar [13].  When the curd was still warm, I whizzed it in the blender while adding 14 tablespoons of softened butter to it, 1 tablespoon at a time.  Then, I kept whizzing it in the blender for another 3 minutes.  After that, I put the mixture in a jar and chilled it until it was thickened.

Enjoy!


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URL to article: http://stickygooeycreamychewy.com/2009/10/27/macaron-madness-with-the-daring-bakers/

URLs in this post:

[1] French macarons: http://www.seriouseats.com/2007/10/introduction-to-french-macarons.html

[2] Ami S: http://bakingwithoutfear.blogspot.com/

[3] Helen’s: http://www.mytartelette.com/

[4] Jen’s: http://userealbutter.com/

[5] basic macaron recipe: http://www.syrupandtang.com/200712/la-macaronicite-2-basic-technique-and-simple-macaron-recipe/

[6] Syrup and Tang.: http://www.syrupandtang.com/

[7] macaron recipe: http://www.mytartelette.com/search/label/macarons

[8] Dorie’s: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0316357413?ie=UTF8&tag=serieats-20&linkCode=as2&camp=211189&creative=374929&creativeASIN=0316357413

[9] Dorie’s: http://www.amazon.com/Baking-Home-Yours-Dorie-Greenspan/dp/0618443363?&camp=212361&linkCode=wey&tag=doriegreenspa-20&creative=380737

[10] The Daring Kitchen: http://thedaringkitchen.com/member-blogs

[11] Desserts Magazine: http://dessertsmag.com/

[12] link to the recipe: http://dl.getdropbox.com/u/546793/Demystifying%20Macarons%20-%20Desserts%20Magazine.pdf

[13] Raspberry Curd from Recipezaar: http://www.recipezaar.com/luscious-raspberry-curd-372953

[14] [Translate]: http://stickygooeycreamychewy.comjavascript:show_translate_popup(

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