Daring Bakers - French Macarons - Lemon with White Chocolate Filling and Chocolate with Nutella Filling
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.
Being part of a group like The Daring Bakers certainly makes you stretch. The monthly challenges make you bake things you never would have otherwise. That's certainly true of this month's challenge. Although French macarons are wildly popular right now and are so pretty, I probably never would have put them on my "to do" list. Beside, they are famous for being difficult to master and unpredictable. And they sure did not disappoint.
Macarons are little almond cookies that are made with egg whites and have a filling that you sandwich between two of the cookies. If you want to see what the perfect macaron looks like, the famous Beverly Hills bake shop, Paulette's Macarons, is the place to go. They make perfect macarons in a rainbow of colors, incredible flavors and snazzy packaging. And they ship.
In this challenge, we had the choice of any flavors and fillings we wanted to use, so I chose to do a lemon macaron filled with a white chocolate lemon filling and a chocolate macaron filled with Nutella.
When doing the research for making the macarons, it became apparent that there was disagreement as to the best method. Do you age the egg whites overnight or just bring them to room temperature? Do you let the batter sit after you mix it up or after the cookies are piped? Do you bake them at one temperature or bake them at a high temperature for a few minutes and then lower the temperature? Do you use powdered food coloring or is liquid food coloring okay?
I read macaron posts from all the usual suspects for baking expertise - David Leibovitz, Helen of Tartelette, and Aran of Canelle et Vanille. I made my decisions and jumped right in. One of the defining features of a perfect macaron is the little "feet" on the cookie. If you make them right, they rise up and create the distinctive "foot" but this is no easy accomplishment. My lemon cookies ended up with some feet but my chocolate ones. . . well, they had no feet.
I did age the egg whites. I separated the eggs the night before and left the whites out all night at room temperature. This dries the whites out a little bit and helps the texture of the cookies. I also used powdered food coloring instead of the liquid because extra moisture in the batter can prevent the cookies from baking correctly and because Helen said so. I ordered the powdered food coloring from Country Kitchen SweetArt, a great online place to shop for baking and confectionary supplies. (The powdered food coloring is not an item I was able to find locally.) I even bought some of these cute little pearlized sugar pearls. They have them in so many colors - they're really fun.
Another tip I discovered when making these macrons is how to lift them from the parchment. They stick a little and I read about some other tips on how to get them off, like sprinkling a little water on the parchment. But really, using my large Santoku knife did the trick. It was much better than a spatula. Just wipe your knife off after every few cookies.
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- 2.25 cups (8 ounces) confectioner's sugar
- 2 cups (6.7 ounces) Almond Flour*
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 5 egg whites (have them at room temperature)
- 1 tablespoon very finely grated lemon zest
for the white chocolate lemon filling:
- 8 ounces white chocolate, melted
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
for the chocolate macrons:
- 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Combine the confectioner's sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl.
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. **
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.
Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (e.g., 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.
Pipe one-inch-sized mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners or parchment paper. Let them sit for about 20 minutes before baking.
Bake the macarons for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375 degrees. 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. (I did 6 minutes, but I think my oven is a little hot). Cool on a rack before filling.
Yield: 10 dozen. (Note: My yield was less than this.)
*Almond Flour is not generally a hard to find item. If your grocery store carries Bob's Red Mill organic products, you can usually find it there. Also, most health food stores carry this product.
**Stiff peaks is when you remove the beater and the egg white peak stands straight up.
for the White Chocolate Lemon Filling:
Mix together until smooth and then let set until thickened up. When macarons are cooled, sandwich about a teaspoon between two cookies.
for the Chocolate Macarons with Nutella Filling
Follow directions for Lemon Macarons, but leave out lemon zest and substitute about 4 Tablespoons cocoa powder.
When cool, place a layer of Nutella between two cookies.