Macarons, The Daring Bakers, and Me

I have to admit, I was going to skip this month’s challenge. I have so many excuses, “I’ve done them so many times”, “I don’t have all the ingredients”, “I don’t have the time”, “I don’t want to”, etc…After seeing that several of my macaron posts were referenced in the most recent challenge, I felt like a goat for not at least trying this one out. It’s three days after the challenge was supposed to be posted, but here goes…

I just so happened to have the makings of macarons already in my pantry, albeit with my not-so-favorite, unblanched, skin-on, almond meal from Trader Joes. This stuff works fine but the specks both me; it’s all I had on hand so please excuse the mess. The other ingredients, the sugars and the eggs, are things that I always seem to have on hand; it looks as if one of my excuses was a lie.

The recipe, as it so happens, isn’t all that different from past efforts: (Forgive me as I hack it up here)

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)

I took the liberty of halving this recipe, just in case things went south with the method, the recipe, or my lack of practice. The big difference in this recipe is the lower amount of granulated sugar in the the meringue. I’m sure this will affect the sweetness as well as the difficulty of incorporating the egg white mixture with the dry goods. A stiffer, more sugary meringue will be a bit more forgiving, but alas, I gave it a go.

The general method of combining wet and dry ingredients is pretty much the same: incorporate the dry into the wet in three separate additions, make sure the ingredients are fully incorporated yet don’t completely destroy the meringue in the process. There’s also a hairy little secret most people don’t divulge: if you don’t mix enough, you get meringue cookies instead of macarons. Most of us have the opposite problem of overmixing the batter and getting wonderful, cracked, exploding macarons that break your will, yet we go back into the kitchen for another beating

The cooking of these macarons is where things get a bit interesting. Instead of allowing the macarons to dry at room temperature on the counter, the recipe has them cooked at a low temperature to dry them out first, then they are completed at a much higher temperature.

Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C).

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.

I’m a bit weary of this step but it could prove useful in speeding up production. Even when I made them in a restaurant kitchen with a fancy-shmancy convection oven, we always let them dry for hours before we baked them off. This high cooking temperature runs the risk of browning the macarons if they aren’t watched carefully.

Even with my doubts, I got the feet. They weren’t as pronounced as previous efforts, but they did come out. As expected, though, the macarons browned a little bit while waiting for them to be fully cooked. Even with about five extra minutes of cooking, I don’t feel like these baked as well as they do at a much lower temperature. The skin on the top of the macarons is so unbelievably thin that, even carefully taking them off the silpat, they cracked.

Yet another macaron recipe that works but not quite good enough, for me, to switch from my most recent efforts. I was happy to see them come together and form, and that, for most of us, is good enough.

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One Response to “Macarons, The Daring Bakers, and Me”

  • RayRay says:

    I always wonder how long to beat the egg whites for. It seems like I get to soft peaks very quickly and then to stiff peaks really fast after adding the sugar. I don’t ever really achieve the shiny consistency people write about. I suspect this is my problem. Suggestions?

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