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.
Yup, that was my exact reaction when I saw this month’s challenge was going to be French Macarons. Now, I love the look of these quaint little cookies, I love the fact that they are gluten free without the need to alter the recipe, and I love the flavour combination possibilities. You can literally do anything with these. Salty, sweet, savoury, dessert, appetizer, it doesn’t matter. They are little shape shifters, ready and willing to take on anything you have to throw at them.
So why the harsh reaction in learning that they were this month’s challenge? Because they are such a challenge! Google “macarons” and you will invariably come across many a message board with frantic questions from the beginner baker asking why their macaron is lacking in the telltale feet. The feet being the cute little ruffle that is on the bottom of each cookie, or should I say is supposed to be there.
I’ve never made a macaron, and I don’t recall having ever eaten one either. I’ve seen them countless times, but I usually opt for more decadent treats. Give me cream filled cannolis or frosting coated cakes over itty bitty cookies. Also, there is the lack of people making them anywhere near me in my tiny village. If I come across one any time soon, I’ll be picking some up for sure.
Now let’s get to what happened to mine. I followed the recipe as best as I could, but sadly mine came out feetless every single time. Don’t get me wrong, they were utterly delicious, but they were more of a regular old cookie sandwich rather than a delightfully, quaint French treat.
My one success out of all this learning was the filling. There’s just something about sweet, creamy chestnut cream inside those lovely chocolate cookies.
So, although mine did not turn out, I think everyone should try their hand at these little bauties at least once (or twice) in their lives. I don’t often fail at my attempts at baking, but this time was different. I am humbled.
Chocolate Macarons with Sweet and Salty Chestnut Filling
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)
2 Tbsp good quality cocoa
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.
That’s lookin’ good.
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. Add the cocoa in at this point as well. 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.
For the Filling:
1 lb. chestnuts, roasted
1 cup whole milk
1 cup water
25 g icing sugar
30 g unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 vanilla bean
2 grams salt
1. Peel roasted chestnuts and add to small saucepan. Fill with water and milk. Bring to boil and simmer on medium heat for 20-25 minutes (or until chesnuts are well softened and liquid is reduced).
2. In the bowl of a food processor, add the chestnuts and the reserved liquid.Pulse until mostly pureed.
3. Add in the sugar, butter the seeds from the vanilla pod and the salt.
4. Pulse until completely pureed and combined.
5. To fill cookies, spread filling on one cookie (not so much that it oozes out the sides, but not so little that you can’t see it when sandwiched). Top with another cookie.
6. Can be refrigerated for a couple of days.