Wednesday, October 28, 2009

October Daring Baker's Challenge: Macarons!

Ohhh what could ever motivate me to get back on the computer and share my life with all of you? Darling pictures of toddlers, dogs and chickens? My new baking pans? A volleyball season done with? The answer...none of the above. It was these little, adorable morsels of meringue and buttercream. When I saw the October DB Challenge I could hardly contain myself! These have been on my list of things to perfect for awhile and they are so much fun to make.

Without futher ado, I present to you the french macaron. I added the innards (is that correct terminology??) of a vanilla bean to the cookie part and whipped up a blackberry buttercream filling from the jam that my mom sends me. My friend Amy said it tastes like ice cream. Cool.

Macarons!, originally uploaded by jmojo2009.

Macarons, from Claudia Flemming' The Last Course: The Desserts Of Gramercy Tavern.
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.

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)

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. (Adding the powdered sugar to the nuts allows you to grind the almonds up without making almond butter. The almond flour is easy to make with blanched almonds and the powdered sugar. There were other recipes that recommended drying the flour after you grind it but I skipped all that.)
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. (Don't over beat your eggs or the cookies will not rise...I think I was really walking the line on mine.)
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. (This is where I added my vanilla bean insides...or essence? Black gunky speckly stuff? What is the official name for this?)
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 (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. (Right...fill it quick because the batter is going to come running back out the tip!)
Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).
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. (This final heat is where the feet form so don't worry until after you pull them out of the oven. Really not much you can do at that point though...)
Cool on a rack before filling.

Blackberry Buttercream Filling

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 8 ounce package cream cheese
5 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup seedless blackberry preserves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the butter and cream cheese in a mixer bowl and whip together until creamy. Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time. When combined, add the blackberry preserves and the vanilla and mix well. Can be held in the refrigerator overnight and re-whipped prior to frosting the cupcakes.