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.
This was a doozy!
Amy challenged us to "practice our French kissing." Trust me, I would have preferred to practice my French Kissing during the endless hours I spent trying to produce a handful of proper French Macarons, those delicate Parisian cookies filled with luscious creams, jams or mousselines.
They're delicate alright.
Throughout the month we had to complete this challenge, fellow Daring Bakers were posting their comments and results in the private forum. Very few achieved success right off the bat. Very few achieved success after several attempts. After reading all the problems experienced and troubleshooting tips, I felt like I was walking on egg shells when I finally embarked on this nightmare. Believe me, I had enough egg shells to carpet my kitchen, and enough egg yolks to make about nine gallons of ice cream (the recipe calls for egg whites, almond flour, powdered sugar, and granulated sugar).
By Saturday night, I was just too tired to deal with another batch. I was unsuccessful with the recipe provided for the challenge, and had similar failures with a few other recipes. All the recipes I reviewed were so different in the ratios of ingredients, baking temperature, and methods.
My macarons displayed most of the visible signs of disaster...too flat, too puffed, irregular shape, cracked shells, guts left on parchment paper, overcooked, undercooked and, the most disastrous sign of all, which they all shared...NO FEET. You know, the little frickin' frilly ruffles they are supposed to grow around the edges! None. Not even a toe.
I won't bore you with too many ghastly details and photos. On Saturday night, I photographed the most presentable of the bunch: Espresso and Chocolate Buttercream Macarons, my Macarons of Darkness...Macarons of Despair...
I was ready to succumb to defeat (defeat, get it?) and went to bed. But I tossed and turned all night about my Macarons of Defeat. I woke up Sunday morning with a new, refreshed attitude, and was ready to give it another go. These cookies can't be THAT difficult to master. I forced myself to work on our Gingerbread City 2009 entry most of the day, but had that nagging feeling in the back of my mind. I must produce a batch of macarons, with feet, by the end of the following day!
As I sit here Monday night, preparing the remainder of this post for the official "reveal" tomorrow, my kitchen counter is covered with cooling macarons. The good news is they finally have feet. However, they are browned and spotted and the insides are gooey. Some have cracks; others have "caved in" shells due to too much attic space (don't ask). I'm learning the lingo.
I had such high hopes for this final batch. The batter was flavored with a little Pomegranate powder (I even practiced the molecular gastronomy I learned from our past Daring Cooks' Challenge to obtain this powder), and I envisioned a pomegranate mascarpone buttercream filling. Everything seemed to be going along quite nicely. I pulsed my almond flour and powdered sugar a few times in the food processor, sifted it to make sure it was nice and fine, aged the eggs whites, whipped the egg whites to a shiny meringue, folded in the almond flour mixture with the suggested number of strokes, made sure the batter flowed like lava, carefully piped out small circles, let them sit on the counter to form skins, used a double baking sheet, tried various oven temperatures, blah, blah, blah. I just wasn't able to find the right set of criteria to make the stars align for me.
I know I have oven and/or oven temperature issues, as well as high humidity on the island. Humidity is not my friend; it frizzes my hair and ruins my macarons. I'm convinced, when we build our rustic, but elegant, Tuscan farmhouse, in the mountains of Montana or Colorado, complete with a gourmet kitchen and Wolf convection oven, my Macarons will emerge from the oven as if they came out of a Parisian bakery. For the time being, I am forced to accept this batch of unsandwiched macarons.
However, in my quest for macarons with feet, I did find some comfort, inspiration and smiles from the following....
“We have not wings we cannot soar; but, we have FEET to scale and climb, by slow degrees, by more and more, the cloudy summits of our time.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“Keep your eyes on the stars, and your FEET on the ground.” Theodore Roosevelt
“Eve was not taken out of Adam's head to top him, neither out of his FEET to be trampled on by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him.” Matthew Henry
“Ah, the patter of little FEET around the house. There's nothing like having a midget for a butler.” W. C. Fields
“I just put my FEET in the air and move them around.” Fred Astaire
"Where we love is home, home that our FEET may leave, but not our hearts." Oliver Wendell Holmes
and my favorite...
“And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare FEET and the winds long to play with your hair.” Kahlil Gilbran
Have a Happy Halloween!
Thank you, Ami, for testing my patience and ultimately kicking my butt on this challenge. I did learn more than I cared to about Macarons, and I did give it my best shot. This was truly an excellent Daring Bakers' Challenge. I won't give up. I simply prefer to take a little break to practice my French kissing instead.
Many of the Daring Bakers performed incredibly on this challenge. Please go visit the Daring Bakers forum and check out some of the trials and tribulations in mastering the French Macaron! Thank you also to Helen at Tartelette, and Audax, at Audax Artifex, for all their inspiration, tips and support. And here's the recipe provided for our challenge.