Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Daring Bakers October Challenge: French Macarons

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.

Tonight was my first Daring Bakers challenge and my first time cooking classic French macarons.

Such as these available from renown French pâtissier Pierre Hermé.

Now, I've never had macarons so didn't really know what I was trying to achieve. Also because the deadline was today and I needed to start cooking as soon as I got in from work I used a recipe from Larousse Gastronomique (as I had a few questions about the recipe provided and didn't have sufficient ingredients to follow the recipe exactly).

6oz caster sugar
4.5oz ground almonds
2 egg whites
1/2tsp vanilla extract

1. Mix the sugar and almonds.
2. Whisk the egg white (with a pinch of salt), adding the vanilla extract near the end.
3. Mix the sugar, almonds and egg white thoroughly.
4. The mixture was then piped on to a greased and lined baking tray
5. Bake at 200°C for 12 minutes.

I must admit I was a bit worried when I'd prepared the mix as it was very stiff and even seemed a little grainy. Also it was a challenge on Masterchef: The Professionals the other day and they did get very nervous about making them.

I was not expecting good things. This was compounded when I realised I don't actually have a plain piping nozzle only a closed star.

This meant that I couldn't achieve the desired smooth top. The mix also seemed far thicker than I had seen on TV.

Still I always like to think that I can cook anything so I persevered. However, my mind wasn't only on the macarons at this stage and so when the buzzer sang out at the end of the 12 minute baking time, I was a little disappointed to see this:

It was clear that the oven was too hot and that the edges created by the nozzle were browning far too much and added a crunch that shouldn't have been there.

Undeterred I pipped out a second batch, turned the oven down to 190°C, set the timer to 8 minutes and watched like a hawk. Fortunately I was rewarded with a much better batch this time:Fresh out of the oven they had a great chewy texture which there wasn't quite enough of because they were too thin.

Nevertheless, running out of time and ingredients I made some chocolate ganache (using crème fraîche) and created the required macaron sandwiches:

Sandwiched together, these were lovely chewy almondy bites, with a slight crunch from the ridges caused by the piping nozzle. The bitter chocolate providing an excellent foil to the sweetness of the macarons.

All in all quite a stressful challenge but enjoyable. However, I know I can do better, but not too bad for a first attempt. I shall take the fruits of my labour into work tomorrow and get a verdict from the ICCHFC guys.


  1. I think these look really delicious and crispy, chewy. I hope the people at work appreciated them.

  2. I feel you macaron pain! I think their quite easy to get right taste-wise, but they have a very specific look and texture that is so hard to achieve! If your mixture was a bit runnier you could have just used a piping bag with no nozzle to pipe them, that would get rid of the ridges.

  3. I think your macarons look very tasty!
    If you haven't got a plain nozzle you can also use a heavy duty (freezer type) plastic bag as your piping bag and just cut a corner off to pipe through. Sometimes ground almonds are quite chunky and benefit from a quick whizz in a food processor to chop them more finely (don't over process or they become oily).
    Good luck, Kate

  4. French Macaroons have some very necessary steps that you missed out on. Check out this video for a detailed foolproof way to make macaroons. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJ636Y8N6E8


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