Sunday, March 23, 2008

french chocolate macarons: take 1

Josh forwarded me a link to a food blog written by an adorable, 22-year old, French girl who bakes beautiful things most of which I would never attempt. While browsing, I came across a link to another food blog, this one written by a guy who apparently 1) lives in France, 2) worked at Chez Panisse, 3) authored cookbooks, 4) was formally trained as a pastry chef, and 5) gives chocolate tours in Paris. (I'm guessing he's well known; I just hadn't heard of him before.) On his site, I saw a recipe for French chocolate macarons. I'd tried these before at Hotcakes Bakes (where Jenn recently went) and they're really good, so I thought maybe I'd give them a shot. They are very French and notoriously hard to bake correctly.

Macarons are a meringue cookie, usually served sandwiched with ganache or buttercream or jam. The top is domed yet flat (smooth), and then there's a little fluted skirty "foot" around the base of the cookie. Out of the oven, the cookies are hard (as in, they would break into crumbs if you bit into one or tried to snap it in two). But when you sandwich them and let them age for a few hours - for lack of a better word - the center somehow softens so the meringue is just a crunchy shell, and the inside is practically gooey.

The ingredients are simple: powdered almonds, cocoa powder, confectioner's sugar, egg whites, and granulated sugar. And yet, there are so many opportunities to fail! Almond powder too gritty. Ingredients not measured perfectly (that one I was able to combat with my indispensable digital kitchen scale). Egg whites not at room temperature. Egg whites not beaten properly. Dry mixture not folded properly into egg white mixture. Apparently, one extra stroke can totally screw the whole thing up.

I gave myself a little latitude and tried my best to follow the directions. In keeping with my renewed positive attitude, they weren't bad. Texture was right, shape was okay (high, domed, semi-footed, but many of them cracked on top - which I could live with). Unfortunately, his recipe called for baking them at 375 for 15-18 minutes. At just 15 minutes, mine were basically burned on top. Plus, mine had some slight peaks on the top which 1) provided easier spots for burning and 2) made it hard for them to balance.

Some notes: I didn't have almond powder, but his recipe suggested that pulverized almonds would be okay. They really weren't. My egg whites took way more than 2 minutes to achieve the desired consistency (at least 3-4). Could they have been overbeaten? I also baked on parchment-lined sheets. A lot of people seem to have trouble getting the cookies off parchment, but mine came right off.

Final analysis: I really would have kept them, but burned chocolate taste just permeated. So into the trash they went. Sorry, D.

Next up: take 2.

1 comment:

justJENN said...

Macarons are my favorite of all things in this universe. I have tried MANY. The ones at Jin are pretty darn good.

David Lebovitz is a good guy and excellent author.