Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: French Macarons

Boy oh boy, do I have experiences to share and pictures to show you this month with this challenge! But before I get into that, let me introduce our hostess of the October Daring Bakers' Challenge:

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.

Our hostess explains what french macarons are:

"In the United States, the term “macaroon” generally refers to a cookie made primarily of coconut. But European macaroons are based on either ground almonds or almond paste, combined with sugar and egg whites. The texture can run from chewy, crunchy or a combination of the two. Frequently, two macaroons are sandwiched together with ganache, buttercream or jam, which can cause the cookies to become more chewy. The flavor possibilities and combinations are nigh endless, allowing infinitely customizable permutations".

I found that the challenge recipe did not work as well as another one that I've been using almost weekly over the past six months. [If you would like to see the actual challenge recipe, click here.]

I followed the directions for the challenge recipe exactly and the results were a disappointing FAIL (see pictures below):

Against my better judgement and previous experience, the parchment paper did not remotely help these poor things. I even baked them on Silpats, just to be sure. This is how they turned out:

And here is a close up of the failed macarons:

Now this is how macarons SHOULD look (notice the ruffled edges at the bottom of the macaron, these are called feet and you want them for a successful macaron):

I'm not sure if it was because it was a rainy, high-in-moisture Oregon day and this recipe didn't have as much powdered sugar and almonds to the egg white ratio. Also, I have found that parchment paper does NOT work as well as Silpats for my macarons. I did try the double pan technique that was mentioned, and that really didn't help them either. Although, this wasn't a successful first run, I'm glad I tried all the tips and the recipe, if only to know what doesn't work.

As I mentioned above, I've been making French Macarons for the past six months as a collaboration with a local chocolate shop owner and we sell them from his store each Saturday. So I've worked through many recipes over this time and I will share the one that I adapted from a basic recipe found at Tartelette's website. If you haven't visited her website, I highly recommend you do--she is an expert macaron baker and she gives clear and helpful directions and her macarons are beautifully done.

The one aspect I really enjoyed from this challenge was creating a new flavor that I hadn't tried before and I was excited to use some Oregon Hazelnuts that I just purchased here locally from Hazelnut Hill in Corvallis, Oregon.

I've included my own thoughts and notes from things that I've found to work really well in making French Macarons.

*Jillicious notes in this color.

Pumpkin Spice Hazelnut French Macarons

Adapted from Tartelette's Recipe found here.

For the macaron shells:

90 grams egg whites (aged 2-3 days)
1 tsp. lemon juice
30 grams granulated sugar
200 grams powdered sugar
55 grams almond flour
55 grams hazelnut flour
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
3 to 5 drops of orange food coloring

Prepare the macarons:

1) In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. While the egg whites are still at a soft peak, add the food color. Do not over beat your meringue or it will be too dry.

2) Place the almonds, hazelnuts, powdered sugar, and pumpkin pie spice in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground.

*After grinding the mixture, it should be fine and look like this:

3) Add them to the meringue, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that falls back on itself after counting to 10. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns.

4) Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto silicone mats lined baking sheets. *I usually use a smaller tip Ateco #806--just a preference.

*Because the batter will spread slightly, it's best to pipe macarons in alternating rows as pictured:

5) Preheat the oven to 280F. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their size. *I have a convection oven and I bake mine for 8-9 minutes, then turn the pans and switch racks and continue to bake for another 8-9 minutes.

6) Let cool. If you have trouble removing the shells, pour a couple of drops of water under the parchment paper while the sheet is still a bit warm and the macarons will lift up more easily do to the moisture. (*This is another reason I use Silpats; once the macarons cool, they come off very easily.) Don't let them sit there in it too long or they will become soggy.

7) Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store them in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer.

Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Ganache

4 oz. dark Belgian chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup Nutella

1) Chop chocolate into small pieces and transfer to bowl; set aside.

2) Heat cream over medium-high heat. When it reaches scalding point, remove from heat and pour over chocolate.

3) Stir chocolate and cream until combined. Add vanilla and Nutella and stir until incorporated and smooth. Let ganache cool and is firm enough to pipe on macarons.

4) Pipe ganache on macaron (bottom side facing up) and sandwich carefully with second macaron (top side facing down).

I was very happy with how this version of French Macarons turned out. I really liked the addition of the hazelnut flour to the macaron and the pumpkin pie spice was a nice flavor with it.

The reason I choose to use a dark chocolate and mix it will the Nutella, was because although I like the strong hazelnut flavor of the Nutella, I didn't want it to take over the ganache flavor completely.

In the end, both components complimented each other and I would say that this macaron challenge was a SUCCESS!


  1. Gorgeous! Great job on the macarons and the pictures. I had problems with Fleming's recipe too, and I have to say that another recipe from her book is seriously wrong. I went back to my well tested recipe too.

  2. They're beautiful! I can't wait to try your hazelnut ganache.

  3. They looks so absolutely perfect and your flavors are dreamy -- I want some of them please!

    Btw, thanks for noting how you arranged them on the pans. That was a challenge for me last night when I was making them. I tried them in rows and it was a messy mistake.

  4. Interesting. Even a pro couldn't get this recipe to work right. I think all of your macs look amazing! Love the colours & that ganache sounds divine =D.

  5. These look amazing. I can't wait to test your flavor combination!

  6. Boy, your macs looks really good!! I wonder if Claudia Fleming's recipe might not work so well in Oregon?? I have not tried Helen's version, but would like to try it. I need to go hunt down a bakery here or around Portland that sells them... I'd really like to try one before jumping into making them again. I didn't like mine at all... though the rest of the family actually liked it. :P

  7. These are just perfect. How beautiful. I struggled with this macaron recipe, too. I actually did tweak a few things because from my experience it didn't seem too accurate and was a little vague in parts - e.g. 5 egg whites (what weight?). Overall though, I managed some decent macarons. Though found them more fragile.

  8. Jill, I couldn't bring myself to post my failed pictures following the challenge recipe. They look exactly like yours. I simply concluded that it is lack of sugar, so the meringue is too soft to build a structure.

    But your macarons are fabulous! Love them and love the flavor and filling. Thanks for sharing, Jill!


  9. Both flavours sound really delicious and these are just perfect looking macarons as well.

  10. These sound so great! My first batch following the horrendous recipe looked the same as yours. Ugh.

  11. They look fabulous; love the pumpkin spice idea!

  12. your macs looks absolutely gorgeous...perfect and your flavors are yumm!! =) thanks for the comments and dropping by.

  13. They look beautiful! Job well done! And thanks also on the silpat tips; I have baking mine on parchment paper sofar and keep having sticking issues. I do have a silicon mat which - I hope - would be similar in use to the silpat (which I have not seen around these parts)

  14. they turned out beautiful! i also ended up adding a bit more granulated sugar to the whites to make them more stable and always prefer using silpats for macarons. I feel like parchment seems to deform them a bit more. Fantastic!

  15. Jill, your macarons are beautiful! I also love the sound of the flavours you chose, yum :D
    It's funny, I found that I struggled to take my macarons off of the silicon mat but they came off no problem from parchment paper, it's funny how these things can change for each person which I guess why it's so important not to give up after the first flop 'cause you need to find the recipe & techniques that will work for you.
    Again, beautiful macarons, beautiful baking :)

  16. Beautiful stunning and gorgeous macarons they look perfect and that flavour combination sounds delicious. Well done. Also I use parchment paper always and very have a problem odd how things don't/do work for different people. I love Helen's recipe. Cheers from Audax in Australia.

  17. wow you really got them in the end. good job.

  18. Beautiful macs! If you make them every week do you sample them every week? I know I wouldn't be able to resist!

  19. Well, I'm glad to know I wasn't the only one to have a failure with the Fleming recipe... I'm just disappointed I didn't have time to try a different recipe in time for the challenge post. Thanks for the pointers, I'll keep them in mind if I attempt this again!

  20. Pumpkin spice and nutella!! Heavenly! I'm sorry Flemings recipe didnt work out but Tartelettes certainly did! They look super!

  21. I guess 2nd times a charm for both of us! Your flavors look awesome! I wish time allowed for more flavor testing in my kitchen. Nice job!

  22. Wow, your second batch is spectacular! It shows that you've had practice! I'm loving the colour combination and the sprinklings on top!

  23. Beautiful! I love pumpkin and hazelnut and chocolate...the combination sounds divine!

  24. WOW! I can tell you have PERFECTED your macarons...they're gorgeous! Your macarons on the blue/green ceramic ware looks beautiful!

  25. Very well done! I'm glad they turned out well at the end! They look so beautiful and perfect!



  26. Those are some professional-grade macarons.
    Also, the turquoise of the porcelain goes well with the pumpkin colour.

  27. Pumpkin spice hazelnut with hazelnut ganache? Wow you know how to make this girl's stomach start grumbling! I'm going to stop back once I'm ready to try these again... maybe your pointers can save my macarons!

  28. Wow...your flavor combo sounds amazing, and your macs are gorgeous!!!

  29. Wow, your macarons look and sound amazing! Great job!

  30. You know, I just wonder if my problem was not grinding the pecans fine enough. Maybe should have added more sugar to grind finer. Your pumpkin version looks DELICIOUS!

  31. thanks for the comment! kudos for the effort on the second batch! by the time i was done with my ordeal - i dont think i could have been paid to do a whole nother round! eek! :)

  32. Your macaronsare perfect! Love the flavours you have created. Very nicely done.

  33. Absolutely beautiful job! I love your flavor combinations too, especially the pumpkin spice. Stunning!

  34. Great flavour combination - perfect for the season!

  35. These look great, well done! I love the idea of using nutella in the ganache, i can't wait to try it!

  36. They look absolutely perfect. I'm a bit jealous :)

    Definitely get yourself to Paris!!!!

  37. Your macarons look fantastic. Love the flavor combo.

  38. Jill..I'm totally speechless. As always, your final product is gorgeous, and looks delicious. I truly believe we all went through the same trials and tribs with these damn cookies, and most moved on to Helen's recipe with great success. You would think SHE hosted this challenge..lol

    All in all, I'm in love you beautiful macs, and that Nutella Ganache filling is to die for. I can almost taste it right now!

  39. Err.. I meant..I'm in love WITH YOUR beautiful mavs..lol Brain freeze of the fingers!

  40. I didn't have good results with the original recipe either. Had to quickly improvise and use another.

    Thanks for sharing your flavor combinations...the pumpkin spice hazelnut sounds good. Perfect looking macarons and beautifully composed photography!

  41. Okay, I WANT THEM NOW! Beautiful job! I love the flavor combination that you choose. Of course, I'm a fellow Oregonian and your choice is prefect. (I live on the North Oregon Coast) I have been wanting to try macarons and I think your recipe will fit the bill. Thank you so much!

  42. Oh Jill, they're beautiful! Echoing all the sweet things that everyone else has commented before me. I don't know why I JUST realized that you're a fellow Oregonian! How cool is that?!

  43. Dark chocolate hazelnut ganache between pumpkin hazelnut shells echo the flavors of fall in one tiny bite. Your macs are pure perfection!

  44. That is so funny because I have much better luck with parchment. It sticks to my silpat. Wouldnt it be great if we could all actually observe each other in the kitchen. I feel, for macarons, when the moon is blue and the stars are in perfect alignment they work out. Okay so they're not quite that mysterious but they sure are fickle.

  45. Oh and did I say your macarons look Incredible. Great job!

  46. Wow! Yours turned out so well...mine, like others just didnt work. Totally not post-worthy,your persistence really paid off!

  47. Thanks to all of you that left such kind comments--I'm glad you enjoyed the post! :)

  48. Nice post - pictures of french food ..Keep Posting

    pictures of french food