Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Daring Bakers go French

Strawberry and chocolate - White tea and rose petals

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 months challenge was French macarons, not the coconut macaroons we can buy fairly easily here, these are the French ones made with almonds, egg white and sugar to be found in multiple pastel colours in very posh looking shops. I've never had a real one made by a professional though I did try making them once before which were OK but rather too sweet for me.

Thank you Ami for giving me the incentive to try again !

This is a naturally gluten free challenge so for once I'm on a par with everyone else so no excuses for not doing as well! To see how I compared check out the other Daring bakers. Some of which are just amazing.

So this month I tried them a couple of times. The first was basically using the challenge recipe though to be fair I got a bit confused at one point about what I was adding where so that might account for them not working quite as well as hoped. I flavoured them with dried strawberries which I dried earlier this year when doing a previous daring cooks challenge. I also added a small amount of pink paste food colouring as we were warned not to add to much extra liquid.. I figured the paste colour was better than liquid.

They did get feet, the crinkly ring round the bottom of the cookie, but they spread too much which made them to flat and too delicate. They were also still a bit sticky so getting them off the sheet was 'interesting' However I sandwiched the ones that survived with a mix of milk chocolate, whipped double cream and fresh strawberries and they were very nice.. though they really needed eating with a spoon.

The second batch was made using Tartelelle's recipe which many people found easier to get good results with. This batch is flavoured with white tea and rose-petals.. basically teabags from The London Tea Company called Crimson Lush emptied into the food processor with the icing sugar and almonds then just a couple of drops of rose oil added. By the way the London Tea Company teas are worth getting just for their origami style boxes which use no glue at all.

Crimson Lush tea and my new Vanilla extract.

The other thing I did differently was age the egg whites by leaving them out on the side for nearly two days. This made the gloopy, jelly like texture of the whites break down some and is meant to help get the right constancy.

If anything they went the other way as some of them ended up with little points not nice flat tops but they stayed much neater little domes and apart from colouring in the oven slightly they look pretty good plus they came off the sheet fine as well.

Much, much less delicate though you still wouldn't want to throw them about. I am not sure if it was the recipe change or the egg whites or just whisking to the right constancy better but these were a definite improvement.

The taste is quite delicate so I went with a cream cheese filling just adding a little icing sugar and vanilla extract so as not to over power the rose and tea flavour.

Neither of these was so over-poweringly sweet as my previous try which I think was my mistake for over sweetening the filling. Don't get me wrong they are sweet but if you make sure the filling is appropriate to the shells you can moderate that quite well. One or two Daring Bakers even did semi savoury ones which I must admit is tempting to try. The strawberry ones were a hit all round but I think the rose ones are a little more adult a taste however I might be surprised. I made them last night after smalls were in bed so they haven't tried them yet. I try not to feed them to much sugar first thing in the morning ! (edit - Noodles, age 6, liked the tea and rose ones until i told him what was in them, he guessed ginger, at which point he wouldn't eat any more and said "Ohh Yukky!! petals are Yukky!" )

Challenge Recipe
(Tartelette's various wonderful versions can be found here )

Preparation time: Not taking into account the amount of time it takes for you to bring your egg whites to room temperature, the whole baking process, including making the batter, piping and baking will probably take you about an hour to an hour and a half. How long it takes to make your filling is dependent on what you choose to make.

Actual baking time: 12 minutes total, plus a few minutes to get your oven from 200°F to 375°F.

Equipment required:
• Electric mixer, preferably a stand mixer with a whisk attachment
• Rubber spatula
• Baking sheets
• Parchment paper or nonstick liners
• Pastry bag (can be disposable)
• Plain half-inch pastry bag tip
• Sifter or sieve
• If you don’t have a pastry bag and/or tips, you can use a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off
• Oven
• Cooling rack
• Thin-bladed spatula for removing the macaroons from the baking sheets
• Food processor or nut grinder, if grinding your own nuts (ouch!)

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)


1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.
4. 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.
5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).
6. 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.
7. Cool on a rack before filling.

Yield: 10 dozen. Ami's note: My yield was much smaller than this. I produced about two dozen filled macaroons. Esther's note : I agree with this assessment.


  1. this looks delicious, and cute. love what you did with the challenge

  2. Wonderful that you find Helen's recipe the winner they look lovely and the rose macaron sounds delicious. Bravo on your efforts. Cheers from Audax in Australia.

  3. Ha ha ha ha..Petals are NOT yukky! I like petals lots. Lovely macarons Esther. Great job!

  4. So fun! I love the flavours & colours you made! Isn't it nice to have a naturally gluten free challenge?

  5. Oh I love that! "Petals are yukky!" As a kid I wouldn't eat rosewater turkish delight 'cause I thought it tasted like perfume, which at some point I think I'd licked off my wrist or something, hahaha! Kids are great like that ;)
    Your second batch turned out beautifully, great baking :)

  6. I hadn't even thought of them as gluten free which they obviously are! I'm sending the recipe to my sil straight away.

    You're look lovely and I love your ideas. I kept the cookie part plain, but made a fun filling.

  7. Love the flavours and they are very pretty.

  8. Rose and tea? You got my attention! Fantastic job.

  9. Wow, you had great results on only your second attempt! The flavors sound great too. Speaking of savory, I tasted an olive oil one that was divine. Great job!

  10. Great job! Your macarons look fantastic!!

  11. Esther - You did a fabulous job on your macarons. I love all your flavor variations.

    I really wish my first flavor option had worked (rooibos tea & dried strawberries). I couldn't get the tea leaves to break down in my spice/coffee grinder. (Could be a sign my grinder needs to be replaced because of a dull blade.) They stayed pretty tough. When I checked the thickness out with some powdered sugar they stuck in my teeth. How long did you process your tea leaves to get them to powder?

    Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

  12. I love the sound of the rose version. I am still on my quest for the right technique for me...

  13. Esther - Thanks for telling me about your tea. I'm thinking that my spice/coffee grinder needs to be replaced. It barely even processed those tea leaves. Thanks again!