A few months ago, I joined a online group called the Daring Bakers. Each month a new baking challenge is posted, you try out the recipe, and then post about it on your blog. The challenge this month was to bake and fill French Macarons. These bite-sized treats have recently become all the rage in the confectionery world. I had the opportunity to try some macarons from a local confection and gelato shop, Sucre. I thought it would be a good idea to check out what marcarons are supposed to look and taste like before I began my endeavor into macaron baking.
Primarily made from ground almonds, egg whites, and sugar, macarons come in a variety of colors and flavors. Since ice cream is my thing, I decided to make a larger version of macarons filled with ice cream, like an ice cream sandwich. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream in Columbus, Ohio and Milk in L.A. both sell ice cream macarons in their stores. I chose to make Pistachio and Honey ice cream for the filling, as I thought it would pair well with the almond flavor of the macarons.
As I began making the macarons, I soon realized that the hardest part of daring bakers challenge is perfecting your technique. The macaron ingredients and the recipe are simple but delicate. Over-whip the egg whites and your are done. Bake too fast and failure. I made two attempts at baking French Macarons.
Attempt number one: large macarons. Making the batter went well (or so I thought). The macarons looked pretty as I piped them on to the baking sheet, but it was a different story in the oven…the cookies soon flattened out and when I took them out of the oven they were a gooey mess. They were ruined when I tried to scrape them off the mat.
Attempt number two: make smaller macarons. After failing miserably during attempt number one, I thought that the recipe may not be suited for making larger macaroons so I settled on making a somewhat smaller version. Again, complete and utter failure…same result, only smaller. Sadness and frustration set in. I decided two attempts was enough and I would work with what I had. A few of the cookies were not super soft and gooey so they came off the sheet in one piece. I decided to use these to make the ice cream sandwiches. Definitely not a pretty macaron, but still made a decent ice cream sandwich.
Here are my conclusions:
1) I am not good with egg whites. In fact, I have always thought of them as my baking nemesis. I think that I over-whipped them on both attempts.
2) Other recipes suggest using day old egg whites. Maybe that would have worked better. I was too impatient.
3) Other macaron recipes suggest letting the macarons dry out for a bit before putting them in the oven in order to help get the “feet” on the bottom of the cookies. I tried setting the macarons on the counter for 20 minutes before baking the second time – no difference.
4) Other recipes also suggest a lower baking temperature (around 280 degrees).
5) Macarons and me just don’t get along:)
6) This recipe still makes a good cookie for a ice cream sandwich.
7) Ice cream is the most important part!
Pistachio and Honey Ice Cream sandwiches
Feel free to give this recipe a try and please e-mail me if you have better success than I did. I would love to hear some suggestions and see pictures of your finished products!
Pistachio Honey Ice Cream
Adapted from recipe by Jeni Britton Bauer
Makes 1 quart
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 ounces cream cheese, softened (3 tablespoons)
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup honey
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup toasted pistachios, very finely ground
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Fill a large bowl with ice water. In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch. In another large bowl, whisk the cream cheese until smooth.
In a large saucepan, combine the remaining milk with the heavy cream, honey and corn syrup. Bring the milk mixture to a boil and cook over moderate heat until the sugar dissolves, about 4 minutes. Off the heat, gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return to a boil and cook over moderately high heat until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 1 minute.
Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Whisk in the pistachios, almond extract and salt. Set the bowl in the ice water bath and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cold, about 20 minutes.
Strain the ice cream base into an ice cream maker, pressing the pistachios with the back of a spoon to extract all the flavor, and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Pack the ice cream into a plastic container. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the ice cream and close with an airtight lid. Freeze the pistachio ice cream until firm, about 4 hours.
Pistachio & Honey Ice Cream (with a droopy macaron on the side)
[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.]
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).
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.
Cool on a rack before filling.
To fill macarons:
Let macarons cool completely. Meanwhile, let ice cream start to firm in freezer (about 2 hours). Scoop ice cream on the flat side of one macaron, then top with another macaron. Place on a cookie sheet or wrap in plastic and place in freezer to allow ice cream to fully set.
Other macaroon baking tips and information: