If you've come here looking for macarons -- the Daring Bakers October challenge -- well, have a look!
They're gorgeous. One is dark chocolate and one is olive oil and vanilla with a white chocolate ganache. They were delicious. Crisp, creamy, subtly flavored and absolutely perfect. And neither of them was made by me.
In fact, neither of them was made in this hemisphere -- they are products of the delightful La Renaissance Patisserie and Cafe, a shop located in The Rocks in Sydney, Australia. I enjoyed these macarons there in early September with Mom and the entire Nott clan (even little Madeleine, just born two days ago, was there in utero while her mom snacked on an apple tart). And it's a good thing I enjoyed them then, because heaven knows I can't make macarons at home.
I tried, oh I tried. I was so excited about it, too: I chose my macaron flavors based on the delicious chocolates we sampled at another Sydney-area sweet shop, Josophan's Fine Chocolates. I made four batches of macarons, each time (futilely) refining my method in hopes that the recipe would work. First I made chocolate filled with a semi-sweet ganache spiked with ancho chili powder. Then I tried chocolate filled with a delightful pistachio creme that Husband and I found on our travels through Little Italy in the Bronx. Then I made a macaron flavored with fresh lime zest and dried basil leaves, filled with chocolate ganache. Finally, a saffron macaron filled with a white chocolate-honey ganache.
I wanted them to work so badly. So so badly. I've always wanted to make macarons and I foolishly believed that there was no recipe that I couldn't make work. Well, Dianne: meet Claudia Fleming's macarons. Claudia Fleming's macarons, this is Dianne. She will be failing at you today.
My "macarons" never developed the trademark "feet," meaning, the little ring at the base of the cookie where the batter has risen, lifting the smooth top of the cookie into a perfect little dome. Come to think of it, my tops weren't smooth, either. And my confections were nearly impossible to extract from the Silpat in one piece. The result of my day-long effort and sad waste of several expensive ingredients (including saffron, argh!) was a stack of demolished little sticky, grainy discs that in no way, shape or form resembled macarons. There was cursing. And wailing. And gnashing of teeth, rending of garments.
Then Husband reminded me that they still tasted good. And I checked the Daring Bakers' forum to learn that many other bakers had similar issues with this recipe. So I talked myself off the ledge. Instead of using the challenge recipe, many of my fellow in-the-know Daring Bakers turned to one of Tartelette's many macaron recipes. I will undoubtedly do the same the next time I attempt these little devils.
And there will be a next time; the macarons must not win.
You will notice I'm not including any recipes here. I don't feel right posting a recipe that I couldn't make work. If and when I do master macarons, using a different recipe, I'll be sure to write about it here. In the meantime, my only suggestion is to get yourself to a patisserie for a macaron, stat. Because they are really freaking good. When made correctly.
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.