Yes! I Dare to French Kiss - Cardamom Macarons with Chocolate Ganache for Daring Bakers


When I saw the Daring Baker's challenge for this month, I couldn't help marvelling at the irony of life. You see, in September, I developed an obsession to make the perfect French macaron. It wasn't an over night fixation. It developed slowly after drooling over many many perfect creations from accomplished food-bloggers like Helen of Tartelette, Aran of Cannelle et Vanille and Julia of Melanger. And, ofcourse my own repetitive failed attempts (my woe-filled post on that here) at recreating that magical bite of French pastry elitism, only fuelled that craze.

The more I failed, the more I was determined to get it right (much to Mr. FSK's dismay. Well, can't really blame him. He did bear the brunt of my experiments; broken macarons and a crabby wife!:-)). So, indeed, the challenge was an irony but also, just the push that needed to kick my competitiveness into overdrive. I had to get it right by the end of the month. And, happily I did! :) And, here is my happily-ever-after story...

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.

Mac B&W

You know the other irony, for all my compulsion with this petit-four, I tasted it for the first time in the US. Not Paris, where, we visited a couple of years ago and stayed just a stone's throw away from the infamous Laduree where the current french sandwich macaron originated. In fact, I did not know of their existence then. It was all about foie gras, genuine baguettes and custard creams that trip.

Anyway, since that first taste, I have been hooked (line and sinker). And, the fact that it is not just about the recipe made them even more alluring for the home cook in me. Four is my lucky number! That's the number of tries, it took me to get it right. In the process, I tested three recipes before I bowed at the brilliance of Monsieur Lebovitz (with whom I am now in love with... just telling! :-D)

Collage 1

I started my fourth attempt with great trepidation. I had not prayed for something as much since my B-school admission! I only had a week to go before the post was due. I had read a looot of material on all the blogs I adore about everything that could go (and had gone) wrong and I tried to prepare for it as much as I could.

I scaled down the recipe to just one egg white because, as I was telling Deeba of Passionate about Baking (who, btw, fuelled my desire with her pistachio cream filled chocolate macaron), the disappointment is just exponential with a larger batch. Yes, I was trying to brace myself as much as I could.

As I piped out the little rounds, I dared not to hope, because they all looked good at this point. The test was the first minute in the oven. After an hour of drying, I popped them in and stood there looking through the oven glass, not daring to breathe. Honest to God, I am sure I set the record for the longest time one can hold your breath!

Collage 3

They seemed to be fine; with healthy looking 'feet' and shapely heads. I breathed. I still stood there for five more minutes, just to make sure that it was actually happening (and I was not just dreaming my eternal hopes). Couple of minutes more and they were ready to be taken out. YES!! There wasn't a single crack. The next test for me was to remove them in one piece. This part had been giving me a lot of trouble. But, it was my day and my turn to be happy with a lovely batch of Cardamom Macarons.

After that, it really was smooth sailing! :)) I filled my cardamom macarons with ganache, kissed two together, took a bite and happily sailed into the horizon with the setting sun, lapping water, slow music and all that jazz ... :)

Based on my experiments, here are some notes (gleaned from various sagely blogs) on what helped click this time (and hopefully every time going forward.. I have soo many ideas for more macarons..!!) -
  1. Humidity is the biggest enemy. I dried everything out. The egg whites need to be aged and should be dried out at room temperature covered with plastic wrap for the 24 hours before making macarons.
  2. I made my almond flour by grinding the almonds with the powdered sugar. Then, I dried it out by placing it in a bowl inside an off oven for atleast an hour, to remove any moisture that may have been there.
  3. The meringue is ready when it holds stiff, glossy peaks and does not fall out when you hold it upside down.
  4. Do not overmix the tant pour tant (almond-sugar mixture) into the meringue. It's done, when the dry is incorporated into the wet. If you over mix, the batter will be too runny and the macarons will want to socialise with each other when you pipe them.
  5. Rap the baking sheet hard on the counter (use your strength, great stress reliever!) after piping out the macarons. This will remove any air bubbles and help keep the heads intact while baking.
  6. I left the piped macarons out for an hour or two to create a crust. This again is part of the removing moisture process and ensures that the heads don't crack while baking.
  7. Oven temperatures for baking macarons vary by recipe from 285 degrees to 375 degrees. This, honestly, can be figured out only by trial. Start at the lower end and keep going higher. 375 worked best for me.
  8. Keep an eye on the buggers. The timing in the recipe is indicative. They brown easily once done.
  9. Use a Silpat. It will be one of the best purchases you make. It makes sliding off the macarons (or anything else for that matter) so easy because nothing sticks to it. And, that was my secret to a clean break from sheet to rack!

mid somewhere

Yes! I dared! And, here is wishing you magic in your kitchen too! I am in wonderland currently. I'll touch base when I am back.... Ta-Da! :)))

For more information on macaron-ing from the experts -

David Lebovitz breaks it down:
Get inspired by our own Tartlette!:
Go behind the scenes of Paulette:
Watch a pro pipe macaroons:

Cardamom Macarons with Chocolate Ganache
(makes 15, depending on size)

For the macaron:
1 egg white aged 24 hrs
3 T almonds
5-1/2 T powdered sugar
2 T granulated sugar
1/2 tsp cardamom powder

For the ganache:
2 T semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tsp cream
1 tsp honey

Do ahead: Process the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour until nuts are very fine and powdery. This is the
tant pour tant
. (Refer pointer #2)

Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff glossy peaks. You are basically making meringue (refer pointer #3 above).

Add the cardamom to the almond mixture and fold in to the meringue in three parts. Mix just enough each time to incorporate. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time.

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 inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper). Rap the sheet hard on the counter to release any air bubbles. Rest at room temperature for an hour or more until a crust develops over the rounds.

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Then turn around the pan and bake for another 2-3 minutes until lightly colored. Slide off the macarons to a rack. Let them cool completely before filling.

Meanwhile, microwave, the ganache ingredients together in 30 second intervals till the chocolate has melted into the cream. Bring to room temperature.

To assemble, fill one macaron with a bit of ganache and then top with the other. Press to seal and spread the filling evenly. Pop into mouth and achieve bliss! :))

Please visit Daring Kitchen to see more spectacular creations from inspired and truly daring bakers!