When our hostess this month chose macarons, I had to laugh, seeing as just a few weeks ago I was making macs for Jamie's mac-a-thon. I pretty much hadn't made macarons since I became obsessed with figuring them out a couple of years ago and now here I was making them over and over again. Back when I was trying them out, I'd made a number of traditional flavors, but hadn't gotten around to making matcha-flavored macs.
Matcha has been of interest to me ever since I participated in a traditional tea ceremony on one of the several occasions I visited Japan. I don't remember all the details of it, the only part that stuck with me being how you have to turn the bowl twice clockwise with your right hand as it sits on the palm of your left hand several times throughout. It's a beautiful ceremony and an activity that merits the detour if you ever have the opportunity to see it being done or participate in it.
It didn't occur to me to use matcha as an ingredient until I tasted green tea ice cream and became fixated on green tea mochi many years after the above-mentioned ceremony. Then at Sadaharu Aoki's shop in Paris I had one of his green tea-chestnut pastries, on one of the rare occasions when I wasn't having his yuzu tart (be still my beating heart), and fell in love with the combination. Of course the sugar-daddy of them all, Pierre Hermé, also makes a green tea-chestnut macaron, but as I've never seen it in his shop I haven't tried his (keep reading).
So when came time to pick a flavor for this challenge, I decided to make matcha macarons with sweet chestnut paste filling. It's a perfect fall combination in terms of both the flavors and colors and is a perfect companion to a chilly afternoon cup of tea or coffee. Making the matcha version was uneventful, but this is the part where I'll admit that I then tried to make Pierre Hermé's chestnut macarons (to pair with a matcha buttercream) which basically consist of making an Italian meringue and adding sweetened chestnut paste to the almond/meringue batter, and the result was not macarons but sweet meringue cookies, quite puffy but without any feet whatsoever. It's quite possible that, having followed his recipe faithfully, I'm now intrigued enough to try and make chestnut macarons shells again, but I might not use sweetened chestnut puree, I might just dry and process chestnuts into a powder and add that to the shell batter instead. There's no telling what I might do really, I can be stubborn like that.
Anyway, I should have added more matcha powder to the batter but I only used one teaspoon (I couldn't remember the recommended amount) and didn't add any food coloring, resulting in very light green shells. Once the shells were ready, I decided to play with my food, and therein you see the result. It was fun actually, I have at least three ideas I couldn't execute for this post for lack of time but I think it might almost be more fun to make macaron shells just so I can play with them rather than eat them, I'm just saying...
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.
from Claudia Fleming's The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern
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.
• 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
• 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.