Chocolate Bellyflop

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. I knew it was coming, sooner or later, and I’ve always been nervous about baking macarons, with very good reason. I made a batch of pistachio macarons once, before I really knew what they were; Nigella Lawson’s description was irresistible, but they came out sticky, lumpy, and so sweet that my husband wouldn’t eat more than one bite. I could barely remove them from the sheet pan. I’ve never tasted a real macaron, or even seen one outside of photographs, so I’d like to think that had some effect on the outcome.


My food, savory and sweet, has come a long way in the four or five years since that incident, in part thanks to taking part in 23 Daring Bakers challenges now. But when it comes to macarons, apparently I’m still at square one.


I decided to try my hand at chocolate macarons, mostly to divert my husband from eating all the Halloween candy before the trick-or-treaters get a shot at it, and my post is a little late because I was holding out to get parchment, almond meal and powdered sugar at the grocery store. When I finally got there on Tuesday, however, they didn’t have almond meal in stock and I totally spaced out the powdered sugar, so I ended up having to make both in the food processor anyhow. Superfine sugar, cocoa, and almonds all went in, and a fine brown powder came out. I sieved it to remove the larger bits of almond and lighten the texture before folding into my egg whites.


I made the cocoa-almond meringues in Baking: From My Home to Yours a month or two back, and they had a similar ingredient list and process, although they aren’t neatly piped. My meringues looked like airy rocks and had a large air pocket between the crisp shell and chewy base.


The macaron batter seemed to deflate even more than that meringue batter did, which didn’t seem like a good sign. Still, I carefully piped out row after row of neat little rounds… which promptly spread to twice their size and threatened to merge into sloppy amoeboid shapes. Not a good sign.


I baked them off anyway according to the recipe, and they set up into bumpy brown pancakes: no frilly foot, no dome, no nothing. Clearly something went awry. Was it my ingredients? My folding technique? The fact that I flavored them with chocolate? I’ll only know with further experimentation and lots more practice.


Anyhow, I filled my little bellyflop cookies with a simple ganache of 3 oz Valrhona chocolate and 1/3 C heavy cream, and gave some to my taste testers. Nolan instantly recognized them as chocolate and ate a whole cookie without sharing with his dad. He usually crams food into his mouth whole, but these had just the right tender texture for him to practice taking big-boy bites. And my husband has been mostly distracted from the Halloween candy. So even if I can’t call these cookies macarons, I’d still call them a big success. Thanks so much to Ami S. for choosing this very challenging challenge, and check out the infinite variety of real macarons baked up by our Daring Bakers at the blogroll.

I am a member of the Theta Class of the Daring Bakers, induced in July of 2007. For more information and a list of my previous challenges, click here.

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