Monday, July 23, 2007

Mondays with Maida - Craig Claiborne's Chocolate Macaroons

Craig Claiborne's Chocolate Macaroons
Page 239 in the old book / page 262 in the new book

I'm pretty sure these macaroons didn't turn out the way they were supposed to, though I have my doubts that they would have tasted that much better if they had. I don't think I can fault Maida on this one - the blame clearly is mine - but the phrase "consistency of soft mashed potatoes" did leave me a little uncertain. How soft is soft?

These cookies are made in (what I think is) a unique way: ground almonds, ground chocolate and sugar are combined with egg whites and then cooked on the stove until the mixture reaches the "consistency of soft mashed potatoes" which is supposed to take about five minutes. Then they are piped onto cookie sheets and baked. I was particularly worried about overcooking the mixture and Maida's warnings only increased my anxiety, "Do not let the mixture boil, and be careful that it does not burn... If the mixture [is] cooked long enough in the frying pan, these will not spread in baking. If it [is] cooked too long, the dough will be stiff and difficult to press through the pastry bag." There didn't seem to be any wiggle room - undercook and they will spread or overcook and it will be impossible to pipe them. Oh the pressure!

So I'm cooking the mixture on the stove and get to the five minute mark. The mixture is thick, but still fairly loose. I decide to go another minute. Not much different from five minutes. Ahhh! What to do, what to do. I chicken out and take it off the stove. The next step is to stir in the almond extract and then stir occasionally until the mixture cools. Once it had cooled I was pretty sure I had undercooked it and when I started to pipe it, I was certain. I considered putting the mixture back in the pan and cooking it longer, but didn't know if cooking, then cooling, then cooking the egg whites would create a new problem (does anybody know if this would have been OK to do?). So I piped the macaroons and held my breath. They spread almost immediately, but managed to hold a little shape. I put them in the oven fully expecting that they were going to spread and merge into a thin interconnected sheet of cookie dough, but miraculously they spread no further in baking. You can see in the photo, though, that the star shape was all but lost.

I think because they spread, they dried out more while baking. They were chewy, but not moist. I also thought they were bland, but it's possible a moister consistency might have enhanced the chocolate flavor. Maida certainly seems enthusiastic in the notes, "Hip hip hooray and three cheers for Craig for creating these sensational macaroons..." I think they might be worth another try.

Here's the panel...

Suzanne: "I didn’t believe there was a chocolate cookie that I wouldn’t rate as a 5. I’ve found one. The cookie was kind of bland, not very sweet and sticky to the touch. It was a very attractive cookie, but not like any macaroon cookie I’ve every tasted before. Rating - 2.5"

Denny: "Very good. Chewy and chocolaty, but couldn't taste the almonds. I'd rate them a 4.0. Rating - 4.0"

Laura: "Chocolaty and yummy, but the cookie itself was a little "sticky". Rating - 4.0"

Terri: "This would be a favorite for chocolate lovers, but was too chocolaty for my taste. The texture was chewy, in fact, almost too chewy for a macaroon. The cherry added an appealing sweetness and color to this cookie, but I basically thought it was too heavy tasting for a macaroon. Rating - 3.0"

Overall rating by the panel - 3.4

Next week - Almond Macaroons

Nutrition Facts

8 comments:

Nupur said...

The method certainly sounds very unique! And yes, too much pressure! I have to say the cookies look beautiful, given how difficult the recipe was.

Leigh said...

Well, not caring much for cherries, nor caring for chocolate and any type of fruit together, I can't say that I'd be tempted to try these. I have heard of macaroons with almonds however, and would be interested in that part. However, I think I'd try a different recipe. Comparisons in recipes to other items are pretty risky! After all, my idea of soft mashed potatoes might be different from someone elses!

P.S.. Sock pattern is just a combination of toes and heels I like. I'll blog it step by step on the second sock. Hopefully you won't have lost interest by then! *lol*

rowena said...

I have to say that these still look pretty, despite the less than stellar results. The beginning instructions {to combine and cook the almonds, chocolate, and sugar with the egg whites} almost had me thinking of Brutti Buoni. Isn't the method similiar? But the whites are beaten with the sugar until stiff? If I remember well..

You're right though...too much pressure for making a cookie, but I believe they're worth a second chance!

Cathy said...

Hi Nupur! The recipe actually isn't difficult - it's just a question of knowing when the mixture is properly cooked. I expect after having made it successfully once (or having watched someone else do it), it would be no problem. I am thankful though that the cookies still looked presentable even if they didn't turn out perfectly :)

Hi Leigh! You may like next week's cookie - Almond Macaroons. They're similar, but with no chocolate and can be garnished with slivered almonds rather than cherries. Also, no worries about reaching the "soft-potato-stage" since the mixture is not cooked! I'm looking forward to your sock post!

Hi Rowena! The version of Brutti ma Buoni that I made wasn't cooked before baking, but I wouldn't be surprised if this technique is used in other cookies of this sort. When I first read the recipe I thought it was a great idea - I've always had trouble with this sort of cookie being too loose and cooking seems like a good way to firm up the mixture. I've just got to figure out how long to go on the cooking!

rowena said...

Regarding the saffron ricotta torte, if I get to the market today, I'll be experimenting in the kitchen. Gotta follow through on these things that I blab about! ;-)

Cathy said...

Hi Rowena - I'll be waiting with bated breath!

rowena said...

Hi Cathy,
Normally I would email a response but yahoo seems to be acting up today.

Regarding your comment on the clothesline....let me tell you, I thought that I'd never want to have one of my own once I moved out of my parent's home. My memories are of laundry that had been dried with the smell of salt air on them (we lived across from the beach). The salty smell wasn't so bad, it was the somewhat sticky feel from the saline!

Now I feel differently, if only because it seems a waste of energy to turn on the electric monster when that hot italian sun burns outside. ;-)

Passionate baker...& beyond said...

Mondays with Maida..how interesting is that; that's what flour is called in India! Was intrigued enough to drop by...am still trying to get to a macaroon recipe. ill check out the almond one too. Loved your post!!