Monday, July 23, 2007
Mondays with Maida - 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