Saturday, August 31, 2013

Dark Chocolate Macarons: Chocolate Shells with Dark Chocolate Ganache Filling

This recipe was the real start of my obsession. They turned out perfectly, they weren't too sweet, and they were decadently rich.  To me, this is the pinnacle of sandwich cookies.

Start by weighing out all the dry ingredients and sifting them together.  There is no replacement for weighing ingredients in this recipe. You can find volume measured macarons, but they are more finicky and prone to failure than weighing the ingredients. For perfectly smooth shells, discard any pieces that won't sift through.  If you really don't care or mind slight imperfections in the shells (ha! like me), still sift everything, but dump the pieces that won't sift into the mix as well.

Next you take an electric beater and make the meringue.  Mine is a higher powered hand mixer, so my eggs come together quick and stiff within 3 to 4 minutes.  Gorgeous!

Next up is the tricky process of achieving perfect macronage.  In my experience, this is where everything goes right or goes wrong. You are trying to achieve a uniform mixture that has jut enough air left in it to form the feet, but not so much that it causes the tops to crack.  With this particular recipe I find I use a combination of folding, combining, scraping, and straight up mixing.  This is a denser mixture than with some macarons and the resistance from the finished dough feels a lot like fresh hand drawn marshmallow taffy. The dough should have a slightly fluid, lethargic look about it.

Macaronage Cues I Use:
  •  Uniform texture and appearance
  • "Warm taffy"-like resistance to the spatula
  • Dough "runs like lava" from the spatula (I hate this description, but it is commonly used)
  • Dough spreads slowly in the mixing bowl after being disturbed
  • Peaks and mixing features in the dough soften after about 5 to 15 seconds of sitting
Physically it looks a little like this as it progresses:

Put it all in a baggie, and pipe it out onto the prepared parchment paper!  My rounds aren't always perfect, but it is okay because they are delicious!  Tap them firmly on a counter to release air bubbles. Let these babies sit out at room temperature for 15 to 90 minutes (mine were out for over an hour because the humidity is so high in Wisconsin right now!)  Then bake in the oven for 16 minutes, one baking pan at a time.

At about 4 minutes in the oven you will know if you mixed properly or not, as this is about when feet start to form.  Once out, let them cool.  Look at those fantastic macaron feet!

Pair them off, and then fill!  My ganache is pre-made.  I tend to make ganache in large batches, and then use it in macaron batches and chocolate truffles over a few weeks.  Obviously, this is not for everyone.  This whole recipe uses about a cup or so of ganache.

The finished product is beautiful and after maturing in the fridge for 24 to 48 hours even more delicious! Something magical happens when a macaron matures, the interior gets moist, the exterior stays crisp, and the flavors meld between the filling and the cookies.

Chocolate Macarons
Adapted From: Joy of Baking

100 grams almond flour
170 grams confectioners sugar
20 grams unsweetened cocoa powder

100 grams egg whites, aged 24 hours & room temperature (~3 large eggs)
35 grams white sugar

1 to 2 cups Chocolate ganache, depending on how much filling you like

Line 2 large baking pans with parchment paper. Set aside.

Sift the almond flour, confectioners sugar, and coca powder together into a bowl. Set aside.

In a medium or large mixing bowl, place the egg whites and white sugar. Beat with an electric mixer until stiff, satiny peaks form.

Add the sifted dry ingredients into the meringue. I just dump them all together, but you can add them in two or three additions, rather than one big dump of the bowl. Then, using an "easy to wipe on the side of the bowl" spatula gently fold and combine the dry ingredients with the merignue.

Once macronage has been achieved, fill large ziploc bags or pastry bags with the mixture.  Snip the tip, between 1/4 inch to 1/3 inch wide.  Pipe about 1.5 inch rounds onto the prepared parchment lined baking sheets.  Once all piping is done, firmly tap the baking sheet on the counter to force air bubbles to rise upward through the dough several times.  Because I live in an apartment complex, I do this step on my padded dining chairs. You may find gently jiggling the baking sheet back and forth helpful as well.

Let the macarons rest at room temperature for 15 to 90 minutes, depending on the weather.  They are ready to go in the oven when the tops are no longer tacky to the touch. I've had macarons be ready to go in 15 minutes, I've had macarons just barely been ready to go after 90 minutes.  It all depends on the day, the humidity, and if you have any air circulating over them.  While the macrons are resting, preheat the oven to 325 F. Make sure to double check your oven temperature with an oven-safe thermometer.

After the macarons have finished resting, bake one sheet at a time for 14 to 20 minutes (I found 16 to 18 minutes worked best in my oven).  The macarons should just separate from the parchment paper when done baking.  Remove from the oven, let cool completely before removing.

For assembly, I pre-pair all the cookies and bag my chocolate ganache, which I have warmed to room temperature.  Take one cookie, fill the center with about a generous teaspoon of ganache, sandwich with another cookie.  Repeat for all cookies.  Place finished cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet, in a single layer, not touching, and cool in the fridge until the ganache had firmed up.  Then place all the cookies in a sealed container.

Although you can eat them at this point, macarons taste even better when they have a day or two to sit in the fridge and mature.  The flavors come together, the sandwich cookie becomes cohesive, and the texture is divine.

Makes about 30 macarons.

Friday, August 23, 2013

A New Beginning

I fell in love this May.

Love the French countryside.  Reminded me of where I grew up in Minnesota!

It was in France, on a bus somewhere between Nantes and Tours, where a friend shared my first macaron with me. It was a gustatory delight. The flavor was lovely, the size just right, and the texture was perfection. Ironically, I could not tell you what flavor it was.

Disclaimer: Not a macaron.

I came home from France with six Ladurée macarons in their beautiful pastel green and gold box, and two pain au chocolat carefully wrapped in layers of napkins. The pain au chocolat was gone within 24 hours, but I savored those macarons. Each was fantastic, and once I finished the box I was bereft. It's not like there is a patisserie on every corner selling beautiful confections here in Wisconsin.

Beautiful view from Le Nid in Nantes.

So, I scoured the internet and started on a baking journey in the heat of summer: learn how to make the perfect French macaron.

My first batch was a dismal failure and turned me off from buttercream, possibly for life. (Eugh. Even just thinking about eating buttercream makes my stomach turn.) They were undermixed, cracked like crazy, ballooned, my butterceam was terrible, and they only got worse with maturation. On the upside, they had feet!

So, I persevered throughout this summer. I've had multiple batches succeed and multiple batches fail.  I've come to adore my kitchen scale; if I could afford a golden throne for it, it would have one.  But mostly, I've come up with some recipes that I love and I want to share them.

Here's to a new beginning!
For real, making macarons successfully was better than climbing the Eiffel Tower.