I have a rather fearless nature in the kitchen. Almost any time I find a recipe that is complicated, time-consuming and involved? I see it as a challenge – and a fun one at that! However, for a long, long time, I have been extremely intimidated by French macarons. These delicate little sandwich cookies are très chic and many people think of them as the next cupcake as far as food trends go. They can be made in any number of flavors and colors, and every time I see them I yearn. But these little babies are not exactly known for their easy-going nature and so I have put them off. I was ridiculously nervous that I would fail because so many things could go wrong. The wonderful thing about the food blogging world is that you can learn from the expertise and failures of many other people. I’ve read lots and lots of entries about macarons (particularly those by Tartlette, the unofficial queen of macarons) and finally decided it was time to go for it. At the rate I am saving various flavor combinations, I really need to get going if I want to try them all in my lifetime. So, this year for Mother’s Day, my gift to myself was conquering macarons.
It was a difficult decision even deciding what type to try first, but eventually I concluded that before I start investing in various powdered food colorings, I should successfully make a basic macaron and so, I chose chocolate. (You are all shocked, right?) I have to say, for all my worrying, everything went perfectly. I attribute my success entirely to the fantastic advice and pointers of Helen (Tarlette) and Jen. I took pictures along the way to hopefully help anyone who decides to try these. And you should…because believe me, you’ll be seeing a lot more macarons around these parts soon and you’ll want to keep up!
Ben and I found these sweet little bites totally irresistible. Most of the treats I bake are quickly shared with friends, family and coworkers but these were kept at home for ourselves and they disappeared in an embarrassing amount of time. In fact, I actually had to employ the trick I use with my beloved caramel corn and put them on a really, really high shelf so I wouldn’t eat them before dinner.
Note: You’ll notice all the measurements for this recipe are listed by weight. A kitchen scale is, in my opinion, an essential and is necessary for making macarons. Attempting to make these by volume measure would likely be a waste of time and ingredients so volume measurements are not provided.
Chocolate Macarons with Espresso Ganache Filling
For the macarons:
110 gm blanched slivered almonds
200 gm minus 2 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
2 tbsp. cocoa powder (Dutch-process preferred)
100 gm egg whites (from about 3 eggs), aged at room temperature for 12-24 hours
50 gm granulated sugar
For the espresso ganache:
½ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1½ tsp. espresso powder
Pulse the almonds in the bowl of a food processor until finely ground.
Add the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder to the bowl and process until blended.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium-high speed until foamy.
Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue beating until a smooth, shiny meringue with stiff peaks forms.
Add the ground almond mixture to the bowl with the meringue and quickly but gently fold together using a wide rubber spatula until no streaks remain. You want to achieve a thick batter that ribbons or flows from the spatula when lifted.
Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats. Transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a plain wide round tip. Pipe into small rounds on the prepared baking sheets (each round should be about 1-1½ inches in diameter), spaced about 1 inch apart. Let sit at room temperature for about an hour to develop a hard shell.
Preheat the oven to 300˚F. Bake for 8-10 minutes, depending on size. Transfer the pans to a wire cooling rack and let cool completely before moving the cookies.
(Look, they have feet!)
While the cookies are cooling, make the ganache. Combine the cream, butter and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Place the chopped chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. Bring the cream mixture to a simmer, remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Let stand 2 minutes, then whisk gently in small circular motions until the ganache forms. Blend in the espresso powder. Let the mixture cool until it is thick enough to pipe. (To speed chilling, transfer the bowl to the freezer or refrigerator and let cool, stirring every 10 minutes, until thickened.)
Macs baked on parchment paper – a few had less than perfect bottoms.
Baked on the silpat – all were perfect! (Hence, I have now invested in a second silpat.)
Once the cookies are totally cooled, match them up by size. Pipe a layer of ganache onto the flat side of one cookie of each pair. Sandwich together with the remaining cookie, pushing the filling to the edges. Store in an airtight container.