Monday, November 8, 2010

Macaron Monday: Accepting a Challenge, Chocolate Style

One treat I like sampling at fancy bakeries is the French macaron. I tried one from Cacao in Cleveland Park, and another one from Praline in Bethesda, with the Cacao version being a bit better. The reason I like sampling them at fancy bakeries is that, in 30 years of life, I’d never learned out to make them from scratch.

Until this weekend.

Last week, Heather issued a challenge: Make macarons, or another culinary creation you have been apprehensive about conquering, and write a post about the process. This challenge, dubbed “Macaron Monday,” was just too tempting, and I settled on staying true to the challenge title and researched recipes for macarons. Chocolate, of course. I periodically read Helene’s site, so I knew that she was the go-to resource for all things related to making macarons. After poring over her extensive macaron recipe collection, and after translating ingredient masses into volumes, I settled on the following ingredient list for the shells.

Macaron Shell Ingredients

3 egg whites

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 1/3 cups powdered sugar

1/3 cup natural process unsweetened cocoa powder (Scharffen Berger)

¾ cup almond flour

The neatest thing about making the shells is that I get to use my stand mixer AND my food processor. Two of my favorite things in life.

Other things that I adore include chocolate, sugar, and ground nuts.

I took the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and almond flour and ran them through the food processor until finely ground, taking care to ensure that I didn’t accidentally make sweet chocolate almond butter by running the food processor too long.

Having prepared that mixture, I moved on to making the meringue. Per Helene’s suggestion, I’d separated my egg whites three days earlier, and let them sit at room temperature for about a day before working on the shells. I began by whipping the egg whites until, as Helene says, they were foamy like bubble bath.

I then continued whipping them and slowly added the sugar until I had a glossy meringue, which, as Helene notes, should look like shaving cream.

Now it was time to add the almond-sugar-cocoa mixture and give a couple of quick folds.

And then carefully fold until well mixed, taking care to not over-mix.

Since the batter for the shells needs to be piped out into circles 1.5” in diameter with the edges approximately 1” apart, my engineer self got to measuring.

Unnecessary, but fun.

I got out my wide plain decorating tip, and filled up a pastry bag with batter.

Then it was time to oh-so-carefully pipe out the 1.5” diameter rounds.

In an attempt to get that “foot” that Nick Malgieri calls the mark of perfection on a meringue-based creation, I let the piped rounds sit out at room temperature for about 45 minutes. This was supposed to help form a “skin” on the surface of each piped round, which would rise up as a unit during baking and result in that ever-desirable “foot.” I put the sheet in the oven, which I’d heated to 280° F, and let the piped rounds bake for 20 minutes.

While the shells rose fairly nicely during baking, that signature “foot” didn’t appear. No worries. They were surely still fit for filling. After the shells cooled for a few minute, I removed them from the parchment paper and set them on a cooling rack, and made some ganache for the filling in the meantime.

Ganache Ingredients

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (Scharffen Berger 70% Cocoa Bittersweet)

½ cup heavy cream

This part is easy: Heat the cream to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat, drop chocolate in pan and allow to sit for five minutes. Stir to a uniform consistency.

As the ganache cooled down a bit, I matched up shells of similar sizes to ensure that the sandwiches were as aesthetically pleasing as possible.

Once that was done, I pulled out a narrow decorating tip and attached it to a pastry bag, which I then filled with still-warm ganache.

The purpose of piping the ganache was to ensure that I had the ganache just hit the edges of the shells without any leakage occurring.

After allowing the piped ganache to cool a bit further, I made paired the shells and had some pretty respectable macarons for a first go-around.

The shells have a slight crunch on the outside and a soft almond-flavored interior, which is a good compliment to the intensely-flavored bittersweet ganache inside. The shells are slightly moist, and therefore stand up well to the ganache and do not crumble when you bite into them.

This is definitely something I will try again. Thanks for the challenge, Heather. We should make this a regular thing.

17 comments:

  1. Wow those look absolutely delicious!! I'm impressed!

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  2. Thanks! Have you ever tried making these? I call the shells "healthy" because they have egg whites and almonds in them :). Macarons are a nice, small treat that I absolutely love. Cacao over in Cleveland Park really does an outstanding job and has a great selection of flavors (including lavender!).

    These were just a little too dense, so I need to try them again.

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  3. Thanks! I must try this again, if only to get those "feet" on the shells.

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  4. YUM! Oh to have more time in the day to work on my Chocolate creations like YOU! Thanks, I enjoyed the photos and commentary!!!

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  5. Laura, you could totally make these! Just divide up the work over a couple of days. And try not to eat the intermediate products in the meantime...which is a problem even if you do it all in one day!

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  6. Awesome, awesome job! I'm a fan of anything this insanely chocolaty :-)

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  7. Thanks Evan! I think next time, I'll cut back on the chocolate in the shells to make them a little more airy...and get more chocolate in the filling. Necessary.

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  8. I tried making them once...yours came out so much nicer!

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  9. Rebecca, you should try it again. Even if they don't look good, I bet yours wound up tasty! Use Scharffenberger Chocolate and they will be delicious for sure.

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  10. I've been wanting to make these for months, but lack a food processor! You did a great job! What is it with macaron connoisseurs and their foot fetish? I say if they taste good, then score!

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  11. Foot fetish!!! Jessica, you crack me up. And you need a food processor. Ask for a reconditioned one for Christmas. It's necessary for life.

    And I agree on the taste thing. I like to say that I don't always bake pretty, but I do always bake tasty.

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  12. :D Ooo, a reconditioned food processor? Here I have a refurbished MacBook and never thought of that.

    Same! This might be why I haven't attempted fancy sugar cookies or sculpted cakes.

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  13. Yes! http://www.shopkitchenaid.com/product_list.asp?SKW=KTAFACTFOOD&HDR=outlet
    A refurbished one is pretty reasonable. Totally within the major Christmas present price range if people go in together.

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  14. YES. Food processor ownership will be MINE. Thanks, Victoria!

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