Monday, January 19, 2009

Le Chocolat

Chocolate macarons at last! A few months ago when I attempted these, they sucked hardcore. But after taking my friend Kathryn's advice, I succeeded. I used simple Toll House chocolate for the shells and filled them with the nutella hazelnut-ganache filling. Decadent and not overly sweet. Like a great Belgian truffle.

I'm realizing there are some MUSTS about macarons that weren't emphasized in any of the recipes I've followed, but which are making all the difference in my baking lately.

A) Never use foil to line baking sheets; use parchment paper.
B) Allow macarons to sit at least one hour before baking to develop a filmy membrane.
C) Never "de-nip" the macarons (smooth out the peak) after film has developed; this will cause cracks while baking.
D) Allow macarons sufficient time to bake. Test the feet for dryness with your fingers. Feet should be pretty much dry before removing from oven.
E) Mix batter until it "flows like magma"; i.e. don't be afraid to overmix the meringue. The batter should be a cohesive, thick substance that is nothing like the stiff meringue before the addition of the dry ingredients.
What happens when you use foil and smooth macs after the film has developed:

What happens when you use parchment and smooth macs before film has developed:


Traveler's Lunchbox
Basic Macaron Batter

Source: based on Clement's recipe here. He recommends that you mix the egg whites and almond mixture together gently until it 'flows like magma', or until a peak in the batter will slowly sink back down to a flat surface.
1 1/4 cups icing/powdered sugar
4 oz (1 cup) almond flour or finely ground almonds (if grinding yourself add some of the icing sugar to keep them from getting gummy)
2 large egg whites
pinch of salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon extract of choice: almond, vanilla, orange, lemon, pistachio... (optional)
few drops food coloring (optional)
On three pieces of parchment, trace 1-inch (2.5 cm) circles about 2 inches apart. Flip each sheet over and place on baking sheets.
Sift almond flour and icing sugar together into a bowl. In a large clean, dry bowl whip the egg whites with salt on medium speed until foamy. Increase the speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar, extract and coloring (if using). Continue to whip to stiff peaks – the whites should be firm and shiny.
With a rubber spatula, fold in the icing sugar mixture into the egg whites until completely incorporated. The mixture should be shiny and ‘flow like magma.’ When small peaks dissolve to a flat surface, stop mixing.
Fit a piping bag with a 3/8-inch (1 cm) round tip, or take a medium-sized plastic sandwich baggie and snip off one corner. Fill the piping bag or baggie and pipe the batter onto the baking sheets, in the previously drawn circles (I found spiraling out from the center to work best). Tap the underside of the baking sheet to remove air bubbles. Let dry at room temperature for 1 or 2 hours to allow skins to form.
Heat the oven to 160C/325F and bake for 10 to 11 minutes, or until set and firm on top. Rotate the baking sheets after 5 minutes for even baking.
Remove macarons from oven and transfer parchment to a cooling rack. When cool, slide a metal offset spatula or pairing knife underneath the macaron to remove from parchment.
Pair macarons of similar size, and pipe about ½ tsp of the filling onto one of the macarons. Sandwich macarons, and refrigerate to allow flavours to blend together. Bring back to room temperature before serving.
Variation: Chocolate Macaron Batter
Using the master recipe above, add 4 tablespoons of good-quality cocoa powder to the almond-sugar mixture before sifting; increase the sugar to 1 3/4 cups and the egg whites to 3.

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