Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sugar High Weekend Part II: Chocolate Macarons with Espresso Ganache

No, not macaroons. An entirely different animal, macarons are french cookies made with egg whites and almond flour, and completely devoid of coconut. If you've been keeping an eye on the food blogs lately, you've undoubtedly noticed that everybody's macaron crazy these days. Arguably the most famous of macaron producers these days is Paris' Pierre Hermé, so I used an adaptation of his chocolate macaron recipe that I found on a Singporean blog called Yochana's Cake Delight.

To make the cookies, you'll first want to separate four eggs to get about 100 grams of egg white (save the yolks in the fridge for some other project). Then let the yolks sit in a bowl at room temperature for 24-48 hours, covered tightly with some cheesecloth and a rubber band. Yes, I know, this goes against everything we're taught about the 40-140 degree "danger zone," but this is what Hermé does, and I for one trust his judgment. Once the whites have aged, sift 250 grams of powdered sugar, 25 grams of cocoa powder (regular, not dutch processed/alkalized), and 140 grams of almond flour, then combine. If you can't find almond flour, or don't want to go to the expense (it can a little on the spendy side), get some blanched slivered almonds and pulse them in a blender on low, until they're ground into a fine powder, but not almond butter. Next, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer or Kitchenaid at medium speed until they've turned foamy, then gradually increase the speed to high and beat them until they form soft, slightly droopy peaks:

Next, fold the dry ingredients, about a fourth at a time, into the egg whites:

The egg whites will seem to deflate a bit as the dry ingredients are added, but this is okay. What you'll end up with be somewhat akin to a very sticky cake batter. Put the batter into a piping bag with a large, regular tip (or no tip at all), and pipe into circles anywhere from one to three inches in diameter onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. It helps to trace out the circles in pencil on the underside of the parchment. I used my camera's lens cap to trace the circles, which gave me 15 cookie halves that were about 2 1/2 inches in size:

Let these sit out at room temperature for about 90 minutes to form skins. While that's happening, you'll make the ganache. Put two shots of espresso, with enough sugar to take the edge off but not quite sweeten it, into a measuring cup, and add enough heavy cream to bring the mixture to one cup. Heat this over a medium flame until bubbles just begin to appear at the edges. Turn off the heat and add 14 oz. of chocolate. I used 10 oz. of white chocolate and 4 oz. of dark, but you can use whatever combination you like. After the chocolate has fully melted, add two Tbsp. of butter and whisk to incorporate. Let the ganache cool to a thick but pipable consistency.

Once the cookies have rested for 90 minutes, put them into a pre-heated oven at 325F, with a wooden spoon wedged in the door to let steam escape, for 12 minutes, rotating the pan 180 degrees halfway through. When the cookies are done, they will have developed "domes" and "feet":

Pair like sized cookie halves and pipe the ganache onto the bottoms (a Ziploc bag with a small cut made on one of the corners works well for this if you don't feel like cleaning your piping bag and changing up the tip). Sandwich them together, and voila: You've got macarons.

Mine turned out pretty well, although the domes deflated a little. Was it the acidity of the cocoa powder? Should I have used more egg whites, or beaten them to a slightly stiffer consistency? I'm not really sure, so I may have to play around with this a bit more to see if I can get the domes worked out. Any pastry chefs who might be reading this are strongly encouraged to offer advice...


Anonymous said...

Seems like a lot of work and wait time for 7 1/2 cookies, but they look tasty! LGS

tommy said...

Sure, I'd have gotten a lot more cookies out of this if I'd made them a little smaller or doubled the batch, but how many macarons do I really need sitting in my fridge at any given time? This was more of a "journey is the destination" kind of project...

Anonymous said...

You overmixed. If you add the dry ingredients in one shot and fold them in carefully, you'll have better results. You're looking for a batter that when folded over itself, will sink back into a smooth mass slowly. If your batter has an all-over, ultra shiny, wet look, it's overmixed. Just a few tips =)