Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Chocolate Macarons

Macarons.  Yes.  There are like 5 ingredients that go into macarons and they take less than a half hour to make.  Yet they still manage to frustrate the hell out of me.

I've made them four times now.

The first was disastrous and they looked more like potato chips than any sort of cookie I know of.

The second time was in a pastry making class and of course, due to a group effort and guidance from our instructor, they came out splendidly.

So, naturally being fully educated on the secrets of macaron-making I headed home to give them another shot surely knowing all that there possibly is to know about making them.

And I rejoiced when they came out of the oven for the first minute.  They looked pretty--and actually tasted great but I decided to make giant mega macarons (like the mouth-watering ones I gobbled down at Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery this past summer) and didn't account for the extra baking time (I think this is what went wrong?) needed to bake them so they were more marshmallowy and had the thinnest shell imaginable.

But I did not stop there because I was fairly determined and irritated that I couldn't get a good macaron on my own.  So I went for a fourth try.  And these were definitely an improvement.  I did end up throwing out a batch but I ended up saving two--one being better than the other but both being better than the one I trashed.

I think the biggest problem I have with making macarons is getting the right consistency with the batter and not deflating the merignue.  I always read that it should be a "lava-like" flow...  Well, perhaps I need to start watching some Youtube videos of more lava flows because I'm having trouble with this.  Or maybe it just takes some more practice...  I'm going with I just need more practice--and I'm willing to accept that.  They are kinda fun to make and even more fun when they come out magnifque (that's French! like macarons!).  Plus, you can add just about any type of filling and flavor you can think of--buttercream, whipped cream, chocolate, ganache, fudge....  Get it?

My favorite is buttercream but I was actually making these for a friend who is anti-buttercream (he's cray cray) and pro-fudge (well, maybe not that cray cray) so I made a chocolate fudge filling.

Like I mentioned earlier--due to my lava-like batter troubles--these came out kind of flat which I think was a result of deflating the meringue.  I also had to adjust the baking times a tad between the batches because the first batch that I made and threw away had the same sort of marshmallowy under-baked texture that the mega macarons I tried to make had.  So I increased it ever so slightly by a couple of minutes.

Despite these ones being a vast improvement from my first batch (I dare call them a success), I actually can't wait to go another round at them.

This is the recipe from the Cook Au Vin pastry making class:

200g egg whites (our instructor believed chilled egg whites was best which I abided by but I've also read conflicting arguments for using room temperature ones)
200 g almond flour
350g powdered sugar
75g granulated sugar
1/2tsp cream of tartar
2tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (I might add more or some food coloring if you want them darker or with more chocolate flavor)

Any filling of your choosing that amounts to about 2 cups

1.)  Combine almond flour and powdered sugar in a food processor and process until well combined (you can also just whisk the two together but I wanted a smooth shell and so I didn't want any big particles of almond flour so I tried to get the mixture as fine as possible.  However, I did read somewhere once that if you process the almond flour too much you could end up releasing some of the oils and apparently that spells trouble for the batter so I guess just beware...
2.)  Set aside flour/sugar mixture
3.)  Combine in a mixer the egg whites and the cream of tartar and whisk on high speed until foamy.
4.)  Add the granulated sugar and whisk on high until stiff peaks form
5.)  Add the flour/sugar mixture in three separate additions until just combined using the lowest setting on your mixer.  Do not over-mix or you will deflate the meringue.
6.)  Add the cocoa powder in and mix on the lowest setting for 15-20 seconds
7.)  Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a spatula to fold the rest of the cocoa in until it's evenly distributed and hopefully you will have a lava-flow like batter
8.)  Pour the batter into a piping bag and pipe out 1 1/2 inch circles onto prepped baking sheets (I prepared templates and put them under some parchment paper/slipmat to better help my piping endeavor)
9.)  Let the piped out macaron circles sit out at room temperature for 1 hour.  This dries them out and helps them form their shell.
10.)  About ten minutes before the hour is up, preheat the oven to 315 
11.)  Bake for 5 minutes at a time turning the baking sheets 180 degrees after the first 5 minutes and then leave them in for another 5 minutes (10 total).  As I mentioned previously I kept my last two batches in for an extra two minutes (12 total for me) which I think helped them form a sturdier shell/bake through.
12.)  After they are done baking remove from the oven and you have two options here--let them cool at room temperature or do what my instructor recommended and put them in the freezer directly and leave them there for a day before filling.  Apparently this helps maintain a moist interior for the macaron and a hard shell.  I did this and it worked just fine.  If you don't have time, just let them cool completely and fill when ready.

So the next day I made the fudge and filled them.  I keep them in an airtight container in the freezer.  I've read often that they taste better as time passes so if you don't have to eat them right away then this might be a great option. Bon Apéttit!

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