Photos and Words by Anita Li
The long list of additional tips included above the ingredients lists can easily be the same length of the recipe itself. The macaron recipe’s call for almond flour and egg whites scared me away from attempting them, because I assumed they were only for the seasoned bakers’ club.
This all changed when I unwrapped a Christmas present from my best friend and found a chocolate-brown macaron dispenser and silicon mold (which by the way is not necessary unless you need the extra training wheels like I did.)
In the end, the tricky processes lead to the most rewarding baking experience that I’ve ever had. Every part of the post baking process from pulling out the pan to see that the macarons had formed their “feet”, to mixing the ganache, and (of course) savoring the little photogenic sandwiches was incredibly enjoyable.
The final result of a rich, chewy chocolaty experience was worth the labor. If my friend hadn’t sent me that gift, I would be stuck in the ordinary enjoyment of scones or cupcakes. Now, I’m willing to be more adventurous with my cooking.
French Chocolate Macarons from Chow.com
For the macarons: 2 cups powdered sugar 1 cup almond flour or almond meal 3 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder 1/4 teaspoon fine salt 3 large egg whites, at room temperature, aged or 1 week old if possible a pinch cream of tartar or dash of white vinegar 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
For the ganache filling: 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped 1/2 cup heavy cream 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 stick), at room temperature and cut into cubes
For the macarons:
1) Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Fit a large pastry bag with a 1/2-inch plain tip; set aside.
2) Place the powdered sugar, almond flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a food processor fitted with a blade attachment and pulse several times to aerate. Process until fine and combined, about 30 seconds. Sift through a flour sifter into a large bowl; set aside.
3) Make a meringue by placing the egg whites in the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until opaque and foamy, about 30 seconds. Add the cream of tartar or vinegar, increase the speed to medium high, and beat until the egg whites are white in color and hold the line of the whisk, about 1 minute. Continue to beat, slowly adding the granulated sugar, until the sugar is combined, the peaks are stiff, and the whites are shiny, about 1 minute more. (Do not over whip.) Transfer the meringue to a large bowl.
4) Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the dry mixture into the egg whites in four batches until the dry ingredients are just combined. (The meringue will deflate.)With the final addition, stop folding when there are no traces of egg whites, the mixture runs like slow-moving lava, and it looks like cake batter. (Do not over mix.)
5) Transfer the batter to the pastry bag. Only fill as much as the bag can hold as you repeat the process multiple times. Pipe out 1-1/4-inch rounds about 1 inch apart onto the baking sheets, about 25 per sheet. Pick up the baking sheets and bang them against the work surface to help create the macaron base, or foot. Let the rounds sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to dry the tops and ensure even cooking.
6) Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Bake the macarons one sheet at a time for 7 minutes. Rotate the sheet and cook for 7 minutes more. Transfer the sheet to a rack to cool completely.
For the ganache filling:
1) Place the chopped chocolate in a large bowl.
2) Warm the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it just starts to boil. Stir it into the chocolate slowly without creating bubbles. Let sit for 1 minute. Add the butter and stir until smooth. Chill in the refrigerator until thickened but still spreadable, about 30 minutes.
Pair macarons of similar size. Remove the ganache from the refrigerator. If you choose to pipe the ganache, transfer it to a resealable plastic bag and snip about a 1/2 inch off a bottom corner. Squeeze or scoop the ganache to about the size of a cherry (about 1 teaspoon) onto the center of a macaron half. Top with another half and press gently so you don’t break the tops of the macarons. The sandwich should so that it looks like a mini hamburger. The filling should not ooze out the edges. Refrigerate, covered, at least 24 hours before serving.