Macarons au Chocolat

Chocolate macarons are my most favourite macaron. They’re so beautifully rich, and the osmotic-like absorption of the ganache’s flavour from the shell makes them so much more delectable. But they’re also incredibly simple to make… once you’ve got the technique. After I made the macarons for the second time, I knew the recipe and what to do off by heart. It’s not the recipe itself that’s difficult; it’s just keeping an eye on the consistency of the batter (i.e. knowing what to look for), and getting to know your oven!

Perhaps I’ve finally mastered the recipe and got to grips with my oven?! Or perhaps not… just because I’ve made decent looking macarons a couple of times doesn’t mean a thing! Especially as on a more recent attempt, they failed completely.

I ran out of icing sugar, and used desiccated coconut in place of the almonds. When I baked the cookies, they developed no foot at all, and had a completely different texture to regular macaron shells. However, I still sandwiched them with the chocolate ganache and put them forward in the badminton league buffet. I did get compliments though, as they were quite tasty, although nothing like the macaron I was hoping for!

There are many variations of making macarons posted all over the internet; some people try it and have great success, while others try and have little. Sometimes it’s just that the instructions can be quite ambiguous. When a recipe states something along the lines of “now, incorporate the almonds and icing sugar with the egg whites, being sure not to over mix. You know that you’ve over mixed when the batter is dull,” it can mean anything! But for me, the most important part of making macarons was the “macaronage,” which some people use to refer to the part where the almonds and icing sugar are incorporated into the egg whites, and the right amount of air is knocked out of the whites. If the batter is over mixed it will become very runny, and won’t be able to hold its shape when piped. However, if it’s under mixed, you won’t get a perfectly smooth shell and too many air bubbles inside. The piped macaron shells are then left on the worktop for about an hour to air-dry. This helps to create a hard shell, so that when the air inside of the macaron shell expands in the oven, the shell is forced upwards thus creating the “foot” at the bottom. If the shell isn’t tough enough, then it’ll crack and no foot will develop. I have read on a few other blogs that leaving them out to “air-dry” wasn’t a necessity for them, but in my experience, is it a necessity for me!

The following video is a great instructional video on how to make macarons. The part about knocking the air out of the egg whites was what I found the most helpful: if you plop some of your batter onto a plate before baking, and the peak slowly disappears, then you’ve got the perfect batter. It should have a “magma” like consistency. I found that to be a top tip!

I use a roasting tin with parchment paper to bake my macarons, because it doesn’t distort with the heat of the oven, therefore giving lopsided shells. Also, I place the roasting pan on top of a broiler pan in the lower part of my oven. This stops the heat from the bottom of the oven being too harsh on the shells, and also keeps the macarons perfectly at mid/lower-level in my oven! However, I can only bake about a maximum of 12 shells at a time. So macaron baking requires patience!

The temperature at which people bake their macarons is also a hot topic. Too low or too high temperatures result in undesirable consequences, which is why it’s important to “get-to-know” your oven. A further note is that the size of the macaron shell I believe is entirely of your choice, as I’ve seen and bought macarons of varying sizes. Some like them rather large but other prefer them bite-size. Personally, I prefer slightly larger maracons, that require two or three minute bites. But that’s just me. 🙂

And finally, macarons do taste better with time, which probably goes against almost all rules of French pâtisserie! But I suppose that as macarons aren’t pastry, the rules of pastry don’t apply. It takes time for the shells to absorb the flavour of the ganache, which gives them a very soft and flavourful interior. Some people recommend eating them after 2 days, but the ones that I bought from Zürich airport (along with other sources) suggested up to 5 days for maximum flavour. In fact, the blog Not So Humble Pie suggests that if you’re leaning towards either over or under-baking your macarons, go towards over-baking them, because if they’re a little too dry, the moistness from the ganache can help to rectify the issue after a few days of mingling!

A great trouble-shooting guide, as well as other tips and discussions, can be found here.

Macarons au Chocolat
Adapted from: Not So Humble Pie and Kokken 69
Makes 8-10 shells (4-5 macarons)

Ingredients
For the shells:
• lemon juice
• 40g ground almonds
• 57g icing sugar
• 10g cocoa powder (or replace with icing sugar and add some vanilla essence instead)
• 35g egg whites
• 11g granulated sugar

For the ganache: (enough for about 15-20 macarons!)
• 200g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
• 200g double cream
• 70g butter, at room temperature

Preparation
For the shells:
Add a splash of lemon juice to a very clean bowl together with the egg whites. Whisk for about 30-60 seconds until very frothy. Sprinkle in the granulated sugar, and continue to whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form (the kind where you can hold the bowl upside down over your head!).

Then sieve in the icing sugar, cocoa powder and ground almonds together over the egg white peaks. Now, this is the part some people refer to as “macaronage” (i.e. macaron-ing). Use a wooden spoon or pastry scraper to knock the air out of the batter. Use the spoon to scoop the batter around the outer edges of the interior of the bowl and then almost scrape the batter down the middle of the bowl in a zig-zag pattern until the final consistency is similar to that of magma. A useful video to watch can be found here.

A test to see if the batter is of the appropriate magma-like consistency is to take a clean plate, and dollop a spoonful in the middle. If the peak slowly disappears into itself, then the batter is ready. If it’s still visible after about 30 seconds or so, then it needs some more air knocking out! If the batter is too runny, then you’ve over mixed!

Prepare a heavy-duty baking sheet with baking parchment. Spoon the batter into your piping bag (or icing syringe, etc.), and dollop macarons onto the parchment paper, leaving at least an inch worth of space between each shell. This depends entirely on how large you want your macarons.

Bash the tray on the surface of the worktop 4 times, rotating each time. This forces air bubbles in the macaron batter to rise to the top. Use a toothpick to pop any large ones. Leave the macarons on the side for an hour to air dry, so that they’re not sticky or tacky to a light touch.

Preheat the oven to 155◦C, ensuring that you do not use fan assist. Pop the tray into the lower half of the oven for 16-18 minutes.

Leave to cool completely before peeling the shells off the parchment.

For the ganache:
Melt the chocolate and cream over a low heat in a saucepan; allow to cool to around 50C. Cut up the butter in a bowl, pour over the chocolate sauce, and whip until smooth. Pop into the fridge until thick enough to pipe. Before piping, leave the bowl out of the fridge for a while to bring the ganache up to room temperature.

Assembling the macaron:
Fill an icing syringe or piping bag with the ganache, and dollop a splodge into the centre of a macaron shell; not too much or too little. It takes a little practice to get the right amount, so that when the two shells are sandwiched together, the ganache spreads to the edges of the shell but no farther, and so that there’s a smooth, unblemished edge around the ganache. Pop in the fridge for anywhere between 2-5 days before taking out of the fridge to bring it up to room temperature before devouring. 🙂

Bon appétit!!

Shells baked: 19.12.2011, shells filled: 20.12.2011.

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