I am undoubtedly a very lucky, very spoiled person. At times I’ve wondered if I’m even the most lucky. In true spoiled-person fashion, I’m rewarded for following through with my hobbies (particularly, Burton takes me out for a special treat whenever I work on my French every day for a week). Yep, getting rewarded for consistently doing something I chose to embark on, which I enjoy (usually), and is inconsequential to everyone else in the world. But, it’s working; his bribery has successfully turned learning french from a hobby to a passion. Last week we went to Le Reve, a patisserie in Wauwatosa, but this week I decided to just make macarons at home instead. We listened to my favorite love songs and made several batches (Pistachio with a rose buttercream, red velvet and finally, the best of all, masala chai with dark chocolate ganache).
While in the process of making the macarons, I often find myself questioning why I’m doing it. Secretly, I don’t even like them all that much. They’re kind of the antithesis of everything I dig about cooking (they’re too sweet but you can’t reduce the sugar since it’s a main structural component, intimidatingly temperamental, they demand symmetry and require a damn piping bag). But as soon as Burton bites into one, the reasons all come rushing back to me. Suddenly I’m no longer just a normal girl, wearing an apron and listening to The Ramones sing about wanting to be my boyfriend..suddenly, instead, I’m a magical girl, wearing an apron and listening to The Ramones sing about wanting to be my boyfriend (and who wouldn’t?) He honestly used the word ‘magical’ more than twice during that snowy afternoon we spent in the kitchen. So, yeah, I do it for him. He makes me feel like a prize, a feeling I intend on keeping.
Read more after the jump!
(I had to include a picture of the other flavors we made…too cute not to)
I’m not kidding when I say they’re intimidatingly temperamental, in this regard their reputation precedes them (in America anyways). Pretty much everyone knows macarons are a bit of a bitch, but they definitely don’t require the ridiculously expensive classes I’ve heard about. Maybe I’ve just gotten lucky, but I feel like if you have a decent foundation in cooking/baking and know your way around a kitchen, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem. But, yeah, they’re still kind of a bitch.
You begin by sifting the almond flour and powdered sugar. I’m cheap and buy finely ground almonds vs almond flour (like $3/pound instead of $8) and blitz them a few more times in my food processor. It takes a lot more sifting and about a third of it will be too coarse/oily to use (luckily the leftovers are perfect for the crust of the greek yogurt cheesecake I’m making for Valentine’s Day, post on that coming soon!) so I’d suggest you not be like me and just spring for the finer stuff. Either way it’ll benefit from being pulsed a few times in a food processor though. After sifting, get out your kitchen scale and weigh your ingredients out to the gram. Even the egg whites, the viscosity of which make it difficult to get exact.
The next big step is making a meringue. I prefer the French meringue to the equally common Italian meringue because, no surprise here, it’s easier. An Italian meringue will generally yield better results but is just not worth the extra effort in my eyes. If you’re having difficulties with my recipe, search for one using an Italian meringue instead which will result in sturdier macarons. You’ll want to mix your egg whites and sugar until they are glossy and form high peaks (if you can turn your bowl upside down and nothing falls out, you’re good).
If, when piping the macarons, they form little peaks: the batter is undermixed.
If they don’t form ‘feet’, it’s likely the oven wasn’t hot enough.
If they crack, it’s likely they were overmixed or didn’t rest long enough before baking.
And above all, don’t worry if they don’t look perfect, they’ll still taste amazing.
Chai Macarons with a Dark Chocolate Ganache
(Makes about 20 filled macarons)
70 grams (about 2 large) egg whites
113 grams powdered sugar
57 grams almond flour
Pinch fine salt
1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
42 grams superfine sugar (I just use regular sugar ground in a food processor)
Dark Chococlate Ganache:
150 ml (or 5 oz) heavy cream
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and chopped (or more, to taste)
2 cardamom pods, crushed
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 piece star anise
2 black peppercorns
2 tsp black tea (or 1 tea bag)
1 tsp sugar
180g dark chocolate (I used 68% cocoa with lovely results), chopped
1.5 tbsp butter
Cover the eggs with warm water and let sit until they reach room temperature.
Sift the almond flour and (separately) powdered sugar well. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sifted almond flour, powdered sugar and salt.
Make the meringue. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites until foamy (a few seconds). While whisking on high, gradually add the superfine sugar. Keep whisking until they form glossy, stiff peaks. Add the optional extracts.
Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the dry ingredients into the meringue (generally takes about 50 strokes)
Fit a piping bag with a 1/2 inch tip and fill with the batter. Line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper. Pipe the macarons about 1 inch wide and 1 inch apart. Tamp the tray against the counter (lift about 4 inches up and forcefully set it down) to release any air bubbles. Do this about 4 times. Optional: sprinkle with spices (the same used in the ganache)
Let the macarons dry until they form a shell that is no longer sticky to the touch (about 15-30 mins, depending on the humidity).
Preheat oven to 375. About five minutes before adding the macarons, lower the oven temperature to 325.
Bake macarons for 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway. Let them cool before removing from baking sheet. To frost, use about 1 tsp of ganache and sandwich in between two similar sized shells.
Bring the heavy cream to a near-boil, add the tea and spices and remove from heat. Let infuse for 10-15 minutes.
Strain the cream, add it back into the pot then add the sugar. Bring to a boil. Place the chopped chocolate in a heat resistant bowl. Pour the cream over the chocolate, add the butter, and stir until chocolate is melted and the ganache is thick. Let cool to room temperature.