Chocolate Espresso Macarons
If you’re a regular reader of this blog (yes, all three of them), you’re probably wondering why I haven’t posted anything in nearly a month. Lazy? Perhaps. Busy with work? Sorta. A lack of good food in my belly? Certainly not. So what’s been driving the recent blog neglection?
Macarons! Those elusive silver-dollar sized almond meringues often filled with buttercreams, jams, and ganache. Yes, they’re small, sweet, and sometimes pastel-colored. And yes, being a straight 24-year old dude that works in finance, the confections have probably earned me a few behind-the-back snickers from my coworkers. But I can’t help it…an obsession is an obsession.
If there’s another confection as bewitching to make as it is beloved to look at and eat, I haven’t found it. Ever since I attempted them for the first time while cooking for my parents’ anniversary in early January, I’ve been hooked. You see, reaching homemade macaron nirvana relies far more on technique than recipe, and several pitfalls stand in your way. Without the right temperature, low humidity, and -most importantly- knowing how to fold the batter just so, you risk cracked, feetless, crispy, sticky, lopsided or hollow shells. Macarons just might unseat mille feuille as the hardest pastries in the world to make.
Given the myriad of difficulties and nanobot precision involved, a strange urge for perfection set in, and I gladly welcomed the challenge of mastering these tempermental delicacies. Along with perfection came obsession and despite baking countless trays of macarons in the past two months, the entire baking process is one I still relish. It’s less cooking and more science project– the perfect outlet for my inner nerd. Sometimes, there’s nothing better than spending a sunny Sunday afternoon meticulously weighing ingredients, carefully folding and piping the batter, and -best of all- watching the feet develop as they sit in the oven. I might even enjoy making macarons more than I do eating them.
When she’s at her Sunday best, a macaron is truly beautiful study of contrast. The shell, gorgeous and often brightly colored, juxtapose a smooth top with ruffled feet. In between the shells is your filling of choice: ganaches, buttercreams, and jams work well.
I like to think the macaron experience revolves around the first bite. Sink your teeth into an exceptional macaron and it’s contrast again. Flawless shells are light, delicate, and crisp on the surface and give way to a soft, moist, slightly chewy interior. Hopefully you’ll get equal parts filling and shell; the textural interplay couldn’t be more addictive– I dare you to only take one bite.
This past weekend, I whipped up a batch of Chocolate Espresso Macarons. Given I drink espresso like I drink water, this was the perfect macaron for me, as both the shells and chocolate ganache are jolted with some fresh-ground Intelligentsia Black Cat espresso powder.
Chocolate Espresso Macarons
Given how temperamental macarons are, I’d try to get all the equipment necessary before attempting these. Might as well try to do what you can to get the odds on your side
1. Commercial baking trays (I get mine from Surfas in Culver City. If you don’t have access to commercial trays, I’ve heard stacking normal trays works too)
2. Silpats (I like them more than parchment paper because they don’t curl/buckle)
3. Stand Mixer (I use an electric whisk coz I’m cheap like that, and it works fine)
4. Piping bag and 3/8″ nozzle (a ziploc bag with the corner cut off works just as well
5. Oven (preferably convection but not a requirement)
6. scale accurate to the gram (macaron recipes that tell use volume instead of weight = FAIL)
110g blanched almonds
200g powdered sugar
28g caster sugar
90g aged egg whites
2 teaspoons espresso powder
Chocolate Espresso Ganache
250ml heavy cream
4 teaspoons light corn syrup
240g bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I use Vahlrona)
30g butter, cut into small pieces
espresso powder to taste (I like 2-3 teaspoons)
To make the ganache:
1. Heat the cream in a small saucepan with the corn syrup. When the cream just begins to boil at the edges, remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate.
3. Stir in the butter pieces until they’ve melted away and well-incorporated.
4. Cool the ganache in the fridge. Prior to filling the macarons, take the ganache out of the fridge to soften it up a bit.
To make the shells:
1. Making macarons always starts with aging egg whites. As egg whites age, their moisture evaporates and elasticity increases. This results in a thicker batter which helps in macaron stability. To age egg whites, simply separate them from the yolks, cover and leave on the countertop (yes, not in the fridge!) for at least 24, preferably 48 hours.
2. Preheat oven to 270F, turn on the convection function if applicable.
3. Measure out your almonds, espresso powder, and powdered sugar and ground them up in a food processor till they resemble a fine powder, then sift them into a mixing bowl. If you’ve got any larger pieces left behind, grind em in the food processor and sift again. At this point, the almond flour/powdered sugar should be thoroughly combined without any visible lumps.
4. With your electric whisk or stand mixer, beat the egg whites until they foam up a bit. Keep on beating and gradually add sugar until stiff white peaks form. You want to end up with something that looks just like shaving cream. Make sure not to overbeat– you don’t want the peaks to be too stiff as the resulting meringue will be dry. If the meringue is no longer glossy, you’ve overbeat.
5. Carefully add half of the dry ingredients into the meringue with a flexible rubber spatula. Incorporate well with as few strokes as you can manage. The mixture will be stiff at first, but it will gradually loosen.
6. Add the remaining dry ingredients to the mixture and fold a few times to incorporate. Now, this is the trickiest part of macaron making: knowing when to stop mixing. With experience, you’ll eventually figure this out, but I’ll try my best to describe when to stop. You’ll want the mixture to be smooth and glossy; some describe the texture to be like that of magma or molten lava if that makes any sense. When lifting up the spatula, you’ll want the mixture to fall back in a thick ribbon. Lastly, make sure not to overfold the batter and have it turn runny! You’ll end up with flat feetless crisps instead!
7. Get a piping bag and fit it with a plain 3/8″ nozzle. As I usually bake alone, I like to stand the bag upright in a jug, then turn down the wide opening of the bag. This also makes it easy to do silly things like simultaneously load the macaron mix into the bag while taking pictures
8. Pipe a one-inch round blobs of batter on your silpat-lined baking sheets. Make sure to evenly space one-inch apart as the batter will spread slightly. When piping, pipe directly on top of the baking sheet, allowing the natural circle to form. Don’t “draw circles” with the batter, and lift the nozzle sharply to finish the blob. The tiny peak should settle down in a bit. Keep on going until all the mixture has been piped. If you see any bubbles in the batter, go ahead and pop em now.
9. Leave the pipe batter out on the trays for about 30 minutes until the tops of the batter have dried out a bit. This ensures feet formation.
10. Stick em in the oven for 18 minutes, cross your fingers, and hope for the best!
11. Once they’ve come out of the oven, let them cool before removing the shells. Spoon some filling in there and top with another shell. Try your very best not to eat them immediately! I’ve found the macaron shells to be a bit too crispy and dry just after baking. Stick em in the fridge for a day or two (I like two days) for the filling to meld with the shells and for the filling to release some moisture back into the shells. A well-rested macaron is a better macaron!
Pull a shot of espresso, grab a macaron, and consume. If you’ve got any questions, leave a comment and I’ll be more than happy to answer.