Sunday, May 8, 2011

Death by Chocolate Macarons


So life has intervened as of late and I haven’t much felt like writing. It seems like at the end of the day, I just don’t have any extra brainpower to sift through my thoughts and commit them to a blog post.

I’ve still been baking as I find it therapeutic, especially when stressed, so I now have a logjam of posts prepped with photos just waiting for words to accompany them. I tend to procrastinate when feeling overwhelmed which only compounds the issue.

Lest I have led you to believe that my world is falling apart over here, let me set the record strait.

Yes, I’m stressed, but it’s mostly good stress. I recently started a new job, which I think I’ll really enjoy... eventually. Currently, though, my control freak tendencies are butting up against the reality of having to learn as I go and to ask others for help. Coupled with an impatient streak a mile wide, this is a trying time for me. But there are worse problems to have, no?

Here’s hoping that I’ll break this streak soon and will get back to a more regular posting schedule.

In the meantime, I’m really enjoying reading others' blog posts so I appreciate all of you who do this on a much more frequent basis. Your prolific posting and gorgeous creations constantly astound me. Maybe one day I’ll catch up. Thanks for the inspiration.

Death by Chocolate Macarons

I’m always on the lookout for a new macaron recipe to test so I was exceedingly pleased to run across this recipe in Ottolenghi, The Cookbook (adopt affected British accent in your head as you read that last part; as if I would ever actually say exceedingly pleased when speaking). Thanks to Lisa at Lisa is Cooking for turning me on to Ottolenghi. The cookbook is rapidly becoming a favorite and may one day join my personal pantheon of cookbooks, alongside Tartine and Rose Bakery’s Breakfast, Lunch, Tea. The recipe as written would work like a charm however, I chose to add cocoa nibs as a topping, which complicated matters slightly. The first batch of macarons that I baked were topped with cocoa nibs  and had a few cracked shells. I suspect that this was due to the cocoa nibs not allowing some of the macs to skin over properly but since I couldn’t be sure it wasn’t due to the oven temp being too high, I used a wooden spoon to prop the oven door open slightly when baking the second batch. I didn’t have any cracked shells on the second batch but they weren't topped with cocoa nibs so I’m still not sure what the actual culprit was. For tips on dealing with cracking and other macaron issues, see Jennie over at Miso Hungry’s handy-dandy guide to troubleshooting macarons. I didn’t use the Ottolenghi’s ganache recipe. I opted instead for a simple 1:1 ratio of cream and chocolate, with a little vanilla for extra flavor, that yields a nicely thick, almost fudgy ganache once it sets up. Hence, I named these Death by Chocolate macarons for a reason. The extra dark chocolate cocoa shells, topped with cocoa nibs, and coupled with the fudgy ganache really pack a wallop. 

Shells
110g powdered sugar

50g ground almonds or almond meal

12g extra dark cocoa powder (I used Valrhona)

2 (60g) egg whites 

40g granulated sugar
Cocoa nibs for topping, if desired

Ganache 
8 oz dark chocolate, chopped coarsely

8 oz heavy cream

1 t vanilla

1. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment or silpats and set aside.
2. Add the powdered sugar, whole almonds or almond meal, and cocoa to a food processor and process to a fine, even powder. (I recommend processing even if using almond meal as I often find it not finely ground enough for my preference and I don’t like lumpy macarons.) When done, sift the contents of the processor bowl into a large mixing bowl to remove any last lumps. If there is only a small amount of larger particles left in the strainer, I just throw it out; however, if there is a significant quantity, i.e. more than 1-2 tablespoons, return all ingredients back to the processer and continue to grind until fine. 
3. Add the egg whites to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium-high speed until frothy. Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue beating until the meringue holds stiff peaks.

4. Add one half of the meringue to the mixing bowl containing the almond/sugar/cocoa mixture and gently fold in until just barely mixed using a silicon spatula. Add the remaining meringue and continue to gently fold until the batter looks like flowing lava. It should be thick but should still spread. 

5. Fill a gallon sized Ziploc or other plastic bag with the batter and carefully snip off a corner. Pipe out circles of batter on the prepared baking sheets approximately 1.5” wide in diameter. Allow some distance between the piped circles for spreading. When finished piping, rap the baking sheets on the counter firmly to allow any air bubbles to settle. Sprinkle cocoa nibs on half of the shells, if a topping is desired. 
6. Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Set the pans aside for at least 30 minutes to allow the macarons to dry and a skin to form on top. Test by gently poking with your finger. The macarons will be ready when dry to the touch and your finger only leaves a slight impression. 

7. When ready, bake for 12-14 minutes and rotate the pans midway through to ensure even baking and coloration. Remove to a rack to cool.
8. While the shells are cooling, prepare the ganache by bringing the cream to a simmer over medium high heat in a small saucepan. Place the chopped chocolate in a small bowl. When the cream has reached a simmer, pour it over the chocolate and set aside for a minute or two until the chocolate is mostly melted. Add the vanilla. Use a whisk or spatula to stir the ganache to a smooth consistency. Set aside to allow the ganache to set up or place it in the refrigerator to cool which will hasten the process.
9. When cool, spread your ganache or other filling on the flat side of a shell and sandwich with another, squeezing gently.  Allow the macaron to rest overnight in the refrigerator. The cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to one week. 


22 comments:

  1. Shelley, your macarons are stunning! Perfect feet. Interesting about the cocoa nibs & cracking...although I think the cracked ones look pretty good. So happy to see your post...life does intervene sometimes, but that is what these lovelies are for! :) Have a great week!

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  2. Ok, so these macarons look incredible Shelley! I've never made them before, but all of this chocolate goodness makes me want to give them a whirl. I know the hell of starting a new job, so hopefully this week is better for you!

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  3. your macarons look awesome shelley! bravo! good luck with your new job by the way...

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  4. Wow your macs look fabulous...mac is something that I still have to try to make...I am so intimidated by it...seeing yours I may create some courage. Beautiful pictures...so inviting! Have a great week ahead Shelley :-)

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  5. These look deliciously chocolaty! The cocoa nibs and ganache filling sound great. I've been thinking I need to visit an Ottolenghi location. Or one should really be opened here in Austin. Thanks for the mention!

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  6. I'm TOTALLY making these soon!! I love love LOVE anything chocolate..plus, does it get any better than being in macaron from?
    Btw, I think your crack problem was probably from the too high oven temp because I've put chopped nuts on top of mine before and they didn't crack.

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  7. wow Those macarons look heavenly with perfect feet!

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  8. Ohhhh. WANT.

    If you need help with those cracked rejects... ;)

    Congrats on the new job!

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  9. Those look SO tasty. Mmmm... I can almost imagine what they taste like. And so pretty too! Good luck settling into the new job. I know you'll do great.

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  10. Cracked or not, I am sure they tasted delicious. I love eating them, but have not got the courage to try them at home yet. I will definitely check that book!

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  11. Shelley! Everything you make looks so perfect. You're inspiring, consistent posts or not!!! :D And I can totally relate to your control freak tendencies - I am sure it will get better, and hopefully SOON!

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  12. If it's any consolation, Shelley, your images are as beautiful (and as delicious looking) as ever! Take care of yourself!

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  13. These look divine!! I'm really happy that your new job is challenging you, and that you're de-stressing by doing so much baking. It's always nice to have some extra posts in the hopper for when life calms down and you feel like writing again :)

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  14. These look absolutely out-of-this-world, Shelley! I'm sure you'll get into the groove with your new job in no time. Baking is a wonderful way to relax and de-stress. Hope you are having a relaxing weekend!

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  15. Shelly, I agree with all your fans: these look really good. But what continues to perplex me is the difference between "macarons" like you've made here and "macaroons" the coconut blob sweets that I grew up on. Is there a relationship between them? The names looks quite similar, indeed.

    Uh, and sorry that you're down about your glamorous new job. Actually I think that is a pretty common reaction. It is tough to adjust to a new routine and environment even if it is better for you. Sort of like having a new kitchen, for example ;)

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  16. Oh how wonderful! I have never succeeded in making nice macarons. I've heard the Ottolenghi recipe is very good. It's one of my favorite books. Anyways, baking macarons totally stresses me out LOL because they always come out wrong for me, but I hope you get a chance to unwind a bit.
    Good luck with getting adjusted in your new job.
    *kisses* HH

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  17. Thanks for the well wishes, all! I'm slowly, slowly settling in.

    @Stevie- other than similar names, I don't believe there is any relation between macarons and macaroons. Although equally delicious, they have different ingredients and preparations.

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  18. Just wanted to check back and see if you have eventually started enjoying your new job? :)

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  19. @Ilke- Thanks for checking in on me. I'm still settling in. It's going to be a steep learning curve so I just need to be less impatient. Easier said than done :-)

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  20. Just made these- awesome! Love the ganache filling! Thanks for the recipe! I did skip the nibs part, tho, since I didn't have any on hand. Will have to try that next time.

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