by Annie McGrail
There is nothing quite like a wonderfully sweet dessert, and while I spent a month in France over the summer studying abroad, I was never without them. However, as I went from one incredible pâtisserie to another I always found myself ordering the same thing: one chocolate macaron (un macaron chocolat). Each one was uniquely delicious as it slowly melted in my mouth with every bite. Macarons come in every flavor imaginable: pistachio, rose, Nutella, vanilla, raspberry and many more. As a chocolate lover myself, I had to stick to the classic chocolate.
Unfortunately, after I returned home, I was never able to find ones that were the right balance of rich flavor and light feel. This drove me to search for the perfect recipe to make great macarons on my own, and I believe I have found it. This recipe for Chocolate Hazelnut Macarons may seem time consuming, but it is completely worth it to make such a remarkable French pastry.
(From butterbaking.com, but all ingredients transferred to American measurement standards).
For the macaron shells:
3 cups almond meal
2 2/5 powdered sugar
½ cup cocoa
4 egg whites
2 tbsp strong coffee
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cup sugar (superfine, food processed)
4 egg whites
For the chocolate hazelnut ganache:
2 ¼ cup finely chopped milk chocolate
¾ cup & 2 tablespoons heavy cream
½ stick unsalted butter, softened
5 ½ tbsp Nutella
For macaron shells:
Line 4 – 6 trays with baking paper. Sift the almond meal, icing sugar and cocoa into a large bowl and mix well. Pour 4 egg whites, the coffee and vanilla over the dry ingredients. Do not mix, and set aside.
To make an Italian meringue, put the remaining 4 egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, but do not turn on. Put the superfine sugar and water in a small saucepan and stir. Place over a medium heat and fit with a candy thermometer. Watch the sugar as for it to boil. When the mixture reaches about 230 F, turn on the stand mixer and whip egg whites on high speed, until they form very soft peaks. The sugar should be 239 F at this stage. When the sugar reaches 239 F, turn off the heat. While the egg whites are still beating on high, pour the sugar syrup, very slowly, into the eggs. Aim for a point in between the side of the bowl and the moving whisk. Continue to beat until the mixture cools (feel it through the base of the bowl).
Fold the Italian meringue into the almond meal mixture in three batches, until well incorporated and smooth. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with medium round nozzle and pipe small 1 inch rounds of mixture onto the lined trays, allowing a little room for spreading. Tap each tray onto the bench a few times, HARD, to remove air bubbles. Repeat until all the mixture is used. Set the trays of macarons aside for about 30 minutes so they can develop a skin.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake the macarons for 11 – 12 minutes, opening the door at the 8 minute mark and the 10 minute mark, in order to let out any steam. If they grow and develop little “feet”, they have worked. They are ready when you can gently lift one off the tray without leaving its foot behind.
Set the macarons aside to cool completely while you make the ganache. Place the finely chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to the boil and pour it over the chocolate. Set aside for 2 – 3 minutes, then stir, starting from the middle, until the chocolate is melted and incorporated with the cream. Set aside in the refrigerator until firm. Add the melted butter and Nutella to the ganache and use a stick blender to blitz the mixture until it is light and fluffy (you can also do this in a food processor), scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally.
Match the macaron shells up so they have partners of similar size. Upturn one shell of each pair of macarons. Spoon the ganache into a piping bag fitted with a medium round piping tip. Pipe a little ganache onto the center of each upturned macaron. Sandwich it together with its partner.
Keep refrigerated, if not consumed immediately. Makes 50 – 60 macarons.