After returning from my first trip to London I realized that while I loved everything about England, I missed the pastry the most. More specifically, I missed the French bakeries that dotted the city where I could find fresh-baked baguettes and pastel colored macarons. It won’t come as a surprise to any of you that I snapped no less than 10 photos of these sophisticated, delicate sandwich cookies from the display cases in Harrod’s. I’ve always admired macarons for their simple form, however I knew they had a reputation of being a finicky sweet to bake.
From reading various blogs and recipes online, I learned The First Rule of Macarons: Do Not Over Mix. If you over beat the egg whites or over mix the batter you’ll end up with flat cookies that spread into odd shapes. The Second Rule of Macarons: Do Not Under Mix. Seriously. Under mixing the batter will result in lumpy and cracked cookie tops. The Third Rule of Macarons: Drop the Baking Sheet. It sounds silly, but dropping the baking sheet from about 6 inches above the counter, at least 3 times after piping will help the macaron create a base or foot.
I’ll admit that macarons leave little room for error and aren’t for the faint of heart. But don’t shy away from trying these because even if they’re not as pretty as the ones in a French bakery window, they’ll still taste every bit as delicious!
French Chocolate Macarons with Chocolate Ganache
Adapted from Jill Santopietro, Chow
Makes: About 20 cookies, Difficulty: Experienced
- Special Equipment: You will need a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch tip. If you don’t have one, you can make a pastry bag by snipping off a corner of a large resealable plastic bag. You will also need a food processor with a blade attachment and a stand mixer with a whisk attachment.
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 cup almond flour
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 large egg whites at room temperature
- pinch of cream of tartar
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature cut into cubes
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and arrange a rack in the middle. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Fit a large pastry bag with 1/2-inch plain tip; set aside.
2. Make the macarons: Place the powdered sugar, almond flour, cocoa powder and salt in a food processor fitted with a blade attachment and pulse several times to aerate. Process until fine and combined, about 1 minute. Sift through into a large bowl and set aside.
3. Make a meringue by placing the egg whites into a clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until opaque and foamy, about 1 minute. Add the cream of tartar, increase the speed to medium high, and beat until the egg whites are white in color, about 1 minute. Continue to beat, slowly adding the granulated sugar, until the sugar is combined, the peaks are stiff, and the whites are shiny, about 2-4 minutes more. Do not over whip. Transfer the meringue to a large bowl.
4. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the dry mixture into the egg whites in four batches until the dry ingredients are just combined. (The meringue will deflate.) With the final addition, stop folding when there are no traces of egg whites and it looks like cake batter. Be careful to not over mix because the batter will become too liquid and not hold shape when you are piping the cookies.
5. Transfer the batter to the pastry bag. Pipe out 1-1/2-inch rounds about 1 inch apart onto the lined baking sheets. Pick up the baking sheets and drop them on the work surface about 3 times to help create the base.
6. Bake the macarons one sheet at a time for 7 minutes. Rotate the sheet and bake for an additional 7 minutes. Transfer the sheet to a rack to cool completely.
7. Make the ganache filling: Place the chopped chocolate into a large bowl. Warm the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it just starts to boil. Stir into the chocolate gently trying to avoid creating bubbles. Let sit for 1 minute. Add the butter and stir until smooth. Chill in the refrigerator until thickened but still spreadable, about 15-20 minutes.
8. Assemble: Pair macarons of similar size. Remove the ganache from the refrigerator. Transfer the ganache to a piping bag. Squeeze about 1-1/2 teaspoons onto the center of a macaron half. Top with another half and press gently so that the filling does not ooze out of the edges. Refrigerate, covered, at least 24 hours before serving.
- Note: I found that the macarons became too hard while refrigerated and I preferred to keep them in an airtight container in a cool, dry place such as a kitchen counter.