Thursday, September 11, 2014

Strawberry Macarons with White and Dark Chocolate

Baking a cake is like yoga for me. Breathe in, cream the butter and sugar. Breathe out, crack the eggs. I know the sizzling sound a cake makes when it needs another five minutes in the oven. I know how to change up a recipe without ruining it. I can make chocolate cake in my sleep.

Macarons are just the opposite. With macarons in the oven, I feel like a compulsive gambler: Optimistic that this batch will be the one that comes out perfect. Tense with fear that I'll have hollows, no feet, or cracks. And yet...

I. Can't. Stop. Making. Macarons.

After dozens of batches, they're almost to where I want them.  If I could just get them a little bit more smooth and symmetrical... Le sigh.

On the plus side, you can hide those surface imperfections with a little melted chocolate. Seriously, no one's going to complain!

These Strawberry Macarons are filled with a White Chocolate ganache. If you want to temper the sweetness (or hide a flaw), dip them in dark chocolate. But they are delicious without, too.

Forgive my noting quantities only by weight. But making macarons by volume just will not work. Trust me - it's for your own good!

Strawberry Macaron Shells
90g blanched almonds
120g powdered sugar
4g freeze dried strawberries
70g egg whites at room temperature, preferably aged
2g powdered egg whites (optional)
pinch of salt
40g granulated sugar
1 drop red gel color (optional)

White Chocolate Ganache
110g real white chocolate
60g heavy whipping cream

Bitter Chocolate Dip
100g bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Pastry Bags, preferably disposable
Round pastry tip, approximately 1 centimeter in diameter
Parchment Paper

For the Macaron Shells:
  • Weigh almonds, powdered sugar and strawberries into a fine sieve. If you're using a spice grinder (my preference), work in batches to grind everything to a fine meal, sifting as you go. If you're using a food processor, pour all three ingredients in and grind for two minutes. Decant to the sieve, and push through. Process any remaining chunks until almost all passes through the sieve. Discard remainder.
  • With the mixer on medium-low (Kitchenaid 4), whip the eggs, optional egg powder and salt for 4 minutes. Add the granulated sugar and beat on medium (KA 5) for another 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides and beat for another 4 minutes on medium (KA 5 or 6). Add the optional food coloring and beat for an additional minute at the same level.
  • While the mixture is running, line two baking sheets with parchment and prep the pastry bag.
  • Fold the almond mixture into the whites 1/3 at a time, incorporating fully after each addition. Work the batter ONLY until it just stops coming off the spatula in blobs. If it runs back into the bowl, mounds up and then settles down in about 20 seconds, you're there.
  • Fill the pastry bag with the macaron batter and pipe 1.5" circles on the parchment. Rap pan on the counter several times to release air bubbles, then pipe and bang second pan. Leave macarons to rest for at least 30 minutes. If they haven't formed a skin in 30 minutes, rest for 15 minutes longer.
  • Preheat the oven to 290˚. Bake macarons for approximately 14 minutes, until the bubbles in the little cookie feet go from looking wet and shiny to dry and dull.
  • Remove from oven and rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes before peeling off of parchment.

For White Ganache:
Break up white chocolate into a small bowl. In a separate measuring cup, microwave the cream just until it starts to steam. Pour hot cream over the white chocolate, then whisk it until it's smooth. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes, whisking again every 10 minutes, until the ganache is firm enough to be piped. Using the same tip as you did for piping the macarons (washed, of course!), pipe about 2 teaspoons of ganache onto half of the macaron shells. Sandwich shells together and, if you have time, refrigerate for an hour before dipping in chocolate.

For Dark Chocolate:
Chop chocolate and microwave it in a glass bowl on 50% power for thirty seconds. Stir and repeat until it is almost melted. Stir and allow the residual heat of the bowl to complete the melting process. Dip tops of macaron cookies into the chocolate, swirling to keep the chocolate from developing a tail.

Refrigerate macarons for a day to develop the flavor and texture.

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