Well, as I mentioned a couple days ago, I took an awesome class at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts taught by Master Pastry Chef Delphine Gomes. Macarons are clearly the hot new (well, not as new now…) thing, and I love them, but I just can’t afford to keep up the habit with the prices shops charge for them. Besides, it’s much more fun and rewarding to make your own!
The problem was that the first recipe I tried was a little more complex and I probably should have read up a little more ahead of time to really figure out what I was doing. I guess I thought since I could handle meringues, macarons wouldn’t be too much harder. I was wrong. Macarons are notoriously finicky, are fragile, and crack easily. My first attempt, did not go so well….
But once I took the class, I was eager to try them on my own. Chef Gomes insisted that this shell recipe is the most foolproof recipe and that you don’t need to bother with all those tips and tricks that you read about, like aging your egg whites, letting the shells rest before baking, etc. Sounds good to me. The more foolproof, the better!
Joseph was really excited about chocolate peanut butter macarons, and it didn’t take much to twist my arm. You know, it’s funny, I’ve always liked Reece’s peanut butter cups, but it wasn’t till I started dating Joseph that I fully embraced the chocolate peanut butter combo. Now I just don’t know how I was every so ambivalent about it. The salty nutty chocolatey goodness is positively addictive.
When I peeked in the oven at the first batch, I was worried. They looked all funny and bulbous like the first macarons I had made with no sign whatsoever of the proper foot. I was so disappointed. They were airier than that first attempt and had less cracks, but they looked all wrong and had no feet. But all of a sudden the third batch looked much better. And the fourth looked better too. But the fifth batch was all wrong. Throughout the afternoon, I switched between 4 different cookie sheets, two that had a nonstick coating, and two that were insulated aluminum. I realized that the shells I cooked on the nonstick pans came out terribly while the aluminum came out infinitely better, complete with little feet. I tried both kinds of pans with both parchment paper and with silpats and no matter what, the shells that I baked on the aluminum came out much better than the ones that were baked on the coated pans.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Macarons
Adapted from Master Pastry Chef Delphin Gomes
This makes a ton of macarons. If you don’t want to spend the whole afternoon making and assembling macarons, you might want to half the recipe. Of course, if you do, you only get half as many :).
The macaron shell recipe is a little unique in the way that the eggs are whipped. I always assumed that you have to whip them on high, but Chef Gomes taught us that it’s actually better to have it a slower speed after you’ve added the sugar because it allows you to keep an eye on it better and make sure that you haven’t overwhipped your eggs.
I found that these bake up infinitely better on non-coated cookie sheets.
Makes around 60 macarons
For the macaron shells:
10 egg whites
9 oz sugar
12 oz blanched almonds*
16 oz powdered sugar
Orange or bronze food coloring
Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats. Mix the almonds and the powdered sugar in a food processor until it’s very finely ground (you may need to do this in a couple of batches). Put the mixture in a large bowl and set aside.
Get out your stand mixer and attach the wire whip. Whip the egg whites on full speed until you reach soft peak. Turn the mixer down to low/medium and gradually add the granulated sugar (NOT the almond/powdered sugar). Whip until it reaches a stiff peak, about 5 minutes. It should be shiny and not feel grainy when you rub a small amount of the mixture in your hands. You should also be able to hold the bowl upside down without anything falling out.
Carefully fold the whipped egg white mixture into the almond/powdered sugar mixture, being careful not to deflate all the air you’ve whipped in. Put a small amount of the mixture in a small bowl and add a small amount of food coloring until it reaches a deeper hue than your desired color (it will be diluted once you mix it with the rest). Add that back to the larger bowl and carefully fold it in until combined thoroughly.
Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a #11 tip (1 cm). Hold the tip perpendicularly and pipe to the desired size, stop squeezing the bag, and flick the tip around and up at the end to cut off the batter before moving on to the next one. Some people trace circles onto their parchment paper to use as guides so they’re all a consistent size, but I just eyeballed it.
Put in the oven and bake for 11-15 minutes. Check on them periodically and if they are looking dry and beginning to crack, prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. This lets some moisture into the oven. They’re done when the shells jiggle just a bit when you touch them.
* If you can’t find blanched almonds, put them in the freezer for a few hours. You want to prevent the oils from the almonds turning it into almond butter in the food processor.
For the dark chocolate peanut butter ganache filling:
Adapted from Cecile Cannone’s Macarons
7 oz dark chocolate (65%-70%), cut into small pieces
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons (1 oz) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 (16 oz) jar creamy peanut butter
Combine chocolate, heavy cream, and honey in a saucepan. Place over low heat and stir together until thoroughly blended. Remove from the heat, allow to cool for a few minutes, and add the butter. All to cool for about 15 minutes and then stir in the creamy peanut butter.
Pair similarly shaped shells with each other and spoon or pipe the ganache onto one side. Place the other shell on top and twist to get the filling to spread evenly.
Macarons store very well tightly sealed in the freezer.