Chocolate Macarons 蛋白杏仁餅 | 馬卡龍
By Ellen L.Published: 2015-10-15
In Hong Kong there are many places nowadays selling this very frenchie delight of the macaron, one of the many of the patisserie of that nation that has traveled far in fame and glory. I have bought them as a treat for my little girl and she was ever so delighted with them, these light, airy, sweet, nutty, colorful little delicacies that look almost too pretty to eat. But they are so expensive! And my girl was always longing for them! Then I got addicted to watching The Great British Baking Off, the most delightful baking show ever, and I noticed that the home bakers on the show often made macarons for decorating their luscious creations. They made it look so easy that I thought, if these folks can do it so can I! So I made these elusive Chocolate Macarons, or 蛋白杏仁餅 | 馬卡龍. And to be honest these lovely chocolate delights were not as hard as I thought it was going to be!
The macaron mainly consists of only three ingredients, almonds, sugar and egg white. I would recommend to get whole almonds, not roasted, as if you grind the almond flour yourself it must be much fresher than store bought almond flour. This will naturally give you better flavor. I bought a big bag of almonds at the local Hong Kong wet market where the prices are quite competitive. The key to making almond flour yourself is to add the icing sugar to the almond as you grind. (Tip: you can grind this flour with a coffee bean grinder.) The almonds exude an oil which makes the grinding to flour process more difficult and a bit sticky. However, if you add the icing sugar to the almonds as you grind, the sugar will absorb any oil and allow you to grind a light fluffy almond flour with no trouble at all!
Once you have your light, fine almond flour, you will need to whip your egg whites into a fluffy slope of whiteness. The key here is the stiffness of the meringue that you beat out of these egg whites. A good trick here is to wipe down the mixing bowl and the whisk with a bit of vinegar before you start. This will cancel out any fat or oil left inadvertently on your utensils, which, if in contact with your blossoming meringue, will sink it into dullness. Then you will be able to whip up a meringue until the peaks hold stiff and true. You should be able to pull out your whisk and have a perfectly stable peak sticking out from it.
There are various opinions regarding the egg whites used for macarons. For my own macaron studies I have used both not fresh and fresh eggs, both left out until room temperature and frozen egg whites, again left out until room temperature. All have worked out just fine so I think the important thing is to have the egg whites at room temperature when you start to whisk.
The next step has a fancy french name, macaronage, otherwise known as the mixing of the meringue with the almond flour and sugar. When I was having some problems with the rise of a batch of pink macarons that turned out hollow inside I discovered 2 things: 1) Chocolate macarons rise more stably than other plain or colored macarons (no idea why) and 2) Macaronage requires you to deflate the air out of the mixture! ( I had thought that one had to keep air in!)
I had been really been careful to fold the meringue in just enough so as to keep the air but actually for macarons you need to deflate the mix with a rubbing, scraping against the side of the bowl as well as a folding and scraping along the bottom wherein you incorporate the batter together. Stop when thoroughly mixed and the mixture flows like smooth lava.
When I piped macaroons for the first time I was caught off guard by how liquid they were. I mean it was thick and lava-y, what surprised me was how much they spread once I piped it on to the parchment paper. It would be a good idea to do a test pipe first to get a feel for how much they spread so as to allow you to pipe more consistent circles. The first row of macarons I ever piped was an ugly sight to behold but it was too late and I baked out some really weird alien saucer shaped macaroons that first time!
You can use a template to pencil in circles on the parchment to help you to get more consistent macaron sizes. Just be sure to remember to flip the parchment paper over before piping as pencil marks are lead and shouldn't be digested. (Obviously!)
So far I have been lucky (crossed fingers!) that every batch of macarons I have made so far have had pretty little feet which are the distinguishing mark of the macaron. I think the key to getting the feet is allowing the macarons time to dry out and form a skin on top after piping. If the macaron has formed a dry skin on top this skin will hold together in the oven and allow the macaron top to lift up and reveal the lacy feet under. You can let the macarons rest for 30 to 40 mins to achieve this. You can kinda see the skin form, the macarons will change from shiny to a dull matte. What I like to do, as a lazy person's trick, is to grab a fan and let it blow gently on the macarons for 10 mins or so. Skin formed and straight into the oven!
When baking the macarons it's okay to let these little cookies be on the dry side, they should be dry as once you fill it with the ganache (or buttercream), the moisture of the filling will soften the macarons. This is why, if you can hold yourself back from these pretties, it is best to eat the macarons the next day when the cookies have properly softened.
The great thing about these Chocolate Macarons that I have discovered, besides their great looks and taste, is that they keep really well. The ganache hardens just enough so that it holds its shape and doesn't melt on your fingers right away. Just put these lovelies into an airtight tin and they will keep for a week or so, no problem. But they probably won't last that long, he, he!
Check out our easy to make chocolate ganache macaron filling recipe (as seen in the photos)!
(adapted from recipe here)
1 cup plus 3 tbsp icing sugar (150g)
3 oz whole almonds (or almond flour ) (90g)
3 tbsp cocoa powder (I use belgian cocoa)
2 1/2 egg whites at room temperature (75g)
2.5 tbsp caster sugar (37g)
pinch cream of tartar
1 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 cup chocolate ganache (recipe here)
Grind almonds and icing sugar together until finely powdered. Stop grinding every once in a while to push down any mixture that creeps up the side. If you don't use all the icing sugar while grinding do remember to sift the sugar to get rid of all lumps. Sift cocoa powder into flour and mix thoroughly.
Wipe down a large mixing bowl and your whisk with a bit of vinegar. This will get rid of any fats which will adversely effect your meringue. Add egg whites and caster sugar into bowl and whisk until stiff peaks form. Add cream of tartar and almond extract, then whisk briefly until incorporated.
Now fold almond/sugar flour into the meringue. Keep folding (approx. 40-45 times) remembering to scrap along the bottom of the bowl to incorporate and push/scrap along the side of bowl to deflate. The mixture should flow slowly like lava. Scoop into a piping bag with a 1/2" piping tip. Pipe 1 1/4" circles on to a parchment paper covered baking sheet, remembering that what you pipe will spread out. When done piping, hold both ends of the baking pan and bang the pan firmly down, turn and bang one more time. This will get the air bubbles in the mixture up and out. Inspect the pan and if you see any more bubbles pop them with a toothpick.
Preheat the over to 300F/148C. Let the piped macarons rest approx. 30 mins to form a skin on top. Bake 10 mins, rotate the pan, then bake 10 more mins. Check for doneness by gently lifting a macaron to check if it lifts easily and cleanly from paper. Cool on baking sheet before removing.
Pipe 1 tsp chocolate ganache onto a macaron, then top with second macaron and press down lightly and evenly until the ganache almost reaches the edge. Leave the macarons overnight to allow the ganache to soften the macaron. Store in air tight container. Enjoy your Chocolate Macarons!
Tip: Silicone piping bags are easy to use and easy to clean!
Tip: If you eat the macaron the day you make it, you will find it rather hard and dry. But the next day, after the ganache has softened it, it will be perfect!
More Cookie Lookie Delights at The Hong Kong Cookery:
Chinese Almond Cookies 杏仁餅乾
Macau Almond Cookie 澳門杏仁餅
Christmas Sugar Cookies