I love baking…but French Macarons have always been on my list of ‘recipes that intimidate me and will probably fail.’ However, Nathan has more faith in my baking prowess than I do and encouraged us to take on the challenge despite my numerous acclamations throughout the process that the cookies would crack, fall, and/or flatten like so many of the horror stories I’ve heard. We found a recipe with detailed instructions and good reviews and embarked on a character building experience that in the end was a…huge success! These cookies have the trademark smooth, crisp and light shell with a chewy and airy interior. Two cookies encase a creamy and luscious filling that we made in two flavors…chocolate ganache and strawberry buttercream. I’ll admit that these cookies ARE high maintenance but if you’re patient and exacting you’ll get great results that you won’t have to pay $2-$3 dollars each for like you do in DC bakeries. They’re naturally gluten free (made with almond flour!) and would make great gifts…if you can bear to part with any, that is.
This is a wonderful and affordable sparkling wine! It’s quite dry, which I love, but it has a fruity and floral taste that gives it a soft sweetness. The wine was best with the chocolate strawberry macarons because the fruit in the wine heightened the strawberry flavor in the cookie. A very solid choice and pairing and I can also see this wine being good as an aperitif or with light summer dishes!
I’ve never been a big fan of porters or stouts but with a dessert like our chocolate macarons you can’t go wrong with a good porter or stout. The chocolate and roasted coffee malt flavors balance well with tangy flavors that finishes nice and light on the palate. The flavors and body of the beer pair perfectly the light and airy macarons and taking a sip after a bit of macaron will prolong the party of flavors in your mouth.
Chocolate Macarons Two Ways:
Tweaked from this recipe
For the macarons:
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup almond flour or almond meal
3 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch cream of tartar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
For the ganache filling:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 stick), at room temperature and cut into cubes
For the strawberry buttercream filling (adapted from this recipe):
½ heaping cup diced strawberries
½ cup butter, softened
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Fit a large pastry bag with a 1/2-inch plain tip; set aside.
2. 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 30 seconds. Sift through a flour sifter into a large bowl; set aside.
3. Make the meringue by placing the egg whites in the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until opaque and foamy, about 30 seconds. Add the cream of tartar, increase the speed to medium high, and beat until the egg whites are white in color and hold the line of the whisk, 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 1 minute more. (Do not overwhip.) 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, the mixture runs like slow-moving lava, and it looks like cake batter. (Do not overmix.)
5. Transfer the batter to the pastry bag. Pipe out 1-1/4-inch rounds about 1 inch apart onto the baking sheets, about 25 per sheet. Pick up the baking sheets and bang them against the work surface to help create the macaron base, or foot. Let the rounds sit at room temperature for 30-45 minutes to dry the tops and ensure even cooking.
6. Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Bake the macarons one sheet at a time for 6 minutes. Rotate the sheet and cook for 6 minutes more. Transfer the sheet to a rack to cool completely.
For the ganache filling:
1. Place the chopped chocolate in a large bowl.
2. Warm the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it just starts to boil. Stir it into the chocolate without creating bubbles. Let sit for 1 minute. Add the butter and stir until smooth. Chill in the refrigerator until thickened but still spreadable, about 30 minutes.
For the strawberry buttercream filling:
1. Place the strawberries in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Use a sieve to strain out the seeds and place the strawberry puree in a small pan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and stirring frequently, cook until it reduces by half. Remove from the heat and cool completely.
2. Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add in 1 cup of the powdered sugar and the vanilla and beat on low until combined. Add in ½ of the strawberry puree and beat to combine, followed by ½ cup powdered sugar. 3. Repeat with other ½ of the puree. Beat until light and fluffy.
1. Pair macarons of similar size. Remove the ganache from the refrigerator. If you choose to pipe the ganache, transfer it to a resealable plastic bag and snip about a 1/2 inch off a bottom corner. Squeeze or scoop the ganache to about the size of a cherry (about 1 teaspoon) onto the center of a macaron half.
2. Top with another half and press gently so that it looks like a mini hamburger. The filling should not ooze out the edges. Refrigerate, covered, at least 24 hours before serving.