Saturday, December 22, 2012

macarons, not macaroons

this little french cookie is sweet and delicate but oh-so intimidating. i'm grateful for all the articles and blog posts out there on macarons--the tips, techniques, trials and tribulations, and the multitude of flavor combinations. my first ever attempt at macarons (years ago) were pistachio with vanilla filling, and let's just say they looked as lumpy as the bunny i plated them next to.
i learned then that you can't rush the macaron making process. with a little more research and practice, i'm happy to say i have since successfully produced batches of proper delicate macarons. i've kept things easy by using pre-made spreads for the fillings: nutella, tj's chocolate-almond, speculoos/cookie butter. all delicious. the speculoos was a pleasant surprise and the best received (here's looking at you, book club). this way i was able to focus on making the shells. 

most recently though i wanted to make a something a little more "seasonal," so i attempted a chocolate-mint ganache, and just for experimentation purposes, i froze the filled macarons to see how they'd keep. results? success! i let them thaw in the fridge, and they tasted just like a nicely matured macaron :) the minty chocolate filling also made for a nice holiday treat. what flavors should i try next??

so, what are some things i've learned about making macarons?
* read notsohumblepie's post on macarons. she is a true macaron queen and has gone through extensive research on perfecting them. ms. humble's scatter plot macarons has been my go-to recipe for macarons (it's kind of lengthy so i won't reprint it, but you can find it in the above link). 
* sifting your ingredients is key. it keeps everything light and smooth.
* do not overbeat your egg whites--keep them glossy.
* FOLD, not stir, your flour-sugar combo into the egg whites. (is it sad that my arm gets tired from the tension of properly folding? maybe not "sad" so much as "weak." hm, my hand gets tired from squeezing the piping bag too--yeah, definitely weak.)
* parchment paper creates a nicer foot than a silpat (for me, at least).
* keeping macarons in the fridge or freezer totally works and doesn't mess with the "integrity" of the cookie.
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:: chocolate mint ganache ::
(fills 3-4 dozen macarons)

200g semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
100g heavy cream
2-3 drops of peppermint oil (or extra drops if using peppermint extract)

place the chopped chocolate into a heat-safe bowl. in a small pan, bring the heavy cream to a simmer. pour over the chocolate, giving the bowl a little wiggle to submerge the chocolate. allow to stand for one minute before stirring.
stir to combine the cream with the chocolate, add a few drops of peppermint oil to taste. once smooth and uniform, leave at room temperature until it has cooled slightly and thickened. 
pipe or drop spoonfuls of the ganache onto your macarons and top with another shell.

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