Tuesday, September 14, 2010
I had been wanting to bake up some of these French Macarons for a while before I really put things into actions. Why was I procrastinating? Mainly was due to afraid of failure. I’ve came across so many different recipes and they seemed hard to make and required lots of skills. However, once I baked up my first batch, I was ecstatic! I couldn’t wait to bake more, with different varieties and flavors. These French Macarons are not to be confused with the American Macaroons, the later one has shredded coconut as the main ingredient. Versus the French Macarons, which are made from a mixture of egg whites, almond flour, and both granulated and confectionery sugar. It’s a blank canvas that you can be creative and put many different ingredients into it.
Did I mention they were hard to make? Actually, not at all! As long as you follow a few tips and you’ll be good to go. First of all, precise measurement is important, as in all baking. Measure all ingredients with a digital kitchen scale is essential to the success of a perfect Macarons. You’ll always get a more precise measurement by weight than by volume. So, if you still don’t have a kitchen scale, what are you waiting for? Click here to check out the one I use. I love it.
Second of all, follow each step of the recipe and don’t be lazy (like I am). There are reasons behind each process. For example, this recipe calls for aged egg whites and it is important because there’s less moisture in the aged egg whites, in ratio of protein. If the batter is to runny, your cookies won’t bake up properly.
Last but not least, practice makes perfect. My skills in using pastry bags was really classified as “beginner” (or worse, don’t even know what class that is) when I first started to make Macarons. After 4 to 5 batches (forming more than 200 cookies shells), I upgraded my skills to intermediate level. Yes, I’m still not perfect but it’s much better than before.
These Opera Macarons are super delicious! Crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside. Your taste buds will jump for joy when your tongue come across with the smooth and creamy coffee buttercream. When you bit into the center, you’ll experience the "melt in your mouth" goodness with the rich chocolate ganache. Ending with a hint of the hazelnut and almond flavor from the shells. As I’m typing this post, I’m popping one (and another….and another… X ) in my mouth. So, don’t just imagine how good it is. Go make a batch and experience it yourself!
Opera Macarons: Adopted from Tartelette
Makes about 30-35 filled macarons
For the shells:
90 gram egg whites (around 3 eggs) (I like to use 2-3 day old egg whites)
30 gram granulated sugar
200 gram powdered sugar
60 gram ground almonds
55 gram skinned and ground hazelnuts
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Tablespoon Espresso Powder
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Then, add the vanilla extract and espresso powder until well combined.
Combine the ground almonds, ground hazelnuts and powdered sugar in a food processor and give them a quick pulse. It will break the powdered sugar lumps and combine your nuts with it evenly. Add them to the meringue and fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that flows like magma or a thick ribbon. The whole folding process shouldn't be more than 50 strokes.
Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip with the batter and pipe small round (about 1.5 inches) onto parchment paper baking sheets. Let the macarons sit out for an hour to harden their shells a bit. Preheat the oven to 280F and bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool completely.
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup bittersweet chocolate
In a heavy saucepan set over medium heat, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the stove and add the chocolate to it. Let stand 2 minutes and then stir until fully combined. Let cool until firm enough to put in a small piping bag.
1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg whites
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 Tablespoon Instant Espresso
Put the sugar and egg whites in a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like marshmallow cream.
Stir in the instant espresso until dissolved. Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat the meringue on medium speed until it cools and forms a thick shiny meringue, about 5 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment and add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in, add the vanilla extract and beat the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes. If not using right away, refrigerate for up to a week or freeze for up to 1 month.
Put the coffee buttercream in a piping bag and pipe a circle around the edges of a macaron shell. Pipe a dollop of ganache in the middle and top with another shell
Note: I only make half of the ganache and buttercream from the above recipes and there were enough to fill all the shells. If you make full recipe for the fillings, left over can be freeze for up to 3 months.
Tips: To age the egg whites, simply place them in a covered container and store in refrigerator for 2-3 days, or uncover at room temperature overnight.