One of the most satisfying thing as a baker is the ability to change the way people feel about food. And I think my biggest achievement to date is having changed so many people’s perception of macarons. Most of my friends do not understand the appeal of macarons as the general perception is that macarons are too sweet. But most of those friends, after tasting my macarons, wished they could have more.
A good friend, Irene, is in town this week. A frequent traveler all over Europe, she once said my macarons are the best she’s ever had. Since we are meeting for dinner and she is helping me cart some goodies home to my parents, I thought the least I could do is make her some of my favourite macaron flavours. The look on her face when I pulled out a box of these was all the appreciation I could have asked for.
Makes 20 to 25 macarons
For the chocolate pieces
1/8 tsp fleur de sel
38g dark chocolate couverture (> 70% cocoa butter)
1) The day before, using a rolling pin, crush the fleur de sel.
2) Melt the chocolate over a bain-marie, removing from the heat as soon as it has melted.
3) Stir the crushed salt into the chocolate.
4) Spread the melted chocolate on a piece of parchment paper. Then cover with another piece of parchment paper.
5) Place weight on top of the parchment paper to keep it flat. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
6) Once set, use rolling pin to break it into pieces approximately 6mm to 12mm. Refrigerate until required.
For the macaron shells
75g ground almonds
75g icing sugar
26g egg whites
Oil-based red food coloring
30g unsweetened chocolate couverture (100%), melted
75g caster sugar
10g mineral water
27g egg whites
Cocoa powder, for dusting
1) Grind the icing sugar and ground almonds together in a food processor for approximately 5 minutes, scrapping the mixture halfway through to ensure they are finely ground. Sift the mixture into a large bowl.
2) Add coloring to the first potion of egg whites then pour it over the icing sugar-almond mixture together with the melted chocolate but do not stir.
3) Bring the water and sugar to boil at 118C. When the syrup reaches 115C, simultaneously start whisking the second portion of egg whites to soft peak. When the sugar reaches 118C, turn the mixer speed to low and pour the syrup in a thin stream down the side of the mixing bowl, without letting it hit the whisk. Turn the mixer speed back on high and continue to whisk and allow to cool down to body temperature.
4) Scrap the meringue into the almond-sugar mixture and fold the mixture until it is glossy and flows like lava.
5) Spoon the batter into a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle. Pipe rounds of batter about 3.5 cm in diameter, spacing them 2 cm apart on baking trays lined with baking parchment. Rap the trays on the work surface covered with a kitchen cloth.
6) Dust the freshly piped shells with cocoa powder.
7) Leave the shells to stand for at least 60 minutes until they form a skin and do not stick to the finger.
8) Preheat oven to 180C, then put the trays into the oven. Bake for 3 minutes, then, without opening, turn down the heat to 120C and bake for another 15 minutes. Shells are ready when they can be easily lifted from the baking parchment.
For the chocolate ganache
95g dark chocolate couverture (> 70% cocoa butter)
85g heavy cream
27g unsalted butter
1) Melt the dark chocolate on a bain-marie, removing it from the heat once melted.
2) In a saucepan, bring the cream to a light boil. Pour the hot cream into the melted chocolate, a third at a time, stirring in before the next addition.
3) Add the butter in small pieces. Using a stick blender, blend until smooth.
4) Cover the ganache with cling film, pressed lightly onto the surface of the ganache and refrigerate for approximately 2 hours until ganache has developed a creamy consistency.
5) Transfer ganache into pastry bag, and fill each macaron generously. Adding one or two pieces of salted chocolate piece before topping it with the second shell.
I have to say, after tasting so many macaron flavours, I have to say, chocolate and salted caramel are definitely two of the flavours that I kept coming back to. This chocolate macaron is a new variation of Pierre Hermé’s recipe from his new Macaron book. And I have to say, the salted chocolate pieces adds an additional dimension to the little cookie. The original recipe calls for Chuan chocolate, which, I unfortunately, couldn’t get my hands on. But I think the regular dark chocolate works quite well too.