There are many challenges to making chocolate macarons and the aim of this post is to help readers succeed in making them in their own kitchens. You probably will not get them the first time, nor the second and possibly not the third. However, every attempt will bring you closer to mastering the chocolate macaron. The good thing is that any mistakes can be crumbled over ice cream or dried in a low oven to make a chocolate macaron ‘biscotti’.
This recipe will be made using the Italian Meringue technique. An Italian Meringue Macaron is basically whipped egg whites into which hot sugar is gradually poured. The hot sugar cooks the whites whilst the constant whipping adds air into the mixture and distributes the heat evenly. This results in a very stable meringue that is durable.
Readers might be wondering about the French Meringue Macaron. A French Meringue is just a basic meringue made with egg whites and sugar simply whisked togather. What are the differences in these two techniques?
Italian Meringue Macaron Vs French Meringue Macaron
- More stable vs More delicate
- Can be piped at leisure vs Have to pipe it fast
- Stickier chewey texture vs Lighter & more tender texture
I can assure you that almost all macarons you can buy in shops are made with an Italian Meringue for mechanical reasons. It doesn’t make economic sense to make and pipe small batches of french meringue macarons. Time is money, and the sturdier Italian Meringue Macarons can be put through a depositor, giving a pastry shop tremendous output for minimum labour. On to the recipe and the key factors for success.
Firstly, this will be the list of equipment you will need besides the standard mixing bowls:
- A Kenwood Chef or Kitchenaid type cake mixing machine (Use a handheld cake mixer to your own risk. I will not be held responsible for any hot sugar injuries)
- A thermometer
- A 10mm round piping tip and piping bag
If you live in humid, tropical South East Asia like myself, you must have an air conditioned room. If you do not have air conditioning in your kitchen, simply transfer your piped trays of macarons to any airconditioned room. This will help in drying out the top surface of the macarons before baking. I will describe this technique later. At above 85% humidity, I can guarantee you that even after 12 hours of exposure to tropical room temperatures and humidity, all you will end up with is a very bad mood. I have done that experiment so you do not need to go through the frustration. Do not be tempted to put it in your fridge to dry out, as the sugar in the macarons tends to draw moisture from the enclosed environment to be absorbed into the macaron.
If you live in a dry climate like the UK, Australia, USA or Spain, you are lucky. However, a small fan blowing gently towards the piped macarons for airflow will do wonders in speeding things along. Everyone’s ambient environment is different, so I cannot put a finger on how long it’ll take to be ready to bake. However, here are some tips for making chocolate macarons.
How to Make Chocolate Macarons – Keys to Success
- Grind your almond powder into finer particles by pulsing it in a good processor (I do not dry my almond powder)
- Sieve your almond powder and icing sugar mixture to remove large particles
- Start your meringue on medium-slow speed
- When folding in your Italian Meringue, fold it in only until it becomes shiny and homogenous.
- Practice makes perfect when it comes to piping macarons
- Give your baking tray a light tap to ‘settle’ the piped macarons
- Let a skin form on your piped macarons before baking
- After baking, let the macarons cool and solidify before removing from the baking paper/silicone sheet
Grinding Almond Powder into Finer Particles and Sieving them
You’ve seen them before. Macarons with a rough shell, possibly sold ‘a l’ancienne’ to justify its rustic look. This is a stylistic preference to some, but personally, its a texture thing. The finer your almond powder, the smoother the shell. Smooth shells look a lot better, especially if they are coloured. However, the most important thing about finer almond powder is the final texture of the chocolate macarons or any other macaron for that matter. Imagine the almond powder being like your favourite chocolate powder drink. The finer it is, the smoother the texture in the mouth. If you had lumpy chocolate powder, you get bits of it sticking to your teeth. A finer almond powder ensures you get lighter and smoother chocolate macarons. Sieving them ensures that the powder remains separate and ‘fluffy’. They ‘puff up’ just that little bit more, and the finer powder means that its more tender to the bite.
Starting the Italian Meringue on Slow Speed
Whisk your egg whites on high speed and you will create lots of large air bubbles. The meringue will look rough and be unstable. In addition, because the bubbles are bigger, it won’t rise as much in the oven, affecting texture. Imagine a perfectly made cappucino with a nice, smooth and creamy head. Compare it to one that is grainy and broken. Just like in meringue, smaller bubbles means the results are creamier, fluffier and have better stability. These small bubbles expand in the oven, giving more lift and forming nice feet on the macaron shells. Follow the instructions on the recipe to maximise bubbles in your meringue
Folding the Italian Meringue Until Just Shiny and Homogenous
It is very hard to judge when to stop folding in the mixture and doing the ‘macaronage’. The ‘macaronage’ is a French term for mixing the macaron mixture until ‘just right’. Some have described it as ‘Flowing like lava’. It all boils down to experience, but here is your best bet to getting it right. By folding it until it is just shiny and homogenous, you will be undermixing, rather than over mixing. Over mixing means you will never get a good result. With under mixing, you can still scrape the piped macarons back into the bowl and continue lightly folding until it is ‘just right’.
How do you know if you under mixed? After you have piped your chocolate macarons, the nipples are very stubborn and do not go away even after tapping the baking sheet lightly. How do you know if you over mixed? Your piped chocolate macarons spread a lot and are flat, instead of being dome shaped.
Practice Makes Perfect When Piping
How do you pipe in a straight line? Practice. How do you pipe evenly ? Practice. It is all muscle memory, so use piping guides under the baking paper if desired to get the right size and positioning. If you are piping freehand, the best way to keep a straight line is to start piping at the middle of the baking sheet. Pipe in a straight line across, then pipe the rows below. Rotate the baking sheet 180 degrees and continue piping.
Tap the Baking Tray and Let a Skin Form
Place a folded tea towel on your table. After piping all the chocolate macarons, hold the tray as flatly as possible and give it 2 – 3 light but firm taps on the tea towel lined table. This expels any errant gas bubbles as well as settles the mixture. Any nipples should disappear before the skin forms. If some macarons have nipples, do not be stressed, just use these pieces for the bottoms.
To let a skin form, place it in an air conditioned room if you are in the tropics or leave it in a clean place with good airflow if you live in a cool, dry climate. If you are using an air conditioned room, try to position the air to blow lightly across the surface of the chocolate macarons. This will encourage the skin to form faster. It is ready when you touch it and it feels like soft leather. It should not be even the slightest bit tacky. Not allowing the skin to form before baking may be disastrous. See Macaron Troubleshooting below.
Chocolate Macarons – Problems and Troubleshooting
- Shell is wrinkled – Mixture has been over mixed
- Shell is cracked – Skin was not dried or dry enough
- No feet – Mixture over mixed or oven temperature not hot enough
- Large hollows in the baked shell – There was a temperature drop. A sudden drop in temperature caused mixture under the skin to collapse, leaving a hollow. Do not open the oven door once macarons are placed inside.
- Lumps in the macarons – Poor mixing
- Rough surfaced macarons – Almond powder not fine enough, grind it more and sieve it
Its not as hard as it sounds, but there are definite steps to follow to be successful. I have seen passionate hobbyist bakers like Alan at Travelling Foodies make perfect macarons in tropical Singapore so it is possible to do it yourself. The instructions that follow the recipe may seem very detailed but they are detailed instructions that if followed, will give consistent results once you have conquered the chocolate macarons making hurdle!
By July 23, 2013Published:
- Yield: Approximately 50 macarons
Chocolate Macarons with a dark chocolate filling. My preference is for Michel Cluizel's Los Ancones chocolate from the Dominican Republic. If you can find Valrhona, Pur Caraibes will make an exceptional macaron everyone will love. However, you will not go wrong if all you can find is Lindt 70%.
- 200 grams Almond Powder For Macaron Base Mixture
- 190 grams Icing Sugar For Macaron Base Mixture
- 310 grams Dark Chocolate 60% - 67% Chopped, For Dark Chocolate Filling
- 75 grams Egg Whites For Macaron Base Mixture
- 3 drops Almond Extract For Macaron Base Mixture, Optional
- 1 gram Fine sea salt For Macaron Base Mixture
- 60 grams Water For Italian Meringue
- 190 grams Granulated Sugar For Italian Meringue
- 70 grams Egg Whites For Italian Meringue, Optional
- 310 grams Whipping Cream, 35% Fat For Dark Chocolate Filling
- 130 grams Unsalted Butter For Dark Chocolate Filling
- 35 grams Trimoline Invert Sugar or Honey For Dark Chocolate Filling
- 15 grams Glucose Syrup or Light Corn Syrup For Dark Chocolate Filling
- 1 gram Sea Salt For Dark Chocolate Filling
- For the Macaron Base Mixture, place almond powder, salt, icing sugar and cocoa powder in a food processor. Pulse 12 - 15 times to refine the mixture. It must not become an oily paste. Sieve the mixture.
- Add the Almond mixture back in the food processor with the 75grams of egg whites and almond extract. Run it for 10 - 15 seconds to combine everything. Scrape it down and run it for another 5 seconds. Ensure there are no lumps. Cover and set aside.
- Place egg whites and egg white powder in a cake mixer with the whisk attachment. The egg white powder strengthens the whites and is optional.
- Place sugar and water in a small pot and bring it to a boil. It is important to brush the sides down with a wet brush to dissolve any sugar. Undissolved sugar may cause the syrup to crystallise and render it useless.
- Cook the syrup to 100 deg. c. and star whisking the egg whites at the lowest speed. If you are using a Kenwood Chef, whisk on speed 2 to 3.
- When the sugar mixture reaches 110 degrees celsius, increase the mixer's speed to medium. Speed 5 - 6 on a Kenwood Chef.
- Prepare to pour the sugar syrup into the stiff egg whites. Set the mixer speed at medium. While the machine is running, very carefully pour a thin stream of hot sugar down the sides of the mixing bowl. Pouring it slowly in a thin stream is very important for safety and even mixing.
- When the sugar mixture reaches 118 degrees celsius, your whites should be at stiff peaks. If they are not at stiff peaks, remove the sugar from the fire and increase whisking speed of egg whites to high.
- When sugar has all been added, whisk on high speed until the Italian Meringue cools to 50 degrees celsius
- Add 1/3 of meringue into your almond mixture. Using a spatula, mix it in with vigour, making sure that there will be no lumps and all the almond mixture and meringue are evenly distributed.
- Continue to fold in the rest of the meringue. Fold it in gently until it is just homogenous and just shiny. Now, you have to even out the bubble size of the mixture with a secret technique.
- Imagine you are using a brush to gently paint a rounded surface. Starting at the bottom edge of the mixture, use your spatula to touch the surface. Without pushing down on the mixture nor lifting it up, pull the spatula towards the centre of the bowl.
- The spatula has to be in contact with the mixture at all times. Be very very gentle, like you are massaging a soap bubble. Do this 4 times at all 4 corners. Give the mixture a gentle fold once and repeat. Your mixture should be 'flowing like lava' at this point
- Pipe 4cm macaron rounds with a 1cm piping tip. If the mixture is too firm and the nipples do no go away, scrape everything back into the bowl, give it one or two folds to redistribute the mixture and 'massage' the mixture as above. Continue piping.
- Tap the trays lightly and place in a cool, dry place or air conditioned room. Let the macarons form a skin, 15 - 30mins.
- The skin will be like soft leather and u can make a small indentation without it cracking. It will have the 'give' of a well done steak. Do not rush this!
- Bake it in a 140 - 150 degrees celsius fan forced oven. If you have an oven thermometer, ensure the oven's internal temperature does not go above 160 degrees celsius.
- Bake for 12 - 14 minutes and remove to cool.
- To make the dark chocolate filling, bring cream, salt, trimoline/honey, glucose and butter to 85 degrees celsius. Do not bring it to a boil or it will affect the final texture.
- Pour it over the chopped chocolate, wait 1 minute, then emulsify it with a whisk or hand blender. Set it aside in a cool place and let it cool to 31 degrees celsius. Give it 1 stir, cover with cling film and put it in the chiller to cool. At 31 degrees celsius, stirring it causes the chocolate to crystallise in its correct form. This ensures superior smoothness and stability.
- When the ganache has cooled and hardened, it will have formed the proper crystalline structure. Reheat the mixture at 10% power setting on the microwave. Reheat in short 10 second bursts so as not to overheat the mixture. Reheat until it just reaches a pipeable consistency yet holds it shape. It must not be melted.
- Pipe onto macarons with a 1cm round piping tip. Alternatively, use a very small ice cream scoop or hot melon baller to scoop balls of filling and place onto the macarons. Use the macaron tops and gently push down on the filing to spread it evenly like a hamburger
- As tempting as it is to eat it now, leave it for at least 4 hours in the fridge before eating. During this 4 hours of waiting, moisture from the filling migrates into the macaron shell, making a perfect balance of crisp shell, soft insides and smooth, creamy filling. Enjoy!
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