October has certainly brought some surprises. I’m recently back from a trip to Spain (hence the spotty posts—sorry!) and find that New York has been befelled by sub 40ºF temperatures… Brr!
Anyway, I have a new macaron flavor to share this month in honor of (belated) National Dessert Day from October 14: mocha-flavored shells with a dark chocolate espresso ganache filling. Two of my favorite dessert flavors packed together into one. Married together, decadent dark chocolate and aromatic espresso combine to make a delicious mocha blend. It’s a gentle reminder of that invitingly warm mug filled with a steaming mocha latte during the colder fall and winter months.
#batchfail – If you look carefully, you’ll notice that a number of shells are actually cracked. More notably, the cracked shells are the ones with which have the espresso powder accent sprinkled on top. While not all of them cracked, a number of them did. Here was my learning opportunity. I have a theory about what happened, and a couple of ideas on how to prevent this the next time around.
Here’s where I think I went wrong. Soon after piping down beautifully portioned and relatively symmetric circles (improvement from September’s mistake!) for the macaron shells, I decided to get a little artsy and sprinkle a touch of espresso powder atop one of the trays. I thought it would look pretty… and indeed it did! But the unintended consequence was that it led to a number of cracked shells once in the oven. My guess is that the addition of the espresso powder (which is the “instant” kind) changed the way the shell would dry, in a way that was non-conducive to macaron-making. Oops. Lesson learned.
So moving forward, what could/should I do if I want a cool artsy sprinkle of espresso powder on my mocha shells? My ideas are to either:
- Wait until the shell has set (30-60 minutes of uninterrupted drying) prior to sprinkling the espresso powder. My thought here is that the already dry shell will prevent the espresso powder from trying to dissolve using the moisture from the macaron shell itself, as there wouldn’t be much moisture on the surface of the shell left.
- Use cocoa powder. It’s not espresso powder, but cocoa powder would also create a pretty artsy effect as well. Plus, I’ve tried this before on another occasion that resulted in perfectly baked, beautifully artsy macaron shells. The safer choice.
That being said, I’m still very glad that I tried the artistic endeavor. Any failure is as much a success if you can learn from it and take note of its benefit for future use :) As always, I’m so glad you stopped by! Please leave your feedback and thoughts in the comments below. Stay warm and happy baking!
- 100 g egg white, aged 3-5 days
- 40 g caster sugar
- 125 g almond flour
- 200 g confectioner sugar
- 1 tbs espresso powder
- 1 tbs cocoa powder
- 1 pinch salt (optional)
- 8 oz dark chocolate, chopped
- 1/2 c heavy cream
- 1 tsp espresso powder
- Measure out dry ingredients using the food scale. Let egg whites sit until room temperature. Meanwhile, pulse together powdered sugar and almond powder in food processor until well blended. Add in expresso powder and cocoa powder, and pulse a few more times until blended.
- Meringue--In a very large bowl, whisk the room temperature egg whites, caster sugar, and salt (optional) into a meringue. I’ve found that it takes me about 7-9 minutes to completion, and I break it down into three basic steps:  Starting on a low-speed setting, whip the egg whites with an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes until frothy, adding ⅓ of the caster sugar and a pinch of salt along the way.  Move mixer to med-speed setting; continue whipping egg whites another 2-3 minutes until soft peaks form, and add half of the remaining caster sugar along the way.  Move mixer to high-speed setting; whip egg whites 1-2 minutes and add the remaining caster sugar along the way. Move mixer to highest speed for last minute until firm peaks form.
- Be careful not to over beat the egg whites! You will know when your meringue is ready by checking to see if (a) nothing falls out of the bowl when you turn it upside down, and (b) the meringue remains in the whisk/beater when you stop the mixer.
- Fold in the mixed and sifted dry ingredients into the meringue; this is the actual macaronage step. I find that it takes me anywhere from 40-50 folds (and I actually do keep count) to achieve the right consistency. Folding doesn’t require gentleness; the macaronage process requires one to “beat” out the air from the eggwhites. When a shine develops and the consistency resembles lava or thick pancake batter, macaronage is complete. I’m careful to count the folds in order to not overmix!
- Transfer macaron batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip (I use the Ateco #11 round). Pipe even circles on prepped baking sheets lined with Silpat-like mats. For even circles, I count out 1-2-3-4 while piping to help ensure more even batter distribution for each circle. It’s not a foolproof solution, but it works surprisingly well! Alternatively, there are templates that can be used and placed under the Silpat-like mats for additional assurance.
- Knock the air bubbles out! To prevent cracking and empty shells, the extra air bubbles have got to go! In parallel, drop the fully-piped baking sheet from a 4-6 inch range onto a counter or table that can withstand an impact. Do this three times, rotate the sheet 180-deg and do so three times again. It’s loud and might seem excessive, but seeing those tiny bubbles rise to the surface and pop make it all worth it.
- Let the shells try in a dry place. The top coat of the shell should be dry to the touch; no batter should stick. This may take anywhere from 30-120 minutes. I tend to wait at least an hour to ensure a hardened shell. Drying the shell is required for a smooth shell and macaron feet to form without cracking. Bake too soon before the shells are dried and the shells will crack—I’ve had this experience once or twice before and it’s the last thing you want to happen after having invested so much work into preparing the shells leading up to the baking.
- (Optionally) Lightly tap a sprinkle of espresso powder atop dried shells through a fine mesh seive. This is an optional, aesthetic step and is not required to yield a successful macaron cookie (exact post-dry method has yet to be tested as of date of publication).
- Pre-heat the oven to 320º F. Bake for 15-18 minutes, rotating the sheet a touch more than halfway through the baking process after feet have formed. While I prefer to bake each sheet individually to exercise greater control over each, but in the interest of time, I have tried baking both together (on middle/bottom rack and switching them halfway through) and have found success.
- Remove shells from oven and let it cool completely before removing/peeling from the mat. Be sure to let them cool completely, as premature removal will result in decapitation—the “cap” of the macaron shell will literally come off, leaving the base/crinkly feet on the mat. No bueno :(
- Place chopped (if needed) dark chocolate in a small-medium sized bowl.
- In a microwave safe dish, heat heavy cream until boiling. Start with 45s, stirring, then incrementally adding 10-15s at a time to prevent over-boiling and spillover.
- Mix espresso powder with heated heavy cream until well mixed and dissolved.
- Pour espresso cream mixture over chocolate and stir until incorporated and uniform texture to form ganache.
- Set aside to cool and thicken (this can be sped up by placing in refrigerator for 10 minutes) until thick enough that you can scoop it out with a spoon.
- Use an electric mixer on medium speed to whip the ganache, incorporating air until light and airy much like a thick frosting.
- Move the whipped ganache to a pastry bag for fitted with a tip (I use the #8 Ateco, but the same tip from the shells above will work just fine).
- Sort and match macaron shells into pairs of roughly equal size.
- For each cookie pari, pipe a generous amount of whipped ganache onto the flat side of one cookie. I pipe a border around the perimeter of the cookie, before spiraling in and filling the center.
- Place the accompanying cookie on top and optionally twist the cookies in opposite directions to help distribute the buttercream throughout the macaron. Repeat for remaining cookies.
- Store assembled cookies in an air-tight container in the fridge for 12-24 hours. This allows the flavors and ganache to penetrate through the entirety of the macaron, enhancing both the texture and flavor of the eventual tasting experience!
- To serve, remove from refrigerator and let the macarons warm to room temperature prior to enjoying. (Hint: if it's crunchy when you bite into it, it's probably still too cold)