It’s here… it’s finally here! Merry Christmas, everyone! I spent the last week in my hometown area of Fresno/Clovis in California’s Central Valley, where the temperatures have been consistently colder than it is in NYC. Crazy, right?!
I regret that this post came so late. Ironically enough, I made these pretties in md-November with the hopes of getting this out there sooner rather than later! But with all the travel that I’d been doing recently, I mistakenly thought I lost the memory card on which these pictures were located (which certainly would have been a bummer). The good news is that I located it late last night just as I was packing up to head out to Kona, and here I am, typing away as I wait for my flight out in LAX.
In the spirit of holiday cookie-baking, I wanted to create a macaron shell that truly embodied the festive season. Last year, I made a batch of chocolate peppermint macarons and while they tasted absolutely heavenly, they looked rather boring—chocolate shell, brown; chocolate ganache filling, brown. Now having an arsenal of many gel food colors, I decided to be a little more creative and thus these pretty, decorative white-and-red-striped peppermint shells were born! I found some inspiration from other brave souls who have done this in the past, and I was inspired to just go for it!
So what was this month’s lesson? Well there were two of them:
- The macaronage process must yield a shell mixture that gleams and flows like lava. This is certainly a basic rule for making a perfect shell. But I oftentime find myself underfolding for fear of overfolding. What this means is that the underfolded mixture will yeild a more gritty and peaked macaron shell. You’ll notice that the pictures of some of these shells feature a little meringue peak and a rough exterior, unlike the desirable smooth, even shell. The tip is to pipe out a test shell and see whether the peak softens and disappears as the batter sets. If not, them give the mixture another 5-7 folds, watching for the consistency and gleam!
- You can use gel food coloring for beautifully swirled patterns. I’ve used gel food coloring in the past to create uni-colored macaron shells—do make sure you use gel coloring as the normal liquid type may alter the consistency of the batter. Use a small food brush to apply 3 stripes in the interior of a piping bag, and then proceed to fill the bag with the macaron shell mixture. As you pipe out the shells, the gel food coloring will also be piped out. Note that the first few shells are generally far deeper in color than the last few. I personally liked the latter half of the shells better since the red striping didn’t overpower the white-and-red balance. Don’t they look like peppermint candies?!
Here’s to wishing you, your family, and friends a wonderful holiday season and Merry Christmas! I hope this recipe inspires you to bake up something wonderful in the kitchen! And if you find yourself creating striped macarons, please do let me know about your experience! Much love…
- 100 g egg white, aged 3-5 days
- 40 g caster sugar
- 125 g almond flour
- 200 g confectioner sugar
- 3 stripes red gel food coloring
- 1 pinch salt (optional)
- 6 oz dark chocolate, chopped
- 3/8 c heavy cream
- 1 tsp peppermint extract
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Pour heated cream over chocolate and stir until incorporated and uniform texture to form ganache. Stir in peppermint extract. Set aside to cool and slightly thicken.
- Fill a pastry bag fitted with a tip (I use the #8 Ateco, but the same tip from the shells above will work just fine) with the ganache.