A few weeks later she came over, armed with icing sugar and almond flour. We began and I discovered to our dismay that the batteries to my kitchen scale were dead. Ugh. So I scrambled to find a suitable recipe that uses cups instead of grams. Disappointingly, our macarons did not turn out their finest. Our pistachio set built beautiful, towering feet which collapsed before their time in the oven was up and the batter of the plain ones turned out too thick, resulting in tops that were less than smooth.
The funny thing I’ve discovered about macarons though is that they get in your head. A failed attempt turns these petit cookies into the “one that got away” and you become an obsessive lover trying to mend what went wrong. While successes lead you down a path of what if. Thoughts become consumed with new flavours to try to perfect. They are a dangerous thing to get into.
Needless to say, shortly after making them for Mariam I caught the macaron making bug and have made them twice since. It would have been more times, but I had a temp job come up and that has been eating away at my time that isn’t spent hunting for snails, changing nappies and impersonating Starwars characters with a three year old who has never seen any Starwars movie (you can imagine how that goes, and yes, it’s just as entertaining as you would guess).
This batch of macarons happened a bit by mistake. It was the first batch I made after making them with Mariam and the macaron itch was striking hard. I had to make them. I pulled out my almond flour, only to discover I didn’t have enough. But the macaron gods were not going to let off the hook with one small set back. I rummaged through my cupboard to see what suitable nuts I had at my disposal. Set back number two: no almonds. But then there I saw them, hazelnuts. In the blender they went along with the icing sugar and I was on my way to devouring those enticing gems.
I used about half almond flour and half hazelnut. You could go all hazelnut, but I thought that might be a bit too strong in the hazelnut department. I almost opted to fill the macarons with Nutella, because hazelnut and chocolate, but after tasting the shells, I thought they already had enough hazelnut flavour going on, but you could certainly fill them with Nutella if that would float your boat. Instead, I went with a Julia Child’s créme au beurre, á l’Anglaise, or chocolate buttercream with custard base. This butter cream is worth the extra effort. It is unctuous, so smooth it glides across your tongue sensuously. It is far easier of a butter cream than other Italian or Swiss varieties. It is the perfect mate for these hazelnut macs.
If you’ve never made macarons before, don’t be afraid. Yes, they are finicky. But even if your macarons don’t develop feet, crack, or are bumpy, they will still taste amazing. Arm yourself with this video and give it a go. Stephanie at the Joy of Baking is a macaron pro. I’ve adapted her plain macaron recipe for the hazelnut recipe below.
Now I’m going to go dream up another flavour to conquer.
- 50 grams ground blanched almonds or almond meal/flour
- 50 grams ground hazelnuts or hazelnut flour
- 180 grams confectioner (powdered or icing) sugar
- 100 grams egg whites, at room temperature
- a pinch of salt
- 35 grams superfine or castor white sugar
- To make your own almond flour and hazelnut flour, combine the almonds, hazelnuts and powdered sugar in a food processor and process, scraping down the sides with a rubber scraper as needed, until it is a fine powder and can pass through a sieve. This may take a few batches.
- Sift together the almond and hazelnut flours and confectioners sugar together into a large bowl. Set aside.
- Place your egg whites and the pinch of salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. With a whisk attachment beat on medium speed until they begin to foam. While beating, slowly add the castor sugar and continue to beat until the egg whites form stiff peaks (when you pull up the beater and hold it up right it will hold a stiff peak that won't droop).
- Take a third of your meringue and gently fold it into your flour mixture. Once it is mostly incorporated, add another third of the meringue, making sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl when your fold them together. Fold in the remaining meringue. When the mixture falls from the rubber scraper in ribbons back onto itself your batter, or macaronage, is ready.
- Place your batter in a pastry back with a 1/2 inch tip fitted to it. Pipe out circles that are about 1 to 1 1/2 inches spaced about a half inch apart on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet.
- Rap the baking sheet firmly on the counter or table to release any air bubbles and leave the piped batter to rest for about 30 minutes or until a fine film has formed over the batter. On humid days you may need more resting time.
- Meanwhile preheat your oven to 325ºF (or 160ºC). Bake the rested macarons for 14-16 minutes, rotating the baking sheet half way through. Let the cookies cool before removing from the sheet and placing on a wire rack.
- Fill with the chocolate buttercream and place in an airtight container, refrigerating for about 24 hours for best results. Do try to resist eating them all straight way because they really are better the next day.
- Some recipes say you need to age your egg whites. I have had success without doing this. Also, I've taken them straight out of the fridge and used them cold, so if you really want to make macarons, but haven't aged and brought your eggs to room temperature, go ahead and give it a go.
- I have been able to use my vitamix blender to make the almond and hazelnut flour. Just be sure to blend it WITH the powdered sugar. I did it once on its own and it turned into a globby mess.
- If you want to add any food colouring make sure that it is of the gel or powdered variety as using anything else can cause your egg whites to flatten and your meringue won't turn out.
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup boiling milk
- 1/2 lb. (2 american sticks) of unsalted butter, softened
- 2 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted
- Beat the sugar and the eggs together in a bowl until the mixture is thick and pale yellow and forms a ribbon.
- Slowly beat in the boiling milk a few drops at a time. Pour the mixture into a 1 quart heavy bottomed saucepan, stirring with a wooden spoon over medium-low heat until mixture thickens enough to coat spoon (should be 165ºF with a candy thermometer). Once it reaches that point, remove saucepan from heat and beat until custard has cooled to barely lukewarm.
- Beat the softened butter into the lukewarm custard by spoonfuls, using the whisk attachment on a mixer. Add the melted chocolate and beat until incorporated. If cream looks grainy or has seems to curdle, add more softened butter by the tablespoon. Cream should be smooth, thick, and homogeneous. Chill until cold, but still malleable and fill your macarons.