I used to think that a ganache was something fancy that went on top of a cake or some type of fancy pastry. I knew it was made from chocolate, but that’s about all. If you’ve never made this lovely and decadent macaron filling, don’t worry, it’s very easy to make. You only need a few ingredients but you should get the best type of chocolate that you find appealing. For practice, use standard dark chocolate morsels that you may have in your pantry, but if you’re a chocoholic, add a 70% cacao content dark chocolate.
Chocolate Espresso Ganache Filling
4 ounces heavy cream [120 grams] 4 ounces finely chopped dark chocolate [120 grams] ½ teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste ½ teaspoon instant espresso
Put cream in microwave for about one minute until hot — NOT boiling. Pour over chocolate chunks. When melted add instant coffee and vanilla and whisk well until smooth. Let sit at room temperature for at least four hours or overnight. Cover with plastic wrap. Just before getting ready to use a spatula to scoop the ganache into a piping bag with large round tip.
This is a simple recipe to make and it will really perk up your macaron shells. The touch of espresso gives the chocolate more zing! I used my favorite brand of chocolate: Valrhona.
Adding instant espresso to chocolate chunks
Pour in your cream and vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
What started my love of macarons was a quirky romance novella I wrote called Sweet Dreams. The main character is a romance author/baker. Although the macarons aren’t mentioned at the beginning of the story, those tempting petite cookies have a costarring role. During the writing of the ebook, I got obsessed with macarons. I read several cookbooks on how to make them, visited numerous websites, and sampled quite a few tasty macarons. I bought some online and tried some from various bakeries. They ranged from mediocre to heavenly.
It was a tough job, but I gutted [pun intended!] my way through it.
You’ve heard of lemon curd and lemon butter, right? In fact, there are two types of lemon butter, one edible, the other that can be spread on your skin as it’s made with lemon peel and lemon oil, sweet almond oil, and hydrogenated vegetable oil. How do I know this? I’ve spent 10+ years in the kitchen formulating the perfect whipped shea body butter and I’ve tried all kinds of butters and oils. But I digress, this is about real dairy butter that goes inside those lovely macaron shells.
This time when I made my lemon buttercream filling, I didn’t use any cream. I blended room temperature butter with the powdered sugar [a/k/a confectioners’ sugar or icing sugar]. I looked in the fridge and saw that the heavy whipping cream was a day away from expiring. Not wanting to take a chance, I decided to add the lemon curd. I added just the right amount to make it much tarter than in the past. Before, it was a sweet lemon. Now, it was a sweet and tart lemon and the vanilla bean paste helped perk up the flavor even more. So it was still a curd and there was that lovely fresh Plugra butter so why not call it butter curd? I also enhanced the color with yellow gel colorant.
Admittedly, I have problems with hollow macaron shells. While some people might not like to bite into a big air pocket, others aren’t as fussy. I’m a perfectionist and didn’t like them, although I’d rather they were hollow than footless! But this time I had fewer hollows. Here’s the proof:
Since July, there have been a couple of baking changes. The first is that the oven maintains an even temperature. Secondly, I’m using powdered colorants which means I mix the batter well, but not too well.
I’m also adding the powdered colorant to the triple-sifted almond flour/sugar mixture just before it goes into the meringue. For this lemony batch, I went au naturel and used turmeric. The resulting color wasn’t a bright yellow and the photos make it look tanner than it actually was. The truest color is that seen with the almost hollow-free macaron just above.
I’m working on a new eBook that will contain macaron recipes along with LOTS of helpful tips for making your own French macarons. Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to baking another batch of minty macarons this week.
I baked two batches of blueberry macarons last month and achieved different results. This was the first time I used a natural powdered colorant. With this type of color, you’ll need to use a bit more of it if you want a vibrant color.
The powdered colorant can be added during the meringue process or can be blended in advance with the almond flour/powdered sugar mixture.
Recipe #1 contained blueberry ganache filling. Even adding more cooked blueberries didn’t help as it still tasted like white chocolate. The color was a medium shade of blue.
Another change was the oven. I baked the macarons in a smaller counter top model. The oven reached the temperature in a short time, and it was properly calibrated. The problem was there were only 2 racks and 2 levels. That meant the tray levels were either too close to the top or lower heating elements. I put my first tray on the bottom level and shielded it with an empty cookie sheet to prevent further browning. Also, all shells were baked on parchment paper covered trays.
The results of blueberry batch #1 featured browner than blue shells. The color of the blueberry ganache was lovely but only adding a fresh blueberry in the center gave the macaron any real blueberry flavor.
For batch #2, I used the quick ‘n’ easy method for making preserves. I pulverized 8 ounces of fresh blueberries with a potato masher as I didn’t want to get the food processer dirty and have to wash it. Then I added more than a cup of granulated sugar, stirred at a rolling boil and preserved it with liquid pectin. I followed a recipe in a book for baking cupcakes and the amount of pectin was far too much. I’ll be making this batch again with less pectin and see how it works. Too much pectin makes it more difficult to pipe.
More of the powdered blue colorant was used and I mixed it into the almond flour/powdered sugar mixture. The standard oven was used so the results were slightly better because I used the middle rack. However, I shielded each batch by putting an empty a cookie sheet in the rack above it. That meant the temperature never reached 350—instead it averaged 335. So, while the macarons have feet and aren’t burned, they are as hollow as most of my other batches.
I also used only silicone mats to see if there was any difference. I prefer them because it’s usually easier to remove the macaron shells.
The second batch tasted better, more like a true blueberry macaron.
Stay tuned for another macaron baking adventure soon!
I’ve got the blackberry macaron blues. I’ve tried twice and both times the shell color isn’t blue, isn’t purple, isn’t black. I wanted “Purple Rain” colored macarons. I love that color. I love that Prince was fond of royal purple. The bottle of gel colorant is that hue. But the results are quite different.
I got the purple buttercream that I wanted. However, by using a violet mica colorant, the shells aren’t purple. Mica colorants are used for soap crafting but the ingredients aren’t harmful as they’re derived from minerals. I was doing this as an experiment and there were no negative results — just a lack of purple!
The purple mica has a sheen to it—which is what makes the soap sparkle a bit but won’t do that to a macaron shell.
For my second attempt I used a purple gel colorant for the shells. After separating my egg whites and placing them on the counter to age overnight, I emptied out the piping bag with the purple buttercream filling into a mixing bowl. The blackberry jam tasted no different from the strawberry jam I used in my first buttercream. I figured adding fresh blackberries would change the taste. All I did was cook the blackberries in a tiny bit of water and mash up the berries. Then I strained them, poured the seedless remainders into the buttercream, and mixed it with a mixer for several minutes. It was loosely incorporated. But 24 hours later you can see how it’s separating. The resulting mess looks curdled but it’s not. This time the fresh blackberries can be tasted. But the macarons are messy to eat!
The above photo shows drops of blackberry juice. Maybe someone can use this idea for Halloween if you want a blood theme, just use fresh blackberries–or raspberries!
Next week I’ll test a fantastic new fruity macaron recipe and a brand new type of colorant!
It’s spring — a perfect time to bake pink macarons. I’ve made strawberry macarons, but not cherry, so that’s what I baked on Tuesday. I got the idea a few weeks ago after baking a batch of chocolate cherry cupcakes. Since there was extra cherry buttercream frosting, I double wrapped it in a Ziploc bag and put it in the freezer.
Before baking the double cherry macarons, I unfroze the frosting and removed it from the piping bag with the large star tip, which isn’t ideal for piping the filling. I put the contents in a bowl, poured in some heavy cream, and finely chopped up a couple of maraschino cherries. It was a sweeter contrast with the natural cherry fruit spread I’d used, plus the color was even pinker. I spooned it into a smaller piping bag with a round tip.
I was also going to be using eggs that had been resting for almost 48 hours, so I’d see if there was a difference between older eggs and overnight eggs.
Even though I’d had the gel colorant mishap the week before, I had to use a magenta gel colorant if I wanted pretty pink macarons.
At least the filling was already made and at room temperature. Also, I was going to use my new 3-quart stainless steel bowl. The last time I’d had to transfer the batter from a small bowl to a larger bowl before adding the second half of the almond flour/sugar mixture.
After the green colorant fiasco, I only added 2 drops of the magenta colorant. All was going well – the bowl was the right size, the color was bright enough, and I piped 66 shells on 3 separate baking sheets.
There were very few mishaps and with each batch, right around the six-minute mark, I saw the formation of feet! Also, I didn’t notice any difference in the macarons due to the age of the eggs.
The macarons rested for a little while before being filled. As seen in the following photo, I put the shells on a paper towel. Next time I’ll use wax paper to ensure that none of them stick.
By the way, I have an oven thermometer and always watch that carefully as the oven is about 30 degrees colder than what the temperature gauge on the outside of the oven shows. If set at 300 degrees, it will hover in the 250 to 275 vicinity as it did when baking these. In fact, it never even made it to 300 degrees. The results can vary from recipe to recipe and even batch to batch. The chocolate mint macarons had a failed batch and two successful batches within one hour. If you plan to bake macarons, get to know your oven!
Next week I’ll bake another fun and fruity batch of French macarons! Stay tuned!
Before the release of my new eBook, I mentioned I’d be writing about a spring surprise. I was definitely surprised! I envisioned a beautiful spring green color macaron shell and a rich minty chocolate ganache filling. Well, I ended up learning more about gel colors, natural colors and essential oils.
At first, all was great with the meringue. It had the standard stiff peaks and to get that lovely minty color, I added 7 drops of gel food coloring. And that was followed with one drop of pure peppermint essential oil. So it looked and smelled like chocolate mint chip ice cream.
Everything mixed up well; the piping was adequate, the shells dried within 30 minutes. Midway through the first batch, I switched on the oven light and saw nice little feet forming. I set about making the ganache and when it was time to remove the macarons I saw that all the shells had a golden brown crust! My goal was green not brown. After removing them, I lowered the oven rack [it was one below the center] and lowered the temperature from 320 to 300. But as seen below, it didn’t help…
I baked the other two trays at varying temperatures and oven rack positions. All of them were well done, even though twenty minutes was the longest time spent in the oven. Most were so hollow either the tops came off or you could easily see through the feet from one side to the other.
The chocolate ganache tasted good but not great as I didn’t add enough heavy cream and discovered that the teaspoon of virgin coconut oil clogged the metal piping tip. I reversed the piping bag and adding the ganache that way! What a mess I was making. I also lost several of the shells due to the tops being so crisp they just flipped off. Maybe I could’ve added filling to the other layers, but I just decided to send them to the compost heap outside.
Later, I learned the reason my shells browned – too much gel food colorant and the oven temperature was too high. Okay, next batch I was changing the color to something all natural: matcha green tea.
Batch #13 was either going to be lucky or unlucky. Turned out it was a bit of both. My eggs sat on the counter overnight and I noticed they’d aged so well they whipped up to fill the 2-quart bowl up more than halfway. That was a first!
However, I’m going to pass along this tip: don’t mix the powdered sugar and almond flour together a week before you make macarons. I thought it’d save time but in reality I had to resift the remaining half because it got a little clumpy. That wasn’t much of a problem nor was having to move the batter into the five quart bowl because there wasn’t enough room.
Even though I only added 1.5 teaspoons of matcha green tea powder [which I sifted before adding to the sugar/almond flour combo] I found it more difficult to mix. However, it definitely turned the batter green and the resulting macarons look natural, tho’ not lime green or mint green. This was also the first time I used extra fine granulated sugar.
I added peppermint essential oil to the batter just before mixing it rather than to the meringue. There wasn’t a hint of the matcha green tea aroma.
The first batch ended up cracking and went into the compost pile. The other two batches came out okay—there were feet, they puffed up but deflated a bit—and they were as hollow as heck but they resembled macaron shells. They’re on the rustic side. The chocolate ganache was made with dark chocolate with mint extract and I added a few drops of pure peppermint essential oil. This time the heavy cream was the right amount and I only added a teaspoon of real butter and no virgin coconut oil.
While the resulting macarons don’t look like they’re from Lauduree, they tasted good and I ended up with 20 of them.
Next week I’m going to make a fruity combination to celebrate spring. Wish me luck!