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
I’ve owned and read many cookbooks over the years. Some have been leather-bound tomes dating back almost two centuries. Others have been spiral bound and contained gorgeous color photos. As a teenager, I used to look at the cake decorating books, admiring the artistry behind each unique design.
Until this year, I never thought I’d write a cookbook. Sure, I’ve shared recipes before, as soap is made in a kitchen. But soap is easier to make than macarons and even a small bar lasts a lot longer than these delicate desserts.
Before the November 1, 2016, release of Baking French Macarons: A Beginner’s Guide, I was trying to get the paperback edition properly formatted. Being on a tight budget, I went to Fiverr and found a formatter who would do a 155-page cookbook with 54 color photographs for $6, including the $1 processing fee. What a bargain! I was skeptical that the newly listed formatter could do the work in less than one day as he promised. A day after the promised delivery time, I received a message. “Hi Lisa, I am high sorry for the delay. I had delay of my new PC yesterday and I cannot continue using the old one. I was highly disappointed the time the agent came in. So, I am greatly sorry for this late delivery of your work.”
A few hours after sending the email, he sent me the .DOC and PDF files. He even changed the name of the file to end with the word GOOD.
The title now read Baking French Macaron: A Beginner’s Guide.
Continuing the singular theme, there was a Table of Content.
The headings were out of bounds and didn’t pass CreateSpace’s interior reviewer. Some of them began on the chapter page. Photos were less than the required 300 dpi. The “good” ones were stretched like in the following example.
I politely thanked him for his trouble and contacted someone else.
Jackie [not her real name] gave me a rate of $30. That still seemed reasonable. A few hours later, she had finished the project. I was very surprised in the amount of time it took and was naturally suspicious. It was formatted without headings but everything else looked nice; certainly no stretched photos. Before thanking her for a job well done, I uploaded it to the interior reviewer. All the images were less than 300 dpi. I contacted her and she said she’d fix it. A few hours later, I was sent another version. The same thing happened.
For the next four days, it went on. Some of the photos eventually were 300 dpi, others were under that ‘magic’ number. Finally, when all but 7 of the photos were considered good enough, I thanked her and decided to forego a paperback edition. Even if I had a less costly version with black and white photos, it wasn’t worth all the time and aggravation I’d gone through. I couldn’t compromise and publish a photo-less book. I’d spent way too much time and money into making my book the best it could look.
I’d noticed another scam cookbook that was doing well, even though it had no photos and the back cover was completely blank. Some of the recipes had ingredients only—no measurements. That book was selling several copies a day. I was motivated to figure out my photo problems, and eventually I did.
The eBook cover I’d designed was nice, but I knew a professional could do a much better job. Print covers needed strong typography so titles would show up well.
Using my own photos for the cover, I didn’t have to be concerned about copyright issues. I’d been checking out numerous cover designers and I went through their portfolios. I found a very talented artist. The book cover was far better than the one I made on Canva.
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.
On Tuesday, I baked my twentieth batch of macarons! Again, I used a natural powdered colorant and the pictures will show you how they turned out.
I’m calling them decadent because they contain both blackberry buttercream filling and blackberry jam. Yes, I used fresh blackberries. Summer is berry season and I believe in celebrating that fun fact!
Using my new silicone mats saves time, as I don’t have to cut parchment paper to fit the baking sheets.
Macarons only contain a few ingredients yet they require some advance preparation from preparing the fillings to separating and aging the eggs to sifting and mixing the almond flour and confectioners’ sugar together. It sounds very precise but by doing this I end up saving time when baking the macaron shells.
I’m adjusting to my new used oven and I’ve found that 300 degrees is the best temperature and the oven rack being one level below center prevents browning. This is why an oven thermometer is a great [and inexpensive] investment.
I added the powdered colorant to the meringue just before adding the flour/sugar mixture. It worked out so well. This is the first time that the powdered color was the same color before and after baking!
There was a sale on fresh organic raspberries so I got ambitious and decided to bake raspberry chocolate cupcakes AND raspberry macarons.
This is the first time I’ve used fresh fruit instead of jam. And you know what—it won’t be the last! Wow, I could really taste the difference, hence the name Really Raspberry!
First, I made raspberry jam, which took about five minutes. All I did was smash up those fresh raspberries with a potato masher—why mess up a food processor–add a lot of granulated sugar and some liquid pectin. The result: 2 jars filled with fresh raspberry jam. I also left in the seeds as I wanted it to be all natural. I was also too lazy to strain them! Once cooled, I added the contents of one jar into a pastry bag, put that into a Ziploc bag and stored it in the fridge where it’d be ready for the macarons that would be made on Monday.
I’ve made the chocolate cupcakes a few times and prefer them to any other because I pour the batter into the liners rather than scoop it, so it’s a lot easier. Plus, I love chocolate!
Making the fresh raspberry buttercream frosting for the cupcakes was as easy as it was when I made it with jam. I even added the raspberries last. Oh, and the amount of vanilla bean paste was very small.
On Monday, I made the macarons. I had not one but two fillings – raspberry jam and some leftover raspberry buttercream frosting. I left it in the pastry bag with the large star tip, as I was too lazy to change it. Now I’d have super fancy looking macarons.
The natural red powdered food coloring was added to the almond/sugar mixture the night before. That’s one thing I’ve learned about making macarons – do as much preparation as possible the night before they’re made. I separate the eggs and leave them on the counter in a bowl covered with a paper towel. I weigh the dry ingredients. And since I was using new silicone baking mats, I even made a template for them.
Making macarons on a Monday is a fine way to start the week! I began the meringue at noon and by 2:18; the third and last batch was done. I didn’t make a record number as only 48 shells were deemed acceptable. I made more, but some were thrown out as they stuck to the mat. I was trying out another oven that was fairly true to the oven thermometer. I used the middle rack, which I won’t do next time, and will lower the temperature. While many of the shells were hollow, at least they had feet.
I had fun deciding to add the buttercream filling and jam—sometimes both! I’d seen macarons with the fancy filling before but hadn’t gotten around to trying it. It’s very simple to do.
Soon I’m going to be baking another batch of macarons with a new powdered color that I haven’t yet used.
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!