My first chocolate ganache was made with a name brand of chocolate chips, ahem morsels, and was nice but not great. Ganache is all about the chocolate and the better quality the chocolate, the tastier your macarons will be. I’ve also learned that some people are either lactose intolerant, or they want to sell their macarons but can’t use any dairy products in the ganache. So, here’s a solution to that – a recipe that contains vegan and non-dairy ingredients. Chocolate and coconut are very compatible flavors and this is one of my favorite ganache recipes.
This original recipe is from the book Baking Macarons: The Swiss Meringue Method.
10 ounces dark chocolate, chopped Theo Coconut 70% Dark Chocolate contains toasted coconut and is recommended
5.46 ounces unsweetened coconut milk [1 small can] 1 Tablespoon virgin coconut oil 1-2 teaspoons coconut flavor or extract
Before opening the can of coconut milk, shake well. Place in a microwave-safe container. Heat until just starting to simmer, approximately one minute. Pour over chocolate. Add virgin coconut oil and let sit for a few minutes as the chocolate melts. Stir to combine.
Add coconut extract or flavor and whisk until fully incorporated. Let cool until thick but not hard.
My quest for baking the perfect chocolate macaron continued. They needed to have feet but also be smooth and shiny. By adding less cocoa powder, my second bath was easier to mix. The egg whites “aged” overnight, about 12 hours. But I slightly underwhipped them, which was a first. After the macaronnage, I added the batter to the piping bag and closed the top with a rubber band to avoid spillage. It worked, although by the time I piped the last shell, the remaining batter was threatening to ooze out of the top.
The macarons didn’t set up right away – I had to wait about 30 minutes. Later, I realized that both trays should have rested for at least 45 minutes.
This time, the oven temperature was lower, 300 degrees. I’e since learned that chocolate needs to bake around 350 degrees. Also, the baking time should’ve been longer. One tray was in the oven for 19 minutes and the other 20. Afterwards, I realized they could’ve baked another two minutes longer in both cases because I wasn’t able to easily remove them from the parchment paper. However, using 20/20 hindsight, chocolate macarons should bake for about 12 – 14 minutes at 350 degrees.
While both trays showed macarons with feet, they were in the small side and the shells were hollow. At first, the macs looked like they’d have smooth, glossy tops, but after they emerged from the oven they deflated a bit and had irregular shaped tops.
Unlike the first batch of chocolate macarons, the texture was lighter and airier – not like brownies or biscotti.
The chocolate ganache filling was easy to make. I chopped up a Valrhona bar [71% cacao content] trying not to eat any of it. Note: next time I’ll try the Valrhona 46% feves! For 50 seconds, the heavy cream went into the microwave and when poured over the chunks the melting began. I whisked it for a few strokes and then added the room temperature butter and vanilla extract. Soon it was successfully mixed and sampled. Way better than the first batch. Nothing like using a high quality chocolate bar, heavy cream and imported butter! Yes, I could taste the difference between this and the previous batch made with chocolate chips. The richness was so apparent.
Due to being underbaked, the shells stuck to the parchment and I used a spatula to remove them. Some of them were really cracked and messy looking but I managed to salvage them into sloppy and unphotographable macs. They tasted good when consumed that day. However, the next day and the day after that the macarons tasted much better.
NEXT WEEK: More adventures as I bake scrumptious French Vanilla Bean Macarons.
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I’ve tasted chocolate macarons from Trader Joe’s and Laduree. To your left is a photo of what a true chocolate macaron looks like.
For my chocolate macarons, I used a different ratio of ingredients, different filling and different oven temperature from my other three batches. What could go wrong? Or right?
I used a good brand of cocoa powder: Divine. Yes, it smells and tastes as good as its name so I thought that was perfect for my favorite flavor.
Major differences included changing the oven temperature, using the center rack, and adding salt to the egg whites. That last step resulted in a longer time to get the first signs of froth and the finished meringue texture.
This batter was unlike the others as it was much thicker. I probably used too much cocoa powder. It had only been sifted once, when added with the sugar and almond flour. Whatever it was, this batch was very difficult to mix and I got so tired I just stopped. As soon as it was awkwardly piped onto the parchment paper, it was already dry. With my other three batches, when first touched, some of the batter stuck to my finger. With this batch, I was able to touch the batter and feel a thin film had already formed! That was a first. It was the complete opposite of the previous week’s 90-minute wait for the shells to get that film. Still, I had to wait for at least 30 minutes while I preheated the oven and made my chocolate ganache filling.
That’s when the fun began. I used the standard unsweetened Baker’s Chocolate. Instead of opting for the double boiler, I used a microwave to melt the heavy cream, then pour it onto the shredded chocolate, melting it that way. The recipe also called for butter and vanilla extract. It mixed up well with a whisk. I added it to the piping bag and let it rest [sideways] on the counter to cool off.
Meanwhile, I’d discovered something amazing going on with the macarons – at the seven-minute mark I switched on the oven light and looked through the window – feet! The macs were all forming feet. “I’ve got feet!” I shouted. “Feetsies! I’ve got feet! Feet don’t fail me now!”
And they didn’t! I was able to turn the tray and see the feet up close. I impatiently waited for them to finish. When they were placed on a cooling tray, I admired the little frills that surrounded each round and semi-round shell. Later, I’d easily slide them off and note very little residue on the parchment paper. There were no hollows; each shell was solid on the bottom.
But the tops looked a little rustic. No shiny and smooth finish. Oh well, can’t have everything.
Time to pipe the ganache. Nothing happened. Some butter had separated and solidified at the edge of the nozzle. The ganache was stuck inside. Squeezing from the top, even shaking it, that dark brown filling wasn’t budging.
Time to make another batch of ganache. I followed the same directions, using Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mini Morsels. They melted even faster and the resulting ganache was like thin syrup. I put it in the fridge. Two hours later, it was still the same texture, only colder. I melted a small amount of morsels in the microwave and then had something that could go into a piping bag and become the filling for the nicely chocolatey brown shells.
The macarons looked and tasted like brownies with commercial chocolate rather than a French delicacy I’d hoped to make. 24 hours later, the macs tasted no different, definitely like brownies with semi-sweet chocolate fudge filling.
But at least they had feet!
NEXT WEEK: More adventures as I bake Pink Lemonade Macarons.
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Making a pound cake from scratch is the most advanced baking I’ve ever done. This dessert contains the most basic ingredients found in your pantry and fridge: eggs, butter, flour, sugar, vanilla extract and baking powder. As long as you have a hand or stand mixer and measure your ingredients correctly, it’s not difficult to mix and bake.
Macarons also require few ingredients: two types of sugar, egg whites, almond flour, and color. That’s it as far as the cookies, a/k/a shells go. The fillings can be diverse: readymade jams or jellies, caramel, Nutella, butterscotch, lemon or lime curd, etc. You can make your own whether it’s buttercream, chocolate ganache, or a jam/fruit spread.
I’d tasted macarons a few times and loved them. They were decadently sweet and rich. From an Etsy store, I ordered an array of pastel colored macarons that were photographed for the cover of my novella, Sweet Dreams.
I needed a picture for the cover of my forthcoming sweet romance/cozy mystery, Macarons of Love, #4 in the Yolanda’s Yummery series. So I bought macarons in various colors and flavors. Average price: $2.25 each. I took 300+ pictures and they were good, not great. I cherished each macaron and decided that having these delicacies handy whenever I wanted them was a very appealing idea. Even if they didn’t turn out looking great, I’d get a better education about the art of baking macarons and would understand my characters even more. I had most of the ingredients and equipment, I reasoned. Well, not almond flour, but sugar was in the cupboard and fresh eggs in the fridge. I’d watched more than a dozen how-to videos on YouTube. I read numerous blogs, many of them showing step-by-step directions. Some bakers claimed they were easy to make; other bloggers despaired of ever being able to create them. One confessed that several batches never even made it to the oven.
I spent $12 for one pound of almond flour! This is one of the reasons why macarons aren’t cheap. I also learned that almond meal, almond powder, and almond flour are the same thing. Only when making macarons, you needed to sift or sieve it. The more you sift, the finer it gets, the better lookin’ those macarons.
Macarons weren’t spooned onto a baking sheet—they were piped on. Piped with one of those piping or pastry bags? I thought that was for decorating cakes or cupcakes. My experience with a piping bag? Zip. I couldn’t just neatly spoon them on? Nope.
Separating eggs and whipping the whites into a meringue didn’t seem too difficult to someone who’s whipped thousands of gallons of shea butter. But there’s a difference between the two ingredients: shea butter can’t be overwhipped, egg whites can. I also had a major oopsie that first day after picking up the egg and instead of separating it the entire egg splatted into the bowl. Great, I’d have to wait another 24 hours so the egg would be aged enough for high quality macarons. At least that’s what many of the bakers suggested.
Since I knew my piping skills were nonexistent, I had some foresight: I made a template the size of the baking sheet and had 1.5” circles neatly spaced on the back of the paper that was adhered to the baking sheets.
I put the required amount of almond flour [Bob’s Red Mill] through a small sieve. Correction: I attempted to sieve the flour. Thirty minutes later, I’d managed to get about 1/8 of a cup from sieve to mixing bowl. I grumbled about how time consuming it was, recalling people on videos doing it in seconds. I tried smacking the sieve and just spilled more flour. The spatula didn’t work. My fist, wanting to punch it through… nope, that sieve was too small.
I interrupted my macaron making “festivities” and drove to the store to buy a larger sieve. Finally, the almond flour was able to make it through the larger size mesh, as did the powdered sugar.
Meanwhile, I had no difficulty whipping the egg whites, granulated sugar, and adding the magenta gel color.
Folding the flour and sugar meant the dry ingredients had to be sifted again. Good thing I didn’t have to use that mini sieve. The egg whites would’ve deflated or whatever happens to old egg whites. Macaronnage is the term for gently folding the dry ingredients into the egg whites which results in a batter that’s not too stiff and not too runny. There are ways of determining when it’s done such as counting the number of strokes to testing the batter to see how it falls from the spatula—the term molten lava is frequently used. Well, I guessed it was like molten lava because my arm was starting to feel like it with all that mixing, um, folding.
Before I encountered my first run-in with the pastry bag with the plastic nozzle that I’d hopefully inserted correctly, I had to get the pink batter from bowl to bag. Those baking experts showed how easy it was—the same people who could probably pipe blindfolded—insert piping bag in a glass, fold the top over like a cuff, and make sure the nozzle was pointing up rather than down. Also, twist the bottom of the bag a few times so the batter won’t escape. Okay…
Theoretically, easy. I plopped the pastry bag into the glass and added the first scoop of batter with my spatula…but I’d forgotten to make the cuff so the batter got stuck on top and some of it fell on the counter. Way to go, wasting batter and making a mess. Eventually, I got most of it into the bag and the batter started escaping from the bottom, too. I’d be lucky if I managed to make one macaron shell!
I won’t describe the horror of piping except that part of my face was pink from batter oozing out the top as I tensely gripped it. Some dropped onto my hand. Good thing it wasn’t red! Each of the discs was a different size with only a few of them being round. Getting the batter onto the parchment paper was a messy feat but in the end I managed to get 24 various sized discs onto each tray.
I baked each tray separately and used the bottom oven rack after reading and watching the tales of staying away from the middle rack.
The result can be seen to your left.
Itsy bitsy feet on some, a single mega cracked shell, but the taste of the shell was sweet. I added jam rather than attempt to do a buttercream filling which would need to be piped—I really didn’t fancy that word!
Macarons and sweet dreams? Yes, the two go together quite well. Macarons are sweet and somewhat crispy little cookies that can be filled with butter cream or chocolate ganache or various types of jams. They’re usually made with almond flour and are gluten-free. Macarons are often quite colorful, as you know if you’ve seen them. My opinion is that they’re the best kind of dessert—small and delicate. Fancy but not outrageously so. Yes, I’m so fond of macarons that I’m including mention of them in my sweet romance/cozy mystery,Macarons of Love: The Yolanda’s Yummery Series, Book 4.
But what started it all was a romance novella I wrote called Sweet Dreams. Brenda Nevins, the main character, is a romance author/baker. Although the macarons part isn’t at the beginning of the story, these tempting little cookies do 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 even tried the Trader Joe’s version[s] which were easy to store as they went from frozen to just right in about 30 minutes.
It was a tough job, but I gutted [pun intended!] my way through it.
And now, I’ll be revisiting macaron-land for the next few months while I write my book. But that’s fine with me. I even have a Pinterest board dedicated to these fine sweet treats. This board has 5000+ pictures and recipes. Check it out!http://www.pinterest.com/lisamaliga/sweet-macarons
Chocolate truffles, bonbons, hand painted chocolate, 24-karat gold drizzled upon chocolate…such decadent luxuries. Chocolate connoisseurs seek richness of flavor upon the palate, and for those in the know, it will be couverture chocolate, which has the best finely ground cocoa beans and a higher cocoa butter content. Discover tantalizing offerings from some international chocolatiers.
Knipschildt is based in Norwalk, Connecticut. The Danish founder, Fritz Knipschildt, began his career as a chef and trained in Spain and France. He came to America in 1996 and while working as a private chef his clients were amazed with his unique chocolate creations. Now he has invented a very unusual and costly truffle. La Madeline au Truffe is enrobed in the intense and fruity 70% Valrhona cacao from South America and is the perfect way to offset the exotic and intoxicating aroma of an authentic French Perigord black truffle embedded inside this wondrous chocolate truffle. They sell for $250.00 and have a shelf life of one week.
If you want to celebrate a special occasion, consider buying a box of chocolate truffles sprinkled with edible silver or 24-karat edible gold. DeLafee is located in Switzerland and uses a blend of Criollo cocoa beans from Ecuador and Venezuela and Forestero cocoa beans from Ghana. The creamy chocolate ganache inside the pralines makes this a silky smooth flavor along with the glittering golden topping. The Gold Chocolate Box with Antic Swiss Collectible Gold Coin has eight chocolate truffles adorned with gold. The price is 255 Euros. They also sell edible silver in their dark Swiss chocolate truffles. Eight elegantly boxed truffles only cost 65 Euros.
Godiva is a famous name in the world of chocolate. Founded in Brussels, Belgium, it is noted on their web site: “Joseph Draps, a renowned Belgian chocolatier, created a line of chocolates with extraordinary richness and design, a collection of passion and purity. He sought a name that embodied the timeless qualities of passion, style, sensuality, and modern boldness.” You can find the chocolate in their own stores as well as in many retail locations worldwide.
Located in Lyon, France, Richart Chocolates uses 70% Criollo cocoa from Venezuela – a more exotic and expensive base for all the fine ingredients that are mingled with the gourmet chocolate. They also carry macarons. However, if you seek a memorable gift for yourself or someone you wish to impress, consider the $850.00 Petits Richart in a hand-crafted burlwood vault complete with temperature and humidity gauges. Seven drawers contain 112 pieces of exotic gourmet chocolate ranging from citrus flavored to romantic florals to roasted, herbal, and spicy palate pleasers.
Debauve & Gallais is a traditional chocolatier headquartered in Paris, France – a location they have occupied for over 200 years. [You can also find some of their chocolates and teas at Barneys New York.] These chocolates are hand molded and can be shaped like the company’s coat of arms or a fleur de lys. Naturally low in sugar, the fillings contain ingredients from around the world, such as: Turkish raisins, Spanish almonds, chestnuts from Turin and rum from Antilles. Seeking a gift that will please a chocolate aficionado? Try the $650.00 Le Royale chocolate bonbon assortment in their official trademark blue, gray, and gold embossed box. This luscious collection boasts 176 pieces of remarkable chocolate. [Original photo: http://www.debauveandgallais.com/main/bonbons2.asp]
Another memorable gift is the 100-piece blue box of chocolate from MarieBelle in New York. As stated on their website: “The Cien Blue is styled as a hat box that will provide the perfect hiding place for your cherished belongings after the chocolates have been devoured. MarieBelle New York combines the finest single-origin chocolate with eclectic ingredients and artisanal techniques, to create edible works of art.” You receive 34 different flavors including whisky, ginger, cilantro, banana, saffron, lavender and so much more. Priced at $260.00
For the ultimate chocolate aficionado who wants to indulge in the most unforgettable dessert ever, it can be found exclusively at the New York City restaurant, Serendipity 3. Entitled Frrrozen Haute Chocolate, it boasts a blend of 14 of the rarest cocoas from Africa and South America and edible 24-karat gold. The goblet is lined with edible gold and around the base is an 18-karat gold bracelet complimented with a carat’s worth of diamonds. A La Madeleine au Truffe from Knipschildt Chocolatier is included in the package, as is a diamond studded golden spoon – another keepsake of this extravagant dessert. The price is $25,000.00.
As Charles Schulz, the creator of the famous Peanuts cartoon, once said, “All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt!”