“Mini Chocolate Burgers”

January 13, 2010

I had my first—well, my first dozen—macrons in May and was instantly smitten with their taste and cute little design. Since that fateful encounter, I’ve toyed with the idea of making them, but their fragile nature proved too intimidating—until now. My mom’s book group is reading My Life in France (at my suggestion) and I thought that this Parisian cookie would the perfect little snack.

Before we go any further, I just want to make sure we’re all on the same page. We’re talking about macarons, not macaroons. The french cousin to the Macaroon, Macarons can have a variety of fillings and can be identified by their domed tops and tutu-esque ruffled circumference, known as the “foot.”

I decided to use David Lebovitz’s recipe for the French Chocolate Macarons, despite his claim that chocolate macarons are the most difficult ones to make. Go big or go home, that’s what I always say.The recipe called for powdered almonds, but there were none to be had in my local grocery store. I could’ve gone to a specialty shop, but collegiate laziness reared its ugly head—forcing me to buy sliced almonds (Diamond sells blanched, sliced almonds). I pulverized them in the food processor for a good minute. Then I added the powdered sugar and the cocoa, blended them for a good thirty seconds. When it came time to add this mixture to the meringue, I carefully sifted it for good measure.

As for the meringue, there’s a fair bit of debate about how long to age the egg whites before whipping them. Some people leave the whites out for a couple of hours while others swear that a full 24 hours is needed. I just left them in a covered bowl for four hours before whipping them. The main point is that the whites have to be at room temperature to achieve their maximum loft. After folding in the chocolate mixture, I just piped them out using a small plastic sandwich baggie. Yea, I could’ve used a pastry bag, but I didn’t have one. This works just as well and is way cheaper. Just snip off a quarter inch of the tip and you’ll be in business.

Either my oven’s on steroids or the cooking time is way off. My macarons were overcooked by at least five minutes. Next time I’ll put them in for 10 minutes and see what happens. Besides that, they turned out beautifully, complete with that distinctive little foot.

Since I made this first batch for a bunch of peers, I decided to go with chocolate ganache rather than the prescribed prune filling. My baking cohort, Jess, thought that the macarons looked exactly like “little chocolate burgers.” Which got me thinking, maybe White Castle should start offering macarons. After all, McDonalds has its signature McFlurries, and Wendy’s sells Shakes—shouldn’t White Castle get in the dessert game? A variety of Macarons would make the perfect companion to a crave case of those mini burgers, affectionately known as sliders. I’ll be sure to get in touch with the suits over there and let you guys know what ends up happening. Until then, bon appétit!

Chocolate Macrons (adapted from David Lebovitz)

Makes about twenty cookies
Macaron Batter
1 cup powdered sugar
2/3 cup blanched sliced almonds
3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 large egg whites, at room temperature (set them out in a covered bowl for three or four hours hours)
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
Chocolate Filling
2/3 cup heavy cream
1.5 teaspoons light corn syrup
3 ounces of semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (chocolate chips are great time saver)
2/3 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (180 degrees C).

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and have a pastry bag with a plain tip (about 1/2-inch, 2 cm) ready.

Pulverize the almonds in a food processor for a good minute with the pulse setting. Then add powdered sugar and cocoa and process for another thirty seconds.
Beat the egg whites with a mixer until they begin to rise and hold their shape. While whipping, beat in the granulated sugar until whites hold stiff peaks, about 2 minutes.

Sift in the dry ingredients, carefully folding them in with a flexible rubber spatula. Once the mixture in uniform in color and smooth in texture, then place it into a pastry bag or a little sandwich bag. David makes a great disaster-saving suggestion: stand your bag in a tall glass if you’re alone. I used a small bowl and it worked perfectly. With only two hands, we bakers can do only so much…
Pipe the batter on the parchment-lined baking sheets in 1-inch circles (about 1 tablespoon each of batter), evenly spaced one-inch apart. I found that making a swirled shape helped me keep perfect circles when piping out the batter.
Rap the baking sheet a few times firmly on the counter top to flatten them, then bake them for 10 minutes. Once they’ve fully cooled, detach from baking sheet.
To make the chocolate filling:
Heat the cream in a small saucepan with the corn syrup. When the cream just begins to boil at the edges, remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let sit one minute, then stir until smooth. Stir in the pieces of butter. Let cool completely before using.
Assembly
Spread a bit of batter on the inside of the macarons then sandwich them together. (You can pipe the filling it, but I prefer to spread it by hand; it’s more fun, I think.)
I also tend to overfill them so you may or may not use all the filling.
Let them stand at least one day before serving, to meld the flavors.
Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or freeze. If you freeze them, defrost them in the unopened container, to avoid condensation which will make the macarons soggy.

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Chewy Amaretti Cookies

November 11, 2009

Amaretti Cookies!

Ugh. My academic life resembles a sinusoidal graph. For those of you who have since forgotten your trigonometry (tisk-tisk), the graph of the sine curve is essentially a squiggly line. I’ll have a couple of weeks where nothing at all is due, and then I’ll have a 7 day period when I have absolutely no time to anything—party, flog, sleep, breath. Alas, I’m approaching one of those peaks. Think 2π. I’ve had virtually no time to recreationally cook for myself, let alone flog about it.
Dough
I did set aside some time on Saturday night to make some Amaretti cookies. They were absurdly easy to make, since all the mixing was done in the food processor. And while the original recipe calls for a pastry bag, you can totally snip the tip off of a zip lock baggie (insert immature circumcision joke here). That’s what I did.

Ziploc Baggy + Scissors = Pastry Bag

Ziploc Baggy + Scissors = Pastry Bag

They were a teensy bit bland on their own, so I would suggest pairing them up with something, like chocolate ganache (in between two of the cookies for the most amazing sandwich ever). I bet they’d be a great decoration on a plate of some other dessert. They were a little too chewy on the inside for my liking, but maybe that has something to do with my oven here and less with the recipe. I might cut back on the sugar just a tad as well. Try them out and let me know how they work for you.

I’m diving back down into the murky midterm waters. I’ll try to come up for air in the next week or so. Wish me luck and happy cooking!

Pre baked

Chewy Amaretti Cookies

Adapted from Lillian Chou in Gourmet, January 2009
Makes about 48 (1-inch) cookies

Ingredients
1 (7-ounce) tube pure almond paste (not marzipan; 3/4 cup)
1 cup sugar
2 large egg whites, at room temperature for 30 minutes
Instructions

Preheat oven to 300°F with racks in upper and lower thirds. Line 2 large cookie sheets  with parchment paper.

Pulse almond paste and sugar in a food processor until broken up, then add egg whites and pulse until mixture is smooth. Transfer to pastry bag and pipe 3/4-inch rounds (1/3 inch high) about an inch apart in pans. If you need to flatten any cookies, just dip a fingertip in water and gently tamp down any peaks.

Bake, rotating and switching position of pans halfway through, until golden and puffed, about 15 minutes.