100 grams ground blanched almonds or almond meal/flour*
170 grams confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar**
15 grams unsweetened cocoa powder (regular unsweetened or Dutch-processed)
100 grams "aged" egg whites, at room temperature***
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar (optional)
35 grams superfine or castor white sugar****
4 ounces (120 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy whipping cream (35-40% butterfat content)
1/2 tablespoons (6 grams) butter
1/2 tablespoons liqueur (optional)
Note: Weight measurements (grams) (use a digital scale) are only given for this recipe. Volume measurement (cups) are not recommended.
* I use Bob's Red Mill finely ground almond meal/flour. You can find it in grocery stores, specialty food stores, health food stores, or on line.
** Use powdered sugar that contains cornstarch (corn flour).
*** Separate eggs at least 24 hours before using (or up to five days). Cover with paper towel and place in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before using.
**** Make superfine sugar by processing regular granulated white sugar in your food processor for about 30 seconds or until sugar is ground very fine.
Chocolate Macarons: Have ready three baking sheets (make sure they have flat bottoms (no warping)) lined with parchment paper. To make all the Macarons the same size, I like to make a template. Take a piece of parchment paper and draw 20 - 1 1/2 inch (4 cm) circles, spacing the circles about 2 inches (5 cm) apart. Place the template under your parchment paper so you can use it as a guide.
Place the ground almonds, confectioners sugar, and cocoa powder in your food processor and process until they are mixed together (about 30 seconds). Then sift the mixture to remove any lumps.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment (can use a hand mixer), beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until foamy. Gradually add the sugar, and continue to beat, on medium-high speed, until the meringue just holds stiff peaks (when you slowly raise the whisk the meringue stands straight up (no drooping)). Then, in three additions, sift the ground almond mixture over the meringue. When folding, cut through the meringue and then fold up and over, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. Once the almond mixture is completely folded (called macaronage) into the meringue (the batter will fall back into the bowl in a thick ribbon) it is time to pipe the Macarons.
Fill a pastry bag, fitted with about a 1/2 inch (1 cm) plain tip, with about half the batter. Pipe about 1 1/2 inch (4 cm) rounds onto the parchment paper, using the template as a guide. Then carefully remove the template and gently tap the baking sheet on the counter to break any air bubbles (can also break air bubbles with the end of a toothpick). Let the Macarons sit at room temperature for about 30-60 minutes (depending on the temperature and humidity of your kitchen) or until the tops of the Macarons are no longer tacky when lightly touched.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 325 degree F (160 degree C) with the oven racks in the top and bottom third of the oven. Bake the cookies (two sheets at a time) for about 14 - 16 minutes, rotating the pans top to bottom, front to back, about halfway through baking. The Macarons are done when they just barely separate from the parchment paper. Remove from oven and let the Macarons cool completely on the baking sheet placed on a wire rack. To assemble the Macarons, take two cookies and sandwich them together with chocolate ganache. While you can serve the Macarons the day they are made, these cookies really need to mature for a day or two in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Chocolate Ganache: Place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat (or in the microwave). Bring just to a boil. Immediately pour the hot cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for a few minutes. Stir gently until smooth. If desired, add the liqueur. Let sit at room temperature until thick and of piping consistency. (This can take a few hours.) You can make the ganache the day before. Just cover and store at room temperature.
Makes about 30 Macarons.
I've found that once you start making French Macarons you become addicted to them. They have so much going for them. They look gorgeous, they taste divine, and you get a real sense of accomplishment from making them. The basic Macaron starts with two almond flavored meringue cookies that have a thin outer crust that breaks easily when you bite into it, yet inside they're wonderfully soft and moist. For a Chocolate Macaron you simply add a little unsweetened cocoa powder to the batter. And to make them even more chocolately we are going to sandwich the two cookies together with a delicious chocolate ganache.
These Chocolate Macarons are a little tricky to perfect as there are so many factors at play - the quality and amounts of ingredients, the mixing of the batter, the pans, the length of resting time, the oven temperature, and the baking time. Some common problems are that the Macaron doesn't have a 'ruffle' or 'collar' (called a 'foot') on the bottom, or that the 'foot' is more horizontal than vertical. Or maybe the tops of the cookies have cracks or are too domed shaped, or uneven, or even lumpy. Sometimes the cookies can be lopsided or the insides of the cookes are too chewy or dry. Unfortunately making Macarons does take a little practice, and I recommend taking notes so you can keep track of everything you do. That way if you have problems, you can refer to your notes and make adjustments. Because you will find that in your kitchen, with your ingredients, with your oven, you may have to adjust the recipe.
What I've learned from making Macarons is that you need to use top quality ingredients, and to get accurate amounts of each ingredient, measure by weight (grams), not volume. (This is why I don't give 'cup' measurements.) (I use a digital scale for measuring.) Next, the egg whites need to be 'aged', which means separate the eggs at least a day (and up to 5 days) before making the Macarons. Cover the egg whites with a piece of paper towel (to let the whites breath) and place in the refrigerator. Then, several hours before making the Macarons, remove the whites from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature. (This ensures that the whites will reach their full volume when whipped.) Next, the ground almonds. You can either buy almond meal/flour (I use Bob's Red Mill finely ground almond meal/flour), or you can take whole blanched almonds and process them in your food processor until finely ground. The ground almonds need to be mixed with the confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar (use powdered sugar that contains cornstarch (corn flour) and the unsweetened cocoa powder (regular unsweetened or Dutch processed). You can mix them together with a wire whisk or in your food processor. Once that is done, sift the mixture to get rid of any large pieces of almonds.
In closing, even though making Macarons is quite challenging, I would encourage you to try. For more help there is an excellent food blog that I highly recommend, called notsohumblepie.com. Ms. Humble (as she is called) has done extensive research on the subject of making Macarons. She even has a "Macaron Troubleshooting" article that outlines the various problems (and reasons why) that can occur when making Macarons. I found it very helpful.