Today’s Jour du Macaron or Macaron Day in France, and a couple of other places around the world. If you’ve never heard of Macaron Day, well now you have. It’s created by none other than Pierre Hermé, in a collaboration with members of the Association Relais Desserts to raise awareness for a charity. This year, the charity is Autistes sans frontiers, or Autism without Frontiers. What happens is that you can pop by any participating Pierre Hermé Paris boutique and receive a couple of macarons completely gratuit (free). All you have to do is to drop a donation of any amount in the boxes available at the boutique. Pierre Hermé also has a macaron he creates specially for Macaron Day. What’s interesting is that in the recent years, there is a ‘map’ of the participating Pierre Hermé boutiques and if you pop by every one of them, you will get a complimentary box of 25 macarons! And mind you, there are probably that many macaron flavours available at each outlet!
I really enjoy the message behind Macaron Day. While it might have stemmed from a selfish desire to promote his macarons and his boutiques (I’m just speculating here), it does promote a good cause. And I’m hoping that one day, all the macaron-selling patisseries across Singapore can band together and celebrate Macaron Day as well, whilst promoting a good cause. However, knowing how stingy Singaporeans are, the macarons cannot be sold completely free. Not that I’m shaming Singaporeans but honestly speaking, I know of many who cheat the honor system when taking transport in Europe (most transport systems there require you to buy your own ticket and random checks are done). Can you imagine selling newspapers based on the honor system? Many Swiss cantons have a newspaper box where you can grab a newspaper and drop the appropriate amount of money in the box for it. I can imagine many people paying less or even not paying anything for the newspapers! I guess our society just has not progressed to that stage of development yet? Anyway, I digress. What I mean to say is that even though macarons cannot be sold completely free, I’m sure something can be done this time next year to promote the patisseries selling the macarons as well as a chosen charity. Hopefully someone’s listening?
So anyway, this being Macaron Day (it’s Macaron Day over at Mactweets as well!) and Macaron Month over at Aspiring Bakers (Aspiring Bakers #17 is March Macaron Madness! hosted by Alan of Travellingfoodies), I decided that it was appropriate for me to try something more interesting. And I decided to make myself some Ferrero Macarons! :] Okay, I know that this perhaps isn’t too spectacular, but this is a step up from what I usually attempt. Instead of just ground almonds, I used a bit of ground hazelnuts and instead of just one ordinary ganache, I used two! Yes nothing too fantastic but who cares, it’s my prerogative; p I love hazelnuts and chocolate (otherwise known as gianduja), and I love Nutella (which is gianduja paste) and Ferrero Rochers, so it’s only natural that I make macarons modelled after them. In fact, I guzzled down jars of nutella when I was studying in Europe, where jars were humongous and it was dirt cheap. I also have fond memories of unwrapping the gold-foil wrappers of ferrero rochers and slowly eating it layer by layer, until I got to the hazelnut at the heart of the sphere.
So without further ado, I present you my ferrero macarons (aka gianduja macarons)!
Adapted from David Lebovitz
Makes about 40 2-cm large macarons shells
For the shells:
80g icing sugar, or confectioner’s sugar
20g ground almonds
20g ground hazelnuts
20g cocoa powder
50g egg whites
50g castor sugar
For the hazelnut praline or gianduja:
Method 1 (the lazy person method):
30g chopped hazelnuts, toasted
30g milk chocolate
Method 2 (making hazelnut praline):
20g castor sugar
50g milk chocolate
10g neutral oil (grapeseed or canola or olive oil)
Pinch of salt
For the chocolate ganache:
90g cream (at least 35% fat)
70g bittersweet chocolate (I used a mix of 66% and 70% chocolate)
- For the macaron shells: Toast raw whole almonds and hazelnuts (without skin) on a tray at 150°C for about 10 minutes. Allow the nuts to cool before grinding them separately. Sift the nuts individually and weigh about 20g of each. The ground nuts can be stored in the fridge for at least a week.
- Sift the ground almonds, hazelnuts and icing sugar together. Sift at least twice before setting aside.
- Beat the egg whites (which are at room temperature) with the castor sugar. You can put in the castor sugar right from the start. Beat until you obtain stiff peaks. This should take slightly less than 10 minutes, depending on the strength of your mixer.
- Using a spatula, dump in all of the dry mixture into the stiff meringue. At first, the mixture will seem clumpy and impossible to fold, but do press on and continue to gently fold the mixture. After about 25 folds, all the dry ingredients will ‘magically’ be incorporated. The mixture will still seem clumpy, so continue folding until you get a shiny, viscous mixture which ‘flows like magma’.
- Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip and proceed to pipe 2 or 3-cm large rounds onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners. After piping the shells, be sure to rap the baking sheets against the counter to get rid of any excess air.
- Let them sit at room temperature (or air conditioner temperature would be fantastic) until they are dry to touch. You need not actually touch the shells because it will be rather obvious when they dry and form a ‘shell’. This should not take more than an hour.
- In the meantime, preheat the oven to 140°C (fan-assisted), with the rack in the middle, with top and bottom heating. Bake the macarons for about 16 minutes, making sure to open the oven door at around the 8th minute (or after feet have formed) to let out excess hot air and to turn the tray from front to back. Once the shells are firm to touch, remove the trays from the oven and let them cool on the trays for at least 15 minutes before proceeding to cool them on cooling racks. If you use a nonstick liner, they should be easily removed, if not, use a knife or metal spatula to release the macaron. Store the shells in an airtight container until ready to assemble.
- For the chocolate ganache: Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place them in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a saucepan until it starts to bubble. Take it off heat and pour the hot cream over the chocolate, making sure to mix quickly until all the chocolate has melted and you get a homogenous mixture. The mixture will appear very liquid but it will thicken after you allow it to cool for at least 30 minutes.
- For the gianduja #1: Follow the same method as the chocolate ganache above by heating the cream and pouring it on the chopped milk chocolate pieces. Then, add in the chopped hazelnut pieces. For convenience, toast these hazelnuts together with those in step 1 and in fact, just use the hazelnut pieces which are too big to sift through for varying sizes.
- For the gianduja #2: You first have to make a hazelnut praline, which requires you to heat the sugar in a saucepan. In the meantime, make sure you have got toasted whole hazelnuts (without skin) neatly lined on a baking tray lined with nonstick liner. Once you get a caramel, i.e. when the sugar turns a medium brown, pour the caramel on the hazelnuts and allow to cool. DO NOT TOUCH THE CARAMEL because it is very hot! If the caramel is at the right temperature, it will harden almost immediately. After it hardens, remove the praline from the nonstick liner and break it up into pieces. Place the pieces into a food processor and process until it breaks into very small pieces. Do not process too much because you still have to add in your chopped chocolate pieces and oil. What I did was to remove some of the processed praline and dumped in the chocolate, salt and oil, and processed until I got a smooth paste. I then added the processed praline back into the mixture to get those chopped pieces of hazelnut praline.
- To assemble: You can choose to use a piping bag or use the lazy method and spoon the ganaches onto the macaron shells. I spooned a teaspoon worth of the chocolate ganache on one side of the shell, and about quarter a teaspoon worth of gianduja on the other shell. Match the shells together and store the shells for at least a few hours (preferably a day) before consuming. Remove the macarons 5-10 minutes before serving for the best experience :]
- The gianduja: I have included two recipes and methods for the gianduja which I tried. The first method can be accurately called a gianduja paste whereas the second would be more accurately called a hazelnut praline paste. For the trouble undertaken for method #2, I would definitely not recommend making such small portions. I actually made a triple batch of hazelnut praline (to use as a layer in my entremet) – it keeps very well in the fridge. Of course, the second recipe is sweeter (because of the caramel) than the first recipe.
- Notes on the ingredients: If you notice, I haven’t used cream of tartar or salt with the egg whites in this recipe, as compared to the previous strawberry macarons. Also, I used freshly cracked egg whites here. I have found that there really is no need to dry them out or add egg white powder although that would definitely help in stabilizing the meringue. After numerous attempts at making macarons, I can safely say that it’s the macaronage or technique that determines if you have feet or not, because you can use any nut (or not) with varying amounts of sugar and add-ons. So really, practice makes perfect!
- Taste: The shells by themselves were awesome, because the toasted nuts added a different dimension. For my under baked shells (i.e. those which stuck to the paper), I felt as if I were eating chocolate hazelnut paste because the hazelnut taste was so prominent! I also enjoyed the combination of bittersweet chocolate with milk chocolate and chopped hazelnuts. Deliciously sinful! For more chocolate-hazelnut sinfulness, you can add in some Nutella in the chocolate ganache.
- Texture: The macarons were also undermixed this round, because they were bumpy but on the plus side, they dried out in less than 10 minutes, and I could bake them almost immediately. I enjoyed the crisp chewy shells coupled with the chocolate ganache, added to that was the fact that the gianduja paste had chopped hazelnuts in it. To really replicate a ferrero rocher, I’d suggest adding half a hazelnut in the centre of the macaron :]
- Serving size: I got about 20 paired macarons, but my macarons were about half the standard size – about 2 cm or slightly more than an inch.
- Modifications: As I said earlier, this is my go-to chocolate macaron recipe, but I would definitely try reducing the amount of sugar in the recipe as the shells were very sweet (too sweet for my liking). I would probably begin by reducing the castor sugar used to about 40g. The bittersweet ganache helped in cutting down the sweetness, but the gianduja had milk chocolate, so that didn’t help with the sweetness.
- Storage: Because the filling is a ganache, the macaron lasts pretty well at room temperature – it starts to soften and slide apart only after half an hour or so.
- Would I make this again?: Definitely! This is my 4th or 5th time using this recipe :]
|Matched up, unfilled shells :]|