Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Chocolate Macaroons - Random Recipes 2

Well I messed up good and proper on this one, in all senses of the word! First off, I thought I'd be organised and get CT to pick my next Random Recipe Challenge well in advance, so I could plan the best time to do it. THEN Dom went and changed the rules. We were meant to choose book number 18 (not that I have 18 chocolate books to choose from I might add, not yet anyway). Note to self - wait until a challenge is actually issued before going ahead with it. Sorry Dom, I'm hoping that you won't disqualify me.

Second off, I followed the same routine as last time and CT picked chocolate macaroons from Unwrapped. Aaaaah, macaroons!  Fiddly, faffy food is not my forte (alliteration might be). This was going to be a real challenge for me and I knew I had to put some serious time aside for it. My mother was having her somewhat delayed Christmas dinner which is always a wondrous affair of Goose (mock goose for me) and the best Christmas pudding ever. So, I thought perhaps these would be just the thing to show off and impress everyone after dinner - hummmm.

Thirdly, I tried really hard to follow the recipe and instructions for this, but still came out with macaroons that were unevenly sized and looked nothing like the elegant macaroons I keep seeing on everyone else's blogs. Fourthly, this was the first time I'd tried using the piping bag that CT gave me for Christmas. Well, I knew there was a reason I had been putting this off and this was duly confirmed; I got more of the mixture over myself, the outside of the bag and the worktop than I did inside the actual bag. I found it fiddly, faffy and frustrating AND I broke the bag.

Fifthly, the ganache split, grrrr - why didn't I follow Marc Demarquette's recipe which had worked so well in the lemon balm ganache I made last year?

This is how I went about it:
  • Covered two baking sheets with baking paper.
  • Hunted around for my new and yet unused piping bag - had no idea where I'd put it. Recipe stated a 2 cm nozzle, but I didn't have one of those so made do with the biggest one I had.
  • Whizzed 8oz icing sugar in the coffee grinder to get the lumps out then sifted this into a bowl with 4 1/2 oz ground almonds and 1 oz cocoa.
  • Decided I couldn't be bothered to get my electric beaters out, so spent an inordinate amount of time whisking 4 duck egg whites until nearly stiff.
  • Sifted in a further 1 oz of de-lumped icing sugar and whisked again until stiff and glossy.
  • Tried to gently fold in the rest of the icing sugar mixture, but didn't really understand how this could be done gently.
  • Left to rest for 10 mins - no idea why, but I was trying to follow the recipe.
  • Stirred in 1/4 tsp vanilla extract - which was meant to deflate the mixture a little and stop the tops from cracking. Mine was already deflated and the tops cracked anyway!
  • Things started to get really messy. The recipe instructed me to pour the mixture into the piping bag. What? I had no idea how you were meant to pour a mixture that wasn't pourable anyway into a bag that doesn't stand up or stay open. I spooned the mixture into the bag as best I could (which wasn't very successful).
  • Piped the mixture onto the baking sheets in a swirling motion to form rounds (that were meant to be evenly sized - ha). I made 33 rounds, but am sure I could have made quite a few more if I hadn't spread so much of the mixture around the kitchen (who said piping was easy?)
  • Used a tea strainer to dust cocoa over the tops.
  • Baked first batch on top shelf at 220C for 1 minute then turned oven down to 180C and baked for further 9 mins.
  • Removed macaroons immediately onto a rack to cool.
  • Repeated the process with the 2nd baking sheet.
  • Brought 90ml double cream to the boil.
  • Poured over 100g chopped 85% dark chocolate (which was meant to melt it but never does in my experience).
  • Placed the bowl over a pan of hot water to try and melt the chocolate.
  • Added 1/2 tsp honey (deviation from the recipe) and 1 oz unsalted butter.
  • Stirred together - at which point the mixture split (it always does when I try and do it this way).
  • Panicking, I looked on the internet to find out what to do. Use electric beaters apparently and beat like mad. So I got out the beaters I hadn't wanted to use and beat like mad. It made no difference. So, I did what I normally do when this happens and beat in some icing sugar. I was later advised by the expert himself, Marc Demarquette, to add more hot cream. At this point I remembered that Kath had rescued hers by the same method, oh well, maybe next time!
  • Tried to match up my weirdly shaped and sized macaroon shells into pairs.
  • Spread the ganache thickly over one half with a palate knife and placed the other half on top.
  • Packed into an air tight tin and hoped they would not become soggy by the morrow.
Fiddly and faffy these may have been to make, but oh my, they were good. They may not have looked like those elegant French macarons, but they were crisp on the outside and chewy in the middle. Because I'd used such a dark chocolate, the ganache wasn't at all sweet despite the icing sugar. Both the texture and sweetness of the ganache were a good contrast to the sweet and really delicious macaroons.  And they all held together perfectly.
CT went off on a trip of free association and came up with the following: luxurious - decedent - our very own le manoir - hot stone massage &amp Jacuzzi (he may have been suffering from a theobromine overdose at this point) - rich - unctuous - not too sweet - combines well with the - don't want to rush - want to chew - chocolate hit (see what I mean?).

Despite everyone leaving the dinner table groaning and holding their bellies, most managed to enjoy a macaroon with coffee and those that didn't got to take one home with them. Luckily, CT was very well behaved and kept his opinions to himself!

39 comments:

  1. You don't know how reassuring it is to read your post Choclette! I have never dared to try making macaroons like these, I read loads about it last year and decided that I wasn't up to it. Maybe I will be brave one day. Yours look delectable and I am sure they tasted as good as they look! Thank you!

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  2. Oh you have made me giggle! Well, it is a shame that they involved all that faff, but the end result sounds pretty darn good to me. CT and his free association...

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  3. Macarons are about the hardest thing possible to make, but are almost always tasty if not perfectly formed. A couple of things that help:
    -Usually, the icing sugar and almonds should be pulsed in a food processor together.
    -Make sure your meringue is stiff like shaving cream. Use an electric mixer; when the beaters are turned upside-down, the meringue should be stiff enough to not shift at all.
    -Once piped, allow the shells to sit at room temperature for 30-45 minutes to allow a skin to develop on them and help form those signature feet.

    Challenging but fun, as you found out!

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  4. oh my GOD!! I totally take my hat off to you... not only have you taken part in the challenge, which I am thankful for, but you also went ahead and made macaroons, which quite frankly I have attempted twice and given up on twice... and even though yours may not look elegant they are most definitely macaroons and if you say they taste as good as they look then you have achieved something... now the BIG question is... will you try them again to get them perfect and will you take part in my challenge ever again?

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  5. Poetry in motion!
    I love the "having to look for stuff" step. That is almost always left out of regular recipes. Choclette, you may have raised the bar or maybe broken new ground!
    Thank you for another entertaining an inspiring post!
    Em Aitch in Ell Ay

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  6. You have made me laugh! Fantastic post Choclette, simply priceless. And as my Granny always taught me, if at first you don't succeed try, try, try again. Have a look at this link (http://issuu.com/helened/docs/demystifying_macarons_-_updated?mode=embed&layout=http%3A%2F%2Fskin.issuu.com%2Fv%2Flight%2Flayout.xml&showFlipBtn=true), I found it very helpful when I first attempted Macs. And I totally have enough chocolate based cookbooks to go around so give me a shout if you need to 'borrow' any for next months challenge ;0)

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  7. Macarons are trouble for so many of us! It's so disheartening to see all of the pretty pictures online and then look into the oven to see crackly tops and uneven shapes! I think it's just practice practice practice though, and getting the final consistency right is the key. Good luck and don't give up

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  8. These are fabulous - I have macaroom making envy - the last time I tried I was so tired i missed out some key ingredinets and mine came out of the oven looking like shiny cat poos! Im not surprised everyone managed to find room for one of these x

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  9. Joanna - thank you, you've cheered me up no end. Next time make these, I think I'll just dollop spoonfuls on the tray and dispense with the piping bag altogether. Do go for it, they taste fantastic.

    Kath - glad you liked it. CT has the knack of making people giggle!

    Victoria - thank you for those tips. If I ever pluck up enough courage to make these again, I'll try and follow them ;-)

    Dom - the macaroons tasted better than they look and if it wasn't for your challenge, I may never have tried them.

    MH - you do say the nicest things - thank you.

    Chele - thanks, that link looks to be really useful. Glad you enjoyed the post, it was a bit of a marathon for me. So, how many chocolate books do you have???

    Canada - thank you for your words of encouragement.

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  10. FreeRange - hmmm, cat's poo? Doesn't sound desperately appetising, but I'm sure you're doing your macaroons a disservice and I bet they tasted good.

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  11. The free association was very funny I think they look yummy actually x

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  12. Great post! I agree with the others, it's a relief to hear when someone else experiences a really faffy baking episode - we love our cooking but it's not always hugely fulfilling and enjoyable. But the end results look delectable - there's a Macaron blogger, http://madaboutmacarons.com/leblog, whose creations are quite amazing (she's written a book about it) and I seem to remember her advice is to leave the mixture in the fridge overnight for the necessary chemical alchemy to occur...before attempting the perilous piping.

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  13. Ha ha - this post is so funny.
    I think your macaroons look really good - I want one NOW.
    I do get fed up when Blog world is a bit full of perfect-ness. Yes, it gives me something to strive towards but othertimes it makes me feel like I am such a klutz and completely inadequate.
    Your "method" is much more like real life! But your macaroons look much better than you think they do!

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  14. Impressive effort! Glad they tasted good. I've never dared try to make macarons as I've read that it's very tricky. However I did decide with a friend that 2011 is the year of the macaron and we should finally conquer our fears. Still haven't to it yet though.

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  15. I made macaroons at Christmas - first batch Ok - good enough to show, second batch a week later - little flat hard discs - dreadful! Yours look really really good, I am very impressed.

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  16. Ha - you don't want to worry about looks. So long as they taste great, you're laughing!

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  17. I like the sounds of that challenge! I've often thought I should make something from each of my cookbooks regardless of what they are.
    Macca's I haven't made before. They look darn good though Ms Choc :-)

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  18. they look very tasty indeed. something ive always intended to try but never got round to it.

    not looking forward to Doms challenge this month, I got lucky last month but ive got a feeling it's going to be something I despise this month.

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  19. As long as they were delicious is all that matters. Sorry you broke your piping bag! Bummer.

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  20. Macarons are so difficult to master! I love that you decided on chocolate flavour (of course you did your Choclette!) and also that you gave these a go. The squishy look still looks yummy to me.

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  21. Thank you for your always encouraging comments. Hope this tip will help with the piping:

    Stand the piping bag in a jug and fold the top half of the bag over the rim of the jug, that way you have something to support it while you spoon stuff in.

    Leaving the macarons to rest after you have piped them helps to develop the characteristic foot, and also the shiny top.

    Disposable piping bags are really best, I find, you can cut the piping end to the size you need (no looking for the correct size nozzle), or put a star tube inside for fancy piping. Plus you get to throw them away at the end, which is my favourite, if admittedly a bit wasteful, part. Email me your address, I'll post you a few of mine.

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  22. your post made me smile! Macaroons i have never tried after hearing all the dreadful stories of failure, i think will dare to try one day, ur looks just fine glad the taste was good! btw choclette, your outdoor pic have mad me think, i too tried to do some outdoor shoot man! :)

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  23. Carol - thank you. My motto has always been not to get too hung up on looks ;-)

    Grazing Kate - thank you. I have been taking regular looks at her blog, but sadly more to gawp than pick up tips - that'll learn me!

    Louise - thank you for your lovely supportive comments. You've probably gathered by now that perfection is not really my thing.

    Baking Addict - it has to be worth a go then you can decide if it's something you want to persist with or not, but they do taste very good.

    Liz - thank you. What did you differently 2nd time around?

    Aforkful - I'm with you there :)

    CityHippy - thank you so much. I can see this challenge taking me to some very uncomfortable places, but it is good to make you use recipes you might not otherwise do.

    Gary - hopefully you will be pleasantly surprised by what you get - we can but hope. Thanks for following.

    Bridgett - thanks for your commiserations. I guess I'd better get hold of another one :(

    Brittany - thank you for being so kind.

    Fitimi - thank you for those tips and the offer of piping bags. I'll e-mail you.

    Ananda - are you back?

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  24. Gosh, you had me with you all the way! I bet they taste wonderful, though! I had the same frustrations at first and wanted them perfect. It's not easy if you don't know all of the little tips which are not even difficult to do. I'll be totally honest: I don't know what else to say. Although I could make a wee suggestion... ;-)
    BTW, Kate says leave the mixture in the fridge? No, leave the macarons in the fridge overnight before eating them.

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  25. I'm impressed at anyone who makes macarons - never having tried myself. Yours look good and I love that they are all chocolate - just shows you don't have to emulate everyone else for real food to taste great (and I am curious about the mock goose - sounds v interesting)

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  26. I'm so envious of anyone who has the courage to even try macarons! They are really quite delicious, but I'm too scared of all the horror stories to try myself :P

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  27. In the very nicest possible way I'm always glad to know that things don't always go exactly to plan for other bakers too! I'm very impressed that you've made macarons, I haven't dared yet as I'm sure to mess it all up.

    Yours look good though - and if they look better next time, well, that's a bonus! And if they were that tasty I'm sure there'll be a next time pretty soon!

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  28. Jill - thank you for being encouraging and for the fridge correction. You're right of course, I know a useful book to get hold of if I was going to take this macaron making seriously ;-)

    Johanna - yes chocolate all the way :) Mock Goose is a Rose Elliot recipe from the Bean Book. It's a very simple one, but tasty enough with all the trimmings from a good roast dinner. Basically lentils with a layer of stuffing in the middle.

    Hannah - they taste so good, they are well worth a try, even if they don't look perfect.

    C - thank you for - err, your nicest possible comment! In truth, I mess up all the time and I suspect most bakers do at some point or another. These are so worth making as they taste really good - everyone was impressed with them despite their less than perfect appearance.

    Jac - thank you.

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  29. You're wrong - they look fabulous. I don't think the shop ones (look great, taste bland) compare at all, they must as be full of colourings as I am full of admiration that you attempted them. I think they are a triumph in all honesty

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  30. Oxslip - thank you, my ego is easily boosted :) I haven't actually seen any in the shops, but I am no fan of artificial colours.

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  31. Don't be so hard on yourself. You'll get there - in any case, I'm sure they were delicious!
    You just need to follow a good recipe, relax, and have fun. Forget any horror stories out there, they are seriously not as difficult as you think. Enjoy these ones - you've made a start, especially with the hardest of all of them: chocolate!

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    1. Thanks Jill. I had a 2nd go at making these a couple of weeks ago, using a Nigella recipe this time. I just spooned them onto the baking sheets and dispensed with the piping bag all together. They didn't really look any worse than these and certainly tasted just as good. think I shall just start a new trend for a cracked top look ;-)

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  32. Oh, and with chocolate macarons (sorry, I have to call them macarons so they are not confused with the coconut macaroon version) there's no need for colouring if you have a good Belgian cocoa powder.

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    1. One of the reasons I like yours so much is that you make great use of natural colourings, like your amazing beetroot ones.

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  33. Oh these look lovey. They came out really well! I should really try making these but I'm scared! I always make meringues to use up egg whites!

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    1. Hi Fiona - if you're not fussed about making perfect Parisian macarons, it's really not difficult and they taste fantastic.

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  34. I love macarons, i have never tried to make them but i would love to have a try.

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  35. These look delicious. Yummy.

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