June 1, 2012

Chocolate-hazelnut macarons

In the interest of full disclosure, I actually made these chocolate-hazelnut macarons a few months ago, before our Spring vacation in Paris and before I tackled the chocolate ones for the third time.  I just wanted to finish the saga behind the making of those chocolate macarons before talking about variations of it.  But a few months ago, after I had successfully made hazelnut macarons (which I love), I thought it'd be fun to combine the two and make chocolate-hazelnut ones. 
I had a delicious chocolate-hazelnut macaron at Bouchon Bakery in The Time Warner Center in NYC several months ago.  They have some seriously delicious food and baked goods there.  The chocolate-hazelnut macarons were screaming my name (or I was screaming for it) and it sure did not disappoint.

At the time, Bouchon Bakery only sold the rather large macarons, which I had no problems with.  In fact, we thought one of those was just the right portion as a satisfying snack.  The thing that struck me about their macarons was, not only were they delicious, they were so "perfect".  As in they looked perfect - perfectly smooth and uniform, each one looking like an exact replicate of the other, like compacts lined up behind the glass at a cosmetics counter.  Thinking back, it was around Christmastime when we visited (time sure flies) and they had a candy cane flavor macaron.  Of course, the little guy wanted one of those and wouldn't you know they even managed to make that tasty!  Kudos to them.
These chocolate-hazelnut macarons are literally a combination of the chocolate and  hazelnut versions - two flavors that are pretty tied as my favorite.  I use cocoa powder and a mix of hazelnuts and almonds in the batter.  For the filling, I made gianduja (chocolate-hazelnut) ganache again.  As my husband noted, the overall taste is reminiscent of a Ferrero Rocher (which I love), particularly when you eat one that has some crunchy hazelnuts sprinkled on top.  I love it!

I won't repeat the entire process of making these macarons since I've covered it in detail in posts such as this one and this one.  The recipe follows.


Chocolate-hazelnut Macarons with Gianduja Ganache Filling
Recipe for macaron shells adapted from Tartelette (I've incorporated techniques I learned in other places and this is what works for me)

Macaron Shells:

- Makes roughly 20 filled cookies, depending on their size -

90 grams egg whites, or from about 3 eggs (aged 1-2 days*)
30 grams granulated sugar
55 grams almonds (I use the slivered kind)
55 grams peeled, toasted hazelnuts
200 grams confectioners' sugar, minus 2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

*Aging the egg whites: Separate the egg whites and place in a bowl, covered, at room temperature for 24 hours.  For longer than 24 hours (up to 5 days), store whites in the fridge and bring to room temperature before starting.  The purpose of this is to eliminate moisture from the egg whites so that the batter will be thicker and you have an edge in your macaron making.

Grind the almonds, toasted hazelnuts, confectioners' sugar, and cocoa powder together in a food processor until the nuts are finely ground and it looks like fine powder.  Pass the mixture through a medium-coarse sieve.  If there are large lumps remaining at the bottom of the sieve, place them back in the food processor and repeat.

In the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam.  Then gradually add the granulated sugar until you get a stiff, glossy meringue.  But do not overbeat the meringue or it will be too dry and the macarons won't work.

Add the dry mixture to the meringue.  Give it a quick fold to break up some air and then carefully fold the mixture together.  You want the whites to be incorporated and the mixture to be thick and lava like.  Test the batter by placing a dollop on a plate.  If it holds its shape but the top flattens on its own, it is ready.  Otherwise, give the batter a couple more folds.  The process should take less than 50 strokes; it is better to fold once and check rather than over do it.

Fill the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip that has about a 1/2 inch opening (I use Ateco #807).  Pipe 1 1/2 inch (or size you prefer) rounds onto parchment or silpat lined baking sheets at least an inch apart.  Rap the sheets 2-3 times firmly on the counter.  Let the macarons sit for about 20-30 minutes until the surface of the shells are slightly dry. 

While the macaron shells are sitting, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place baking sheets into the upper and lower thirds of the oven and immediately turn the oven temperature down to 300 degrees.  Bake for 15-20 minutes (depending on size).  Let cool completely before removing and placing on cooling racks.

When fully cooled, spread ganache onto one macaron shell and sandwich with another.  Many people say macarons taste better with a little rest in the refrigerator.  Store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several days and bring them up to room temperature before eating. 

Gianduja (chocolate-hazelnut) Ganache Filling

- Enough to fill macaron shells in the recipe above -

1 ounce milk chocolate, finely chopped
1 ounce semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup hazelnut paste, well stirred

Place chopped chocolate and espresso powder into a heatproof bowl.  Heat the cream in a small saucepan.  Remove the cream from the heat once it begins to boil.  Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and let sit for one minute.

Beginning at the center, slowly whisk the chocolate and cream together until combined.  Add the hazelnut paste and mix together.  Let the mixture sit at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until the ganache is fully cooled and thick enough to spread.  (You can place the ganache in the refrigerator, if necessary, to speed up the process but check on it frequently.)

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